We Need a Divorce

Really…..it’s not you, it’s me.  I just can’t keep doing this whole your-opinion-counts-more-than-mine-does thing.  Because it’s almost like that’s the exact opposite of what this whole relationship is supposed to be about…..

“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

~ George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796 (emphasis added by me)


Happy Valentine’s Day, dear Readers!  In the spirit of things, it seemed like a good day to think about our relationship with some of the vehicles that affect our government.  I am of course talking about lobbies.  It’s interesting how these days, in order to get anything heard by our government, you need to be a part of a lobby or organize a lobby or basically find one to facilitate your views.  On its surface, they probably don’t seem that bad.  After all, they form because like-minded citizens all get together to share their view with their representatives.  What could be more natural?  We all have a right to a voice in our own governance after all.  But there’s a hang up.  We all have a right to a voice in our own governance.  I shouldn’t need to participate in a huge group in order for my Congressman, Senator, or President to take the time to listen to my views and assess how they fit in with that of their other constituents.  And my voice shouldn’t be drowned out by the same large groups simply because they are large.  That is actually entirely against the whole point of our government.  You know, not to mention, it gives these lobbies undue power to which they have no Constitutional right.

Not sure they really have undue power?  You better believe it.  Lobbies, especially those with good financial portfolios, buy and peddle influence.  They pay for political ads, they finance PACs and political campaigns.  They utilize money to gain leverage and to target specific types of legislation that they’re for or against.  Or put basically, all of this really amounts to trying to buy votes.  And not just those of your elected officials, but your vote as well.  During campaign season, these organizations fill the airwaves with ads for and against various candidates based on whether or not a candidate supports their cause.  Which of course means elected officials become unable to vote against powerful lobbies once they’re in Congress, or else risk having those lobbies come after them the next campaign cycle.  Does this sound like the government of the Constitution?  The government of the people?  Do you think the Founding Fathers really believed that votes should be bought and sold because some interest groups have lots of money to finance their causes?  I think not.

For my dear Readers who do have a favorite cause, I will take a moment for clarification here.  There is a difference between advocacy and a lobby.  Advocacy can be one person or lots of people getting together to say “Hey!  Fellow citizen, you should look at this issue, I have some thoughts, let me share them with you, see what you think.”  True advocacy is what our type of governance and our Founding Fathers were all about.  All those records we have from them, the newspaper articles, the pamphlets, them speaking directly to their fellow citizens presenting their ideas and well-reasoned arguments for them, that is advocacy.  Advocacy seeks to generate discussion, to share beliefs, to convince others based on reasoned ideas.  Lobbies don’t do that.  A lobby seeks to manipulate opinion, to generate one belief, to buy the minds and votes of others.  When we talk about an issue, it should never matter to the political process that lobby X or Y opposes or favors a piece of legislation.  And yet it does.  Our system is built on the idea of a core relationship between the people and the government.  It’s time to end the affair with this third wheel of politics.  Because the relationship our Constitution describes is monogamous.


Res Publica

Documentation without Representation:

George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796


Electronic Text Courtesy of Yale Law School’s Avalon Project

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