I am all for the Tea Partiers – average Americans who are using their free time to advocate for a return to limited government, free markets and traditional values. On the essentials, we agree. In terms of tactics, we currently don’t.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Tea Party movement is moving away from rallies and towards getting candidates elected – which heartens me. Getting together with your neighbors to wave signs (including a few offensive ones Jon Stewart will feature on the next Daily Show) will not make any positive difference. A future post here will be devoted to exactly what we can do to change Congress.
My worry: what if all this conservative energy is being misused by entertainers who pass themselves off as agents of change? I could point to many media personalities. But BlowOutCongress.com is the most outrageous example I’ve seen in awhile.
Started last year by a Dallas-area radio host, the stated goal of the website is: Every single member of Congress, all incumbents in both the House and Senate, must be blown out of office in their next election cycle.
Though my understanding of our political system is not comprehensive, three problems leap out about this wrong-headed initiative:
1. Not only is this goal unattainable, it is undesirable. Freshmen in Congress have a steep learning curve. It is usually not until entering their second term that they have figured out how committees, briefings, personal staff, town hall meetings and their own legislative ideas can work in tandem. If 435 freshmen Representatives were voted in on Nov. 2nd, an army of unelected committee staff members and others on Capitol Hill would suddenly possess a high level of control. Knowledge is power, and this all-freshmen class would not know how the system works.
2. This initiative tries to thwart how our Founders set-up the American republic. To quote BlowOutCongress: “Congress has initiated a dastardly act by programming their email systems to only receive emails from WITHIN their own districts… they block emails that don’t arrive from their own districts.” The job of each member of the House of Representatives is to represent the Americans who sent him/her to Washington.
Seats in the House are based on population, and in the Senate there are two seats per state. If you’re contacting a Senator or Representative who is not your own, you’re wasting your breath — and wasting the valuable time of Congressional staff or interns. No wonder many exhausted “dastardly” staff on Capitol Hill have a low opinion of conservative Americans.
3. Congressmen are not sitting by the phone waiting for your call, and they don’t need any more pen pals. The way talk radio hosts discuss the men and women in Congress, you’d think they were rich royalty who have no bearing on the real world. This is generally false. Many honorable Congressional leaders have fought in wars, served their local communities, stood for justice and generally made society better.
I have faith in the American people, but not in mob rule. America was established as a republic, which differs from unfettered democracy. Truth is, representing the needs of millions in their district feels like a 300 lb. weight to these Congressional leaders. They don’t need our angry calls. They don’t need our reams of research (their staff already read it). Sometimes, in the right forum, they need citizens to call out their arrogance. Always they need our prayers.
In summary: don’t fall for entertainers who are directing so much energy to ineffective causes (perhaps without even realizing it.) Read up on the issues, know what you believe and make a difference by participating in our electoral process — not trying to go around it.