How to Make Congress Work for Us


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“With the seriousness of these times – issues from the U. S. government occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting the occupation in Palestine with billions of dollars annually, torture in Guantanamo and God knows where else, to the mismanagement in New Orleans and the lack of health care for approximately 48 million citizens — how long will we allow Congress to play tricks on us? How long will we, The People, allow Congress to swindle tax revenues from us?…”

Author: Clark Gabriel Field of Evansville, Indiana, formerly on the National Committee of War Resisters League
Published in: The Oregon Herald in Portland, Oregon
Date: January 22, 2008

For the full article:
How to Make Congress Work for Us
(666 words)
by Clark Gabriel Field
With the seriousness of these times – issues from the U. S. government occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting the occupation in Palestine with billions of dollars annually, torture in Guantanamo and God knows where else, to the mismanagement in New Orleans and the lack of health care for approximately 48 million citizens — how long will we allow Congress to play tricks on us? How long will we, The People, allow Congress to swindle tax revenues from us?

For here’s a game played by Congress which we voters fall for. It’s called “Other Side of the Aisle.” In their public addresses, news conferences, on the floor of Congress, etc., elected representatives in both houses routinely refer to their counterparts in the other major party as being “on the other side of the aisle.” Why is that?

Let’s hold onto that question for a moment. The way I see it is, when a candidate is campaigning for office, it is meaningful to know his or her party affiliation. This is significant and can assist us in deciding how to vote, because each political party has a platform, which should have meaning. However, once a candidate is elected, his/ her first allegiance should be to the U. S. citizens. Do we not expect our representatives to collect the pertinent facts; listen to their constituency; and then vote their consciences, and not be swayed by lobbyist dollars?

I believe the reason we have been lulled into accepting this game is we have come to expect negative campaigning. Candidates usually show what do-nothing rascals their opponents are rather than stressing their own personal platforms. The old adage, it is easier to tear down than to build up, applies to political candidates. So, slamming their fellow representatives from the other side of the aisle fits right into this paradigm.

It is safe to say that all members of Congress use this phrase. This approach distracts the voters from concentrating on the important issues and whether our congressional reps support them or not, because our reps deflect attention to across the aisle — “Those guys and gals are nincompoops.”

The corporate media plays this game along with Congress by always giving the political party of whichever congressional member they quote. Again, we are diverted from the issue at hand to being swayed by the party of the speaker. This is partisanship to the detriment of us people. Let us rise above party and open our mind to the issues. Let us expect and alas, demand, statesmanship from our elected members of Congress, rather than politics.

Who of us likes to be swindled out of money? Yet, we seem comfortable with having our congressional reps spend a gross amount of time campaigning for re-election – that with our paying their generous salaries and lifetime benefits. How absurd is it to elect reps to the House of Representatives for two-year terms? As soon as they’re sworn in, they must begin raising campaign funds for their next election… Are we getting our money’s worth? Hardly!

What if no member of Congress had to worry about re-election? What if they all had six years to give their best for their country, before returning home and continuing their careers. Companies could be required to take employees back after they did their stint in Congress. Lobbyists would lose their punch if our reps would not have to fill campaign chests. Congressional reps would have no need to disparage those on the other side of the aisle.

In the House and Senate, one-third of the members would be elected every two years. By staggering the terms, there would always be one-third of the members who had four years experience. This would eliminate life-long politicians and promote statesmanship.

The six-year term would also apply to the president. If the president also did not have to raise money for re-election, nor check with the public opinion polls to set his/ her policies, we the People could become priority one for the chief executive.

Clark Gabriel Field of Evansville, Indiana (cfield16@earthlink.net), formerly on the National Committee of War Resisters League.