Going Home

…well that’s the theory anyways…

“On the same principle, the more multitudinous a representative assembly may be rendered, the more it will partake of the infirmities incident to collective meetings of the people. Ignorance will be the dupe of cunning, and passion the slave of sophistry and declamation…AFTER SECURING A SUFFICIENT NUMBER FOR THE PURPOSES OF SAFETY, OF LOCAL INFORMATION, AND OF DIFFUSIVE SYMPATHY WITH THE WHOLE SOCIETY, they will counteract their own views by every addition to their representatives. The countenance of the government may become more democratic, but the soul that animates it will be more oligarchic. The machine will be enlarged, but the fewer, and often the more secret, will be the springs by which its motions are directed.”

~ James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 58, 20 February 1788


Congress has, once again, been on break.  Theoretically, Congress goes on vacation so often because they’re actually supposed to be back consulting and living among their constituents.  If only they were actually doing that.  If only the members of Congress were truly still a part of the community that they came from.  I mean that is really the entire point.  That our representatives are REPRESENTATIVE of civil society itself.  Which is funny when you consider that the members of Congress are older, whiter, more male, and significantly wealthier than the general demographics of this nation.  Particularly the wealthy part, which is interesting for a body that sets the taxation laws (and consistently refuses to raise taxes on the wealthiest portion of Americans), and also refuses to change a minimum wage that doesn’t allow people to afford to live on just one salary.  In fact, the latest news is that for the first time, more than half of Congressional lawmakers are worth over a million dollars.  At a time when the American economy is at one of the weakest points that it has ever been at (and for years now), our elected representatives are actually WEALTHIER than they were in the past!  Doesn’t that seem odd?  Doesn’t that seem ridiculous?  While making the national economic decisions that continuously harm our nation’s economic outlook as a whole, they’ve all been getting richer.  And yet we keep on re-electing the same people and looking to the same parties to fix our government and fix our problems.

When was the last time you saw your representative?  (And not at a political function, just out and about in the community).  When was the last time a family member of yours, or a friend, or a neighbor, or a passing acquaintance ran into your elected member of Congress?  Can even one person you know name ONE TIME they ran into your district’s representative?  For most of America, the answer to that question is no.  Because our representatives are no longer members of our community.  They don’t eat lunch at the local restaurant (except when they’re on the campaign trail).  They don’t swim at the pool down the street.  In fact, they don’t even live in our regular neighborhoods.  By and large, they live and play and work in another level of society that the rest of us do not even belong to, and are less likely than ever to break into.  How can these people possibly represent us?  How can they possibly know what the needs and wants and dreams of the rest of society are?  The simple answer is they cannot.  And they don’t care.  And they never will.


Res Publica


Documentation without Representation:

James Madison, The Federalist Papers, No. 58, 20 February 1788 (emphasis in bold added)


Electronic Text Courtesy of The Avalon Project at Yale Law School

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