First off, I must say, this is one of those “if the shoe fits, wear it” type of article. To be clear, I’m not leveling charges at every single legislator at any level, but this certainly applies to a great many.
Kids and Legislators (but I repeat myself)
I love politics, not so much the nonsensical games played by most of our elected officials or those behind the scenes who are all like small children who’ve been let loose on a playground with no adult supervision. However, We the People (We the Voters) are the adults, in fact, we’re busy being adults (or at least we should), by working, taking care of our families and living our lives, leaving many with little to no time to supervise our legislators. Many of our legislators have become worse than children and have made various legislatures into something worse than an unsupervised playground. What makes this worse is these officials rarely if ever truly face their constituents other than when speaking to friendly audiences, ensuring they can usually avoid facing hard-tough questions.
The Hard-Tough Questions
One instance when legislators know they’ll face the hard-tough questions is when/if they hold a town-hall. When a legislator holds a town-hall, their staffers control every aspect of it from the start and end times to the way questions are asked and the venue, often choosing one that limits crowd size. In addition to the usual small venue, I’ve seen firsthand where a legislator’s key supporters enter before the public, allowing them to take the best seats. I’ve also seen where easy questions get planted with some supporters, while others are to heap praise on the legislator. There are two basic reasons, one, it reduces the number of people who may ask hard-tough questions and the planted questions counter some of the hard-tough ones.
Additionally, many legislators give long-winded answers for multiple reasons, one it runs time out, two if a legislator is strong on a given topic they’ll want to expound on it, allowing them to act the smartest person in the room and three, it confuses the audience when giving an answer to a hard-tough question. By giving long-winded answers, it creates a situation whereby the legislator can be detailed or vague on a given topic. I’ve also seen where using the long-winded tactic allows the legislator to restate the question (slightly altered) and allows the legislator to answer the restated question and not the originally posed question.
Another issue I’ve noticed is the fact that these town-halls often use an overwhelming law enforcement presence. Trust me, I understand the need for security, just look at my background, but all too often this tactic ensures that fewer people will bother to show up and it’s done to intimidate would-be opposition. I’ve seen firsthand where Presidential rallies have less security (per number of attendees) than many Congressional town-halls. Again, trust me when I say that I understand the security and the need for overwhelming force, that’s fine during a Military operation or when serving an arrest warrant, but not for a Congressional town-hall. On top of the number of law enforcement personnel, there are many other layers of security often employed such as screening attendees for weapons and other items, all of which limit the risk to the legislator and those in attendance. Mind you, I have no problem in having security screening in place or law enforcement personnel on hand, but when it comes to redressing your elected officials, it ought NOT to be treated as a military or law enforcement operation, nor should these law enforcement professionals act as bouncers unless absolutely needed.
This disproportionate show of force isn’t needed as it only serves to intimidate many people from asking hard-tough questions. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence showing where constituents have asked hard-tough questions then in-turn are escorted out in protest, then needlessly being charged with a crime. This knowledge discourages a lot of people from attending, however, those who do attend are often needlessly cautious in their line of questioning or they sit in relative silent protest. These elected officials purport to represent people but hide from them in a bubble of their own making but oddly blame the need for security and our form of government as the reason they aren’t as assessable. Sadly, many legislators don’t even hold a town-hall and only show up to friendly groups who cheer and admire them, or they only come around to walk or ride in a parade, attend a ribbon-cutting or other safe event. To me, this is wholly unacceptable but it’s up to all of us to say enough and finally do something about it.
One Possible Fix
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that I like politics, I added that I didn’t like the nonsensical games, but I didn’t say why I like politics. Simply put, I like politics because one can do a fair amount of good in elective office if inclined. However, we see many legislative bodies at all levels that are beyond dysfunctional and yet the re-elect rate at all levels is astronomical. Now, that’s not to say that everyone who’s re-elected doesn’t deserve it, but a great many certainly don’t.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, how can we get these elective bodies to work as they should, in other words, work for the American people. First off, fixing our legislative bodies at any level requires an involved and informed public. It requires all of us, doing our part to hold elected officials accountable, calling them out publicly and not allowing them to simply duck our questions and their responsibilities. This calls for all of us providing supervision, as Merriam-Webster defines it “the action, process, or occupation of supervising” and “especially: a critical watching and directing (as of activities or a course of action).” To me this requires action by all of us, it requires us to know where our legislators stand on the issues, what are they saying behind closed doors, what’s their voting record, have they lived up to their campaign promises and directing them to follow the will of their constituents. All of this is just for starters, but a great starting point, by having an informed and engaged public it makes it harder for the usual games we see our legislators play.
Many may ask, how do we relieve ourselves of bad representation, the answer is that it starts by paying attention to the issues and then at a minimum showing up to vote in the primaries and in the general elections. If not, what we get is representatives that have been chosen by party insiders and select elites, in other words as the adage goes, “the real decisions are made in the smoke-filled rooms.”
I say it’s time to change that, I know I’ll do my part, but will you do yours?