Thursday, January 19, 2012

Occupy Congress!

If "we the people," the citizens of a democracy, should occupy anything, it should be the U.S. Congress, the people's house.  Instead the Congress seems to be occupied by self-serving, narrow-minded politicians more interested in making a point than doing what is best for the country as a whole.
US Capital under a cloud.
Photo by Ed Brown/Wikimedia

The third leg of the pillar of democracy, the Legislative branch, is broken.  Some citizens aren’t too happy with the Executive and Judicial branches either, but the Legislative Branch, which is supposed to embody the will of the people, is definitely in  trouble.  

A recent  Washington Post/ABC poll shows the highest disapproval rating in years: 84%  of Americans disapprove of how Congress is doing its business.  An AP-Gfk poll confirms the sorry news, putting the disapproval rating at 87%.  Good heavens, that's nearly unanimous.  Are our elected officials listening to their constituents?

Four out of five people surveyed said the debate on the debt ceiling, for example, was "more about gaining political advantage than doing what is best for the country."  (Yahoo news, 1/17/12).   The branch of government that is supposed to make, amend and repeal the laws of the land has become a circus.  It's devolved into a sophomoric debating club where narrow self-interests take precedence over the common good. And citizens are fed up.    
The 435-member House of Representatives, now led by Speaker John Boehner (R, Ohio), is especially contentious.  A majority of Americans think the extreme right wing of the Republican party and its Tea Party members  have  run roughshod over the people’s interest.  The common good?  What's that?  At a time when the economy is hurting, the ideologues are adding fuel to the flames.  We've elected people that don't meet our standards for what makes a good and effective legislative leader.

The 100-member Senate has also fallen victim to partisan bickering, unbecoming to the title "Senator."    Where are the Edward Kennedys and Robert Byrds?  The statesmen and stateswomen? Have a few rotten apples spoiled the whole barrel?  Looks that way.

It looks like personal philosophical differences over jobs, wealth and income disparity, and the role of the federal government have hardened into cement-like positions unmovable by facts, logic, rational inquiry and, more important, the long-term interests of the majority of Americans.  The Occpuy movement gave this impasse a slogan:  Serve the 99%, not the 1%, and restore Americans' faith in government.  It’s now on to “Occupy Congress.”  Will Congress listen?  And just as critical, will the American people hold their elected officials and political candidates to the higher standards they express in public opinion polls? 

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