The fourth-term incumbent Representative in my Congressional District is 35 years old. As near as I can gather from piecemeal reports, he has managed his family's lawn care business, been the chair of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans and the treasurer for the College Republican National Committee. He worked for a Republican consulting firm running an anti-Hillary website for the 2000 NY Senate Race. He was National Coalition Director for G-Dub's 2000 campaign and was a volunteer coordinator for the Inauguration. He worked for six months in 2001 as an assistant to the Secretary of Labor before heading back down here to run for the State Legislature in 2002. In 2004, he made the leap to the House of Representatives and has been there ever since.
Of the two of us, I reluctantly cede the title of "Most Political Experience" to the esteemed Representative. With the exception of "managing" his family's lawn care business while he was in college, he has spent his entire adult life either involved in political campaigns, campaigning himself, or getting ready to campaign. I have no such credentials. In fact, it could be said of me that I have no political experience whatsoever. I have never campaigned, never worked for a campaign and am not currently about to campaign. I don't know the first thing about campaigns and that might be as good a reason as any to figure out how the hell to do it before Primary Season, 2012.
Like most people with at least a partially-functioning frontal lobe, I distrust politicians. The nature of campaigning leads people to lie. I'm not good at lying. I can exaggerate pretty well and my hyperbole gland functions all right, but I seize up when it's time to look someone in the eye and tell them a direct untruth. I know I need to work on it if I am ever going to get ahead in the political game, but I don't really want to. I wish there were some way to run for Congress without having to do it. If I had my way, I would get up in front of a podium and say:
"I am not going to lie to you for your vote. I am not going to promise
things that I can in no way deliver. As a rank and file member of a
group consisting of 435 voting equals, I can not do anything without
the support of longer-serving Representatives and their access and
control of the committees which decide if introduced legislation will
proceed to a floor vote or languish in legislative limbo until the end of the
current session, after which it may be re-introduced in the next session.
I have no control over these things, so I cannot promise you that I will
have any impact upon the crafting of any specific piece of legislation.
That said, I can make the following two promises:
1. I will do all that is within my power to steer investment and economic
growth to this District.
2. (And this is of paramount importance) I will never cast a vote which I
feel is not in the best interest of you, the people of this District"
If I could say that and still be elected, it would make the job so much easier. To fulfill your pledge, you would need only to do your job. That job is supposed to be to represent the people. I don't think the current Representative is doing that, although between 50 to 70 percent of the people in the District think he has been. They feel that they are somehow being represented because he votes with his party almost 95 percent of the time. That he represents them by being oppositional to the President. That he represents them by voting to limit the rights and freedoms of other Americans. That he votes to lower taxes on the wealthy and deny health care to the poor.
Knowing that roughly half of your constituents disagree with your party's platform should mean you vote with them only when you agree that what they propose would benefit your District. Knowing that compromise and bipartisanship have a better track record in passing beneficial legislation should lead you to work with the President if he is proposing things which benefit the people. Knowing that a sizeable number of your constituents are not being given equal protection under the law should lead you to not vote to discriminate against them. Knowing that one fifth of your constituents are living in poverty should make you fight for their benefits, not seek to end them.
Your constituents aren't banks, construction companies, law firms, multi-national corporations and realtor associations, they are moms and teachers and cops and cashiers and waiters and day-laborers and secretaries. Those corporations and associations are just your richest contributors. They don't need you, the people do. What the hell are you gonna do for UPS? Shut down the Post Office? The Post Office is doing that already, with the help of UPS. The best thing to do with the million dollars you got in 2010 would have been to return it. "No thanks, guys!", you might have said. "I've got this election sewn up! You aren't giving a penny to my 'challenger' and no one else in the district has any money that isn't you. Are you even in my district? I see an awful lot of folks outta work around here. Why don't you just take that million dollars you give me every two years and create twenty $50,000 dollar a year jobs in my district! That's not much, but it sure would help twenty people!" No? You'd rather spend a million dollars on an unloseable election than help the people you have sworn to represent? That's ok. I understand. You wouldn't want the companies you've come to think of as your constituency getting scared that you might have someone besides them on your mind.
I am not a classist. FDR's blood was so blue, if he cut himself shaving, the sink looked like "Starry Night." He understood the needs of average Americans, though. I don't know why he did, but he did. Perhaps the rich weren't so insulated from the poor back in those days. Maybe growing up during the time of the rise of the American Worker gave him a perspective not available to the monied classes of the present day. Hell, maybe seeing the Romanovs executed for their decadence scared the Hell out of him. Whatever his formative impetus may have been, he delivered for the common good. Who is there to take up his mantle in the 21st Century?
I think Representatives should be "representative" of their constituents. If you live in a district where the majority of people have never held a real job and all make at least $150,000 a year producing no discernible product and serving no discernible purpose except to make money, then someone like my current Representative would be a perfect voice for the people. If, on the other hand, you live in a district where unemployment rates are between 11 and 14 percent, where 21 percent of the population lives below the poverty level and where 25 percent of the population qualifies for Medicaid, perhaps a better choice for a Representative would be someone with a little bit more experience mingling with the poor.