The American electorate is a marvel to behold at times. It has just the right combination of (the) occasional public weariness with incumbent political officials, collective short-term memory/selective memory, and often misplaced optimism which leads it to every couple of election cycles, vote in political party representatives who seem to offer a better alternative to the party in power. This is especially true if the representatives if of the political party in power fall out of public favor due to corruption of some other type of malfeasance. It’s a sad cycle that has unfortunately become of how our democracy operates and governs.
During the 2006 election season, Democrats were swept into control of Congress in nearly unprecedented numbers due in part to the various scandals which plagued the Republican Party prior to those elections. Given the current growing—some say unfair—discontentment with the Obama Administration’s economic (and social) policies as well as events in Congress within the past couple of weeks, it looks as if the see-saw of Congressional representation will soon start to tilt in back in favor of the Republicans.
A couple of weeks ago, three Democrat members of Congress, Maxine Waters of California, and Charles Rangel of New York found themselves facing ethics charges by the Office of Congressional Ethics in Congress (on a side note, 2 Republican members of Congress are also under the ethics probe gun. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2010/08/congress-ethics-fundraising/1)
The fact that such alleged ethics violations/accusations occur with sad regularity among elected representatives such as Waters and Rangel should not be fully faulted with those facing the legal process of accountability or even Congress itself…the fault lies with us, the American people. Americans proudly—and rightfully—boast about the advantages and joys of having free and fair elections in a democracy. But what good is electing representatives at the federal (or even local) levels if we are forced to choose between the lesser of 2 evils every time voter disenchantment reaches critical mass every other election cycle? The cycle we tolerate—become “fed-up” with one party representative, vote in another party’s representative, vote back in the party which peed us off in the first place—only proves how much we should just sit back and take our lumps by representatives who violate the public’s trust.
Congressional perks that smack of entitlement, ethics charges on an annual basis, influence peddling (i.e., “lobbying”), and our own collective short-term memories are what we deserve. Why? Because we have forgotten that Congress works for us, and are not meant to be an autonomous political class.
If the conservative-leaning Tea Party and liberal-leaning organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union can mobilize and help crank out support and successfully put into public office candidates who support their ideological beliefs, then why can’t the rest of us follow their examples and shake off our apathetic fatalism and take more of an active role in a government which is supposed to represent us?
As someone who has spent inordinate amounts of hours volunteering in various political causes, I can find no viable excuse for any American not to become more involved in a process which affects us on a daily basis on a myriad of levels. So get off your collective butts and hold to the fire the feet of those who violate the trust of we who send them to represent us!