The White House. The Capitol Building. The Supreme Court. The Washington Monument. The Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. The Smithsonian Castle.
Each of these is a powerful symbol of our country, but they are also simply buildings. They are made of sticks and stones and all the regular building materials, nothing more or less, and the women and men who work in them are flesh and blood people, nothing more or less. Like all people, they work for someone. (Even stay at home parents are working for their family, when you get right down to it.) The people who work in those great symbols of our nation work for us. It can be hard to remember that since they wield so much more power and influence than any individual they represent, and control so much money, but they are our employees.
They work for us – and we can fire them (via elections or impeachment).
Our Constitution was designed so we can throw them out when they are up for elections – except for Supreme Court Justices, those we’re stuck with unless they are impeached and found guilty. Of course, we all know how easy it is to actually vote an incumbent out today. It’s on a par with getting a cat to dance, and impeachment is even rarer. However, it’s important to remember that we are supposed to use our vote to make sure the best possible person is in office, not the one with the most familiar name. The most familiar name usually belongs to the incumbent and / or the candidate with the most advertising dollars, neither of which tells us who is the best candidate.
Conservative, Liberal, Tea Party, Progressive, Right Wing Nut Job, or Libtard, we all seem to agree that, like the Truman era White House pictured above, our system needs some renovation. It doesn’t need thrown out, and the end result should look pretty much the same, but we need to modernize and improve the infrastructure and functioning. We need to make it more responsive to our modern needs. (“Modernize” does not mean radically change; it means incorporate technological changes such as the internet.)
The basic needs of the occupants of the White House have not changed in 200+ years, but the way they are met has. Chamber pots and outhouses were replaced by indoor plumbing. Candles gave way to gas lights, and then to electricity. Fireplaces and open windows are no longer used since central heating and air conditioning were installed. Likewise, our Congressmen now represent many times more men and women than they did 200 years ago. Our newer states west of the Appalachians are physically much larger than the original thirteen colonies. None of this should affect the basic way our government works, but, as with the change from outhouses to bathrooms, it can affect the day-to-day operations.
In the era of Twitter, smart phones, internet blogs, and all the other data storage we have, the government can invade our privacy in ways the Founders could not have imagined in their worst nightmares, but they can also provide checks against the government they could not have imagined. The point of this post isn’t to go into details about how to reform our government, but more simply that we all agree that there is a need to reform it, and that reform doesn’t mean scrapping the good parts. There are many things that both sides find unacceptable. If we start there, we can make a lot of progress without a lot of fighting.
For example, it is unacceptable that the Senate has gone more than 1000 days without passing a budget, and isn’t even trying to pass one at this point. (The House passed several in that time; the merits of those budgets can certainly be debated, but it is a fact that they passed them.) It is unacceptable that the President presented budgets (2012 and 2013) so far out of line that not even a single member of his own party would vote for them, in either house.
You undoubtedly have your own list of what DC is doing that is unacceptable. I could be wrong, but I think many in Washington are sick of the way things work and would be happy to see the system renovated, but we all need to work together and we need to start with relatively smaller things that we can agree on. This isn’t about one party or one viewpoint. When we make it about one party or one viewpoint, then we guarantee failure. We, as citizens, must work together to fix the system for our nation. We must make sure that the voices of citizens, not PACs, or lobbyists, or fundraisers, are the most important to our congressional representatives and others in our government.
Gutting and renovating the White House probably seemed like a ridiculously huge task before they started it. Cleaning up DC also seems like an impossibly large task, but it’s one we simply must tackle. Tubs started sinking through the White House floors before the rot that had taken hold was taken seriously.
What needs to happen in DC before the rot there is taken seriously?