The Congressional Bubble …

More than once I have bemoaned the lack of our ability in this, the Trumpian era, to have civil discourse, to discuss issues calmly, reasonably, and with mutual respect. I have a couple of friends and an occasional reader with whom an exchange of ideas without rancor is possible, but overall, I find that the divide between Democrat and Republican, Liberal and Conservative, is simply too wide and issues too fraught with emotion on both sides for meaningful conversation that might begin to build a bridge between right and left.  I’ve long wondered why, and it is one of the great questions of life about which I ponder when my head hits the pillow at night.  I think I have hit on the answer …

Our very ‘leaders’, those we have shown enough respect to support with our votes, our work to help them get elected, and our campaign contributions, are driving the wedge ever deeper between the two sides and seem to have an agenda for doing so.  Take, for example, Representative Mary Franson, a Minnesotan Republican.  A group of high school students very respectfully reached out to this woman to request a meeting in order to express their concerns and give her an opportunity to explain her stances to them.  Here is how it went down …

In a tweet from a group of students at Alexandria Area High School

“We’ve made some calls to your office, and haven’t recieved [sic] a response, but as politically active, community centered students we’d love to have a meeting with you soon to address our concerns, and have a respectful productive talk.”

The group went on to propose a meeting at Franson’s official legislative office.

“I don’t meet with partisan groups in my office — besides, isn’t your group actively campaigning against me? One of your members is soliciting funds for my opponent.”

The student group responded …

“Just because we are of different parties doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet and talk out our differences. We actually think that’s necessary, regardless of what campaign some of our members are on! We are constituents who have concerns.”

And Hanson’s curt reply …

“AAHS Dems is a partisan group. Thanks for playing.”

FransonIs it the case, then, that our elected officials believe they represent only the ones who voted for them?  In my book, this is unconscionable behavior for more reasons than one.  First is the obvious, that while I may not have voted for a specific public servant, as a taxpayer, I am still paying his/her salary, therefore I am still his/her employer.  They represent all of the people, not only the ones who voted them into office! Second, how are we to ever understand the reason behind the choices and decisions of our elected representatives if they refuse to speak to us?  There is little benefit to speaking only to those who already agree with them.

Apparently I am not alone in my thinking, as Franson came under intense criticism for her treatment of the student group.  Franson shut down her official Twitter account over the weekend and claimed there was some legal reason that she was unable to meet with the group, as they are minors and it would appear to be ‘bullying’. But the founder of the student group, Jack Ballou, disputes any such notion:

“I was in the high school page program at the state House and I was able to meet with her one on one, and I was a minor back then. We’re still constituents and I’m not sure what legal issue would arise.”

Since then, Franson has blocked every member of the high school group from her Twitter account! The bottom line, it would appear, is that Franson simply does not wish to be called to answer the questions, to be forced to account for her actions as an elected official.  This is a blow to the democratic process in no uncertain terms.  And it certainly sends the wrong message to these young students who are becoming politically aware and who are trying to understand, trying to take their place in the process as informed and involved citizens.

Increasingly this year, members of Congress have been unwilling to hold their usual Town Hall meetings when they return to their home states, and there are other reports of those who have refused to meet with citizens’ groups.  They are hearing the voices of only those who agree with them, and as long as they continue receiving their pats on the head from Trump and from their mega-donors, they are content.

Town Hall meetings are the people’s opportunity to meet with their elected representatives, to ask questions, and to make their voices heard.  Yet in August, The Washington Post reported that less than a third of representatives held the traditional meetings during their month-long break.  With so much unpopular legislation in the works, wouldn’t it have made sense for them to reach out to us, to try to explain why they were voting as they were, and to listen to our concerns? Instead, they are operating in a bubble that isolates them from the voices of the very people they have sworn to represent.

Why do our elected representatives not wish to have a two-way dialogue with us?  They have voted to strip us of affordable healthcare, to bring about the ruination of our environment, and to increase our taxes while reducing our benefits, in order to cut taxes on the wealthy.  Surely they are aware that We The People are not happy, and apparently they do not wish to discuss it with us.  Could it be they feel guilty, or do they simply believe that they should not be held accountable to the very people who elected them, who gave them their jobs?

This is not the way a democracy works, or at least not the way it is supposed to work.  We write letters and emails, we call and leave messages, but there is no two-way dialogue.  In fact, we do not know whether our letters were read, our voice mails heard. I ask you, readers, how do we force our way through their bubble … and do so civilly, without violence?  Truly, I do not know the answer, but I do know that those who will not even speak to us and listen to us in return should not be re-elected next year, for they are not doing their jobs, they are not representing We The People.

19 thoughts on “The Congressional Bubble …

  1. I found it funny that people thought Bob Corker who is worth an estimated 69 million and retiring so his has no accountability to the voters , would sacrifice his future gains with big business and republican think tanks to vote against a bill those groups desperately wanted. He is wealthy, the bill gives his own wealth a great boost, and he doesn’t have to justify it. What could go wrong with him representing lower income people? Any way I am not sure about term limits but I do want regulations on how congress exempts itself from the laws they pass and how they make money while in office. You shouldn’t go into to politics to get wealthy. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Jill,
    These peoples who are elected should meet with ALL constituents to defend their actions/ votes. If they can’t or aren’t willing to defend their positions on issues, they don’t deserve the job.
    If I ran for office, I know ahead of time that NOT every constituent will agree with me but I would courteously listen and then to explain my actions.
    These lawmakers are weenies.
    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree! If they cannot take the time to hear us, to speak to us, then truly, how can they be said to represent us? The truth is that they do not represent us, not even those who voted for them, let alone the rest of us. I am so ready to clean the Congressional house from top to bottom! And the Oval Office, while we’re at it! Hugs!!!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I have long advocated for term limits. 2 for Senate, 3 for House … it is more than plenty. But we also need campaign finance regulations, thus we need to overturn Citizens United, but under this administration, there is no hope of that! So much needs to change, and yet, we are going in the opposite direction.

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  3. Well said, Jill. Mary Franson sounds like Trump’s Press Secretary. In contrast, I watched CNN interview Senator John Kennedy (R) of Louisiana this morning. They asked tough questions about the Tax Cuts bill and he answered calmly and respectfully. At the end, the interviewer thanked him for his frank and civil answers saying that this is not the norm. The Senator was very gracious. An exchange like that could lead to real dialog, whereas Franson needs to get booted out the door. If I was a Republican Senator or Congressman, I wouldn’t want to have town hall meetings in my home state/constituency either!

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  4. Okay, the last part was not really “authentic,” but it worked great in the movie “Strawberry Statement.” We can only wish we had that chant in the 60s. It would have been very compelling.

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  5. To all the young (and old) interested parties out there, why not have a good old-fashioned PEACEFUL sit-in at the offices or homes of anyone who refuses to talk to you. A sit-in is a form of protest probably older than democracy, but it was re-invented in the 60s as a form of protest against university administrators and presidents who refused to meet with student bodies who wanted to know, amongst other things, why universities were doing warfare research to use in Viet Nam.
    To create a sit-in, just get as many concerned people as possible together, and sit down surrounding all entrances/exits into a stubborn politicians office, when you know the politician is in the office. Get real cuddly, so there is no room for anyone to push between you, trying to get in or out. Someone will come out to talk to you, tell them all you want is a dialogue with whatever politician is in the office.
    But whatever you do, do not “occupy” the office, or building. That was our mistake in the 60s. The police said we were trespassing, and proceeded to beat us with their billy clubs as they arrested us and carried us off to jail. And if you want to be truly authentic, when the police arrive, if they do, link arms, and chant: “All we are saying (clap, clap stomp) is Give Peace a Chance.”

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  6. During the debates on the republican congress’s attempt to end the ACA, I seen a clip of a republican at a town hall meeting. A person who had been recognized to ask a question of the congressman started the question with we pay your salary so you work for us… At which point the republican congressperson stopped the questioner and erupted in indignation. Claiming he was so wealthy he paid in taxes more than anyone in the group and maybe more than all of the group, he was not paid by them but was instead paid by himself and therefore not accountable to them. The people roared in anger but the guy refused to accept they were in anyway the ones he worked for. In his mind he was convinced he worked for himself as he paid enough in taxes to pay his own salary , or so he claimed. The flat out in your face arrogance of the guy was stunning, yet more and more of congress believe this. Look at the attitude of Mitch Mcconnell, and others who feel they have a right to do whatever they want, force people to live with their actions no matter if the people agree or not. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I actually think that there should be legislation in place in all democracies to bring our employees to account. After all, in the real world people can be sacked for not doing their jobs and certainly not telling the boss what you’re up to at work. It may not work well in a State with a heavy majority for one side or t’other but it could where reasonable people can see the job is not being done they way it should be. The attitude towards the students might rile enough parents up to make a difference.
    xxx Cwtch xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jill, this bothers me on so many levels. It ties in with some of my experience. The view of some is because I am being critical, I must be a Democrat, therefore my opinion can be ignored. This is why I go out of my way to state I am a former Republican and now Independent voter.

    To be brutally frank, this person represents the entire district, so she should be held accountable if she does not agree to meet or discuss. What I would tell her is neither party owns all of the good ideas and both have some bad ones. So, wouldn’t it be good to meet to hear folks out and explain your position?

    If she caught me on a bad hair day, I might add from where I sit, I am not sure what my old party stands for.

    Keith

    Liked by 2 people

  9. The same reason my boss doesn’t like to talk to us about the issues we want to talk to her about – avoidance of conflict is much easier than actually answering uncomfortable questions. If you WANT the job, that’s what it comes with – conflict, discomfort, and people who don’t always like your decisions. Suck it up GOP buttercups, or lose your jobs!

    Liked by 3 people

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