Apr 27

Are the members of Congress truly representatives of the people?

There have been quite a few reports that showed members of Congress refusing to hold “town hall meetings” with their constituents. Some of the others who have held such meetings were not really answering the asked questions and often just parroted answers filled with cliches and the party line.
Members of Congress are elected to represent their constituents in deliberations about proposed laws and policies affecting the people of the United States. The very title of one of the Houses of Congress proclaims that they are the “House of Representatives.” We often hear that these members are duty-bound to carry out what they promised as candidates. They have to carry out those objectives.
The concept of having these members of Congress truly represent the people who elected them seems to have died some time ago. Perhaps the advent of “professional politicians” contributed to the loss of this concept which was basic to the founders of our country. Members of Congress were elected to serve a term or two and then return to their homes and families while a new representative was chosen to replace them. Term limits have been suggested as a possible remedy for this situation but the discussion doesn’t seem to go very far. Their response is that we already have possible term limits because we have frequent elections. They overlook the fact that it is not easy to unseat an incumbent House or Senate Member who has vast financial and other assets backing them in their campaigns for re-election.
The present system causes them to spend a high percentage of their time and energy raising money and preparing for their next election campaign. This pre-occupation actually hinders true representation because the candidates do not truly listen to their constituents but merely preach to them of the success of their job performance and what they are promising to do in their next term. With the advent of the professional politician, the temporary position has become a “career.” It also has given rise to special benefits which have tended to form these people into members of a special class with powers and privileges which many (most???) of their constituents do not have. Specialized health care, retirement, and other benefits give them security and opportunities that are not easy to come by.
Many politicians have come from groups which claim to firmly believe and follow the “true values of the silent majority of the country.” Because of this background and a belief that they are “divinely missioned” to restore what they believe were the core values of the founders, they rigidly adopt certain positions and say that they are carrying out the mandate of the people who elected them. They completely ignore the fact that the very rationale for our form of government was to provide insights from multiple viewpoints and to work together to find the best solution to the problems using a wide spectrum of possibilities. They focus in on their “values” and refuse to compromise with any other viewpoint.
These factors have all contributed to a certain arrogance among our politicians that removes them from the very purpose of their elected offices. They consider their own beliefs are the “mandate” provided for their election. The lack of flexibility contributes to governing bodies that are constantly squabbling among themselves and the fact of a do-nothing, ineffective government. Instead of truly listening to the views of all of their constituents they are constantly holding meetings and gatherings which merely support and reinforce what they proclaim as their core values.