Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Dark Side of The Force in Washington

In the first Star Wars, Obi-Wan told Luke: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

In Washington, D.C. these days, the force is the power that surrounds and penetrates our elected representatives. That energy starts out as a powerful force created by enthusiasm and good intentions. It is inspired by the promises of doing good things for the people of the constituency and grows in the hope of making a difference.

The Force quickly turns to “The Dark Side” when the Representative learns that, in order to get anything done in Washington, deals must be made. It starts to turn the first time the Representative introduces a bill to construct a flood-control  channel to protect the citizens of their district. Then, in order to get it passed, the Representative is forced to support an amendment to spend $500,000 on a grant for a college in another Representatives' district to study the mating habits of aardvarks.

It turns even further to “The Dark Side” the first time the Representative accepts a lunch from a lobbyist to discuss some cause. The lunch becomes a dinner. The dinner becomes an invitation to a party. The party becomes tickets to a sporting event. Before the Representative realizes it, “The Dark Side” is in control, and the Representative is making money on insider information, steering government contracts to his cousin’s construction company and is taking ski vacations in Switzerland (calling them “Congressional Visits").

And what about all the “good” the Representative had promised to do? Most of it gets sacrificed because it does not fit in with the way things are done in Washington. The Washington way is to spend “political capital” only when it benefits you or one of your political donors.

Why have things gotten like this? Where did it all go wrong?
We did it. We did it when we started being more familiar with what the President and the Speaker of the House were doing than being aware of what our representative was doing. We started paying attention to the “celebrities” in Washington. We stopped paying attention to the people we actually elected to be our voice in Washington.

Do you think I am exaggerating? I’d bet you can tell me the name of the President of the United States. And I’d bet you can name several Senators and Congressmen. I’d also bet, however, you cannot tell me the name of the Congressional Representative from your district (let alone what Congressional District you live in).

And that is where the Dark Side has the advantage. If we kept track of what our own representative was doing and how they were voting, we could actually exert some influence. We could pressure that person to voice our concerns and to vote more the way we want.  The chances of our letters and emails being read by our representative is far greater than the chances of their being read by the President.  The idea that we may vote against our Representative in the next election is far more real and threatening then our warning that we may vote against the President.

If “The Dark Side” is in control and so well entrenched in Washington, DC, is there anything we can do to defeat it? Is there any hope of actually changing things?  
Yes. Yes, we can defeat it. Yes, we can force change. And it is quite simple.

All we have to do is learn to use our vote wisely. We need to put pressure where it has the greatest effect. We need to find out who represents our district in Congress and our state in the Senate. Get the addresses and phone numbers of those people. Start calling those people and sending them emails to ask how they are going to vote on issues (and why). Tell them how you want them to vote and/or to support.

That will make a big difference.

But, please, stop complaining about the things our elected representatives are getting away with until you are willing to take the time to vote –and have decided for yourself who and what you think you should be voting for.


Live Long and Prosper…

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