A REPORT on the 1st 100 DAYS in D.C.:
ANY HOPES of the “NEW” CONGRESS
TRYING to REFORM the OLD HAVE BEEN DASHED
Has anyone concerned about the survival of our democratic republic seen or heard of a House Caucus aiming to reform or fix what should be but is really not – OUR Congress? Look down the comprehensive list of congressional caucuses presented in Wikipedia. Not there. See the set of congressional committees. Not there, either. A searcher with no familiarity with these committees might suspect that the long-standing Committee on Government Reform & Oversight might play such a role. Uh. Uh. It's concerned with oversight and needed reforms in other parts of government. Not the Congress; Oh no. It's no accident that the Congress has proven unable to reform itself. Which helps explain why so many fine Members have not sought reelection over the years. Too many have gotten disgusted with the institution's chronic inability to change its hidebound structure or reform its rigid, dysfunctional rules. From the standpoint of real change, the insider's game is a loser.
Nevertheless, there is a small minority of new Members who included goals like “Reform Washington” or “Fix Congress” in their pre-election platforms. A far greater number arrive like ingenues to their first prom – all excited to dress up and play their roles “for the greater good” of their country. How naive. Even before they continue “dialing for dollars” at the minimum rate they need to raise to get reelected – $20,000 a week – they get a call to raise $100,000 for their party. They're faced with a hierarchical system of power and control that enforces GA/GA [Go Along/Get long] and SO/SO [Same-old/Same-old] patterns of good legislative behavior. Don't behave? – Then don't expect to get your choice of committees (which make a big difference in one's ability to raise money). Don't hope to be included in photo op's with the leadership. Don't look forward to getting contributions from leadership PACs.
New Members have shown little incentive to set up a new caucus. Surprise, surprise. The leadership might feel threatened. A new Member upstart might actually try to do anything really new, something that could rock the boat. Maybe it's really naive to think that some Members are willing to fight for better ways to conduct “We the People's” business. Yet, as my high school's class motto says: “Never try, never win.” A better Congress is worth fighting for. After all, the Congress, especially the House, is the only leg of our 3-legged system that is actually commissioned to act with and for “We the People.”
Anyway, a group of us who think that seeking to generate a better Congress is neither naive nor a fool's errand have formed A People's and Citizens' Congress. The organization, a non-partisan 501(c)(4), aims for a Congress that not only represents but empowers “We the People.” Our strategy does not rely solely on insiders. It's an inside/outside plan. Last year's elections provided an opportunity to get something going on the inside. So we selected 24 candidates for endorsement. How? – We looked for those who included “Reform Washington” or “Fix Congress” goals in their campaign platforms. Carl Domino (R), running in Florida's 18th CD, put “Fix Congress First! near the top of his list of campaign promises. This example was not at all typical. The search was like looking for needles in a haystack. 24 is less than 3% of the candidates running. Out of the 24 candidates, 10 won.
A few of these expressed interest in forming a caucus to reform or fix Congress. Is it hard to start a new caucus? No. There are caucuses to cover everything but the kitchen sink, 283 in all, but not one that fits the “Fix Congress” bill. Here was a chance to start a new one. So, we sent two sets of letters and made follow-up calls to all 70 of the newly elected members. There were a few call backs and a few requests for more information from congressional staff. Then nothing. The newbies seem far too distracted to take even a baby step to deal with the #1 issue revealed by polls – the need to Fix Congress! Too bad. Voters are still fooled by the illusion of congressional elections – that one can get real change by electing a new set of names and faces. That's just a game of political musical chairs, placing new rep's in Washington where powerful incentives push only one way: SO/SO; GA/GA.
2016 would provide another opportunity but for the media's increasing focus on putting a new name and face in the White House – as if we fought a revolution to reelect royalty! We didn't. See the presidential race for what it is, a media circus. Next year, focus on the House. Vote only for candidates who would work to fix Congress and whose campaigns run on a grassroots, people-based politics, not a politics based on big money. Maybe then we could see a Congressional Caucus to Fix Congress formed early in the next [115th] Congress. In the meantime, as outsiders, let's fire up an outsiders' strategy. A Million Citizens' March on Washington, anyone?
PETER BEARSE, Chairman of APaCC, P.O. Box 70, Danville, NH 03819; firstname.lastname@example.org , April 6, 2015.