Saturday, April 20, 2013

Representation without Representation

             It seems to begin earlier and earlier every year.  In June of even-numbered years, a hard, heavy, and steady artillery fire of political campaign ads begin to batter the American people.  The barrage continues until the second Tuesday of November, when citizens drag themselves to their polling places and cast votes for their Congressional representatives and senators.  Once these Congress members win election they travel to Washington, D.C. to serve the interests of their constituents.

            Or that is what they are supposed to do, at least.
            Last Wednesday the Senate, by a 54-46 tally, voted down every single piece of gun proposal brought forth since the Newtown tragedy.  An expansion of background checks was seen as the most likely to pass as it was a fairly tame proposal and was co-sponsored by two moderate Republicans.  Even more important, however, was the public support that an expansion of background checks enjoyed; 92% of Americans favored the expansion.  It did not pass.
            This should expel any naïve and childish assumption that the people in Washington represent anyone other than themselves and their campaign donors.  92% of Americans favored the expansion.  I guess we should not be too surprised, this is the same Senate which does not realize that fifty-four out of one hundred is a majority. 
            In September 2003, around 88% of Americans favored invading Iraq.  Apparently launching a war requires less of a public opinion threshold than ensuring that people who purchase firearms are not criminals.
            At the end of March, the United States Supreme Court heard case concerning the legality of California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, both of which prohibit same-sex marriage.  70% of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage.  In the lead up to the oral arguments, numerous politicians came out publically in support of same-sex marriage, urging the Court to “do the right thing” and strike down Prop 8 and DOMA.
            If somehow the Court finds these two prohibitory laws constitutional, those politicians will shrug and go about their business.  If they really cared about doing the right thing about same-sex marriage, they would work together and pass a national law repelling DOMA and replacing it with a law legalizing same-sex marriages.  After all, public opinion is behind them.  Although the inhabitants of our dilapidated political system seemingly loath the opinionated masses and disregard their thoughts and feelings.
            Machiavelli said that it is better to be feared than loved, but one must ensure to never be hated.  Congress, drunk off the campaign donations of wealthy individuals, lobbies, and businesses, apparently misread that particular section as “it is best to be hated.” 
            The mind strains to think of a single meaningful piece of legislation passed by Congress in the past four years.  The continuous game of kick-the-can on the economy has done nothing but disillusion a public which barely had any illusions to begin with.  Immigration reform has been talked about in the media but never seriously brought up under the rotting rotunda of Congress.  The Affordable Care Act somehow made it through Congress but has found itself in court more than Lindsay Lohan.  The Senate snuffed out a U.N. resolution which would have ensured the rights of disabled children. 
I’m a Political Science major and my ambition, my dream job, is to represent my home district in the United States Congress.  I want to believe—I need to believe—that politicians can make a difference; that politicians can help people; that politicians represent the American people.  But looking back at the political events of the past few years, the only things I can think about are three words from a book I once read: Abandon all hope.

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