The Republican Party elected members to congress presently decide for themselves how they will vote on any legislation. They may get advice from any number of sources, but it is their call how they will vote. This represents a lot of power invested in the one individual. Let’s see how they were elected in the first place.
As they campaign, they tell us what they intend to do if and when elected. That’s it. There’s no contract with us, the people who elect them. There is no guarantee of any sort that they will do one thing they said that they would do, once they gain office. The same is true of the political party which represents them: there’s no guarantee of any sort that the party or it’s sitting members of congress will adhere to any of their stated principles.
As we conservatives have seen to our dismay and to the detriment of our country, this is far too much power, placed in too few hands with far too little control. Members of congress can be compromised in many ways. What if a member is blackmailed because of sexual indiscretions of one sort or another which, if made known, would threaten his office, his marriage and his personal finances? What if he had taken a bribe and was suffering from extortion as a result? Is it possible that a member of congress could have his vote on a given issue influenced by people in possession of such information? What if the member of congress had a drinking problem? Would he be an easy target for such a setup? What control does his electorate have over the congressman who fails to live up to his campaign promises or his political party’s principles? What control does his party have over that individual?
It would seem that party rules need to change in order to minimize the possibility and the effect of such a situation. That is, we may never know why a given member of congress will vote, negotiate or otherwise act out of the bounds of his party’s principles, but we certainly have seen it happen! The problem lies in the party structure and the nature of the relationship between the party and the elected member of congress. It is simply foolish to rely purely on the statements made by a person seeking the power of congressional office in order to win that office. Why wouldn’t he say whatever he thought was necessary to win such power and prestige? This may seem to be a cynical view, but ask yourself, do you think anyone’s ever done that in your lifetime? Perhaps it’s not so much “if”, but rather a question of “how many times?” And once elected, where’s the leash? Where’s the control necessary to keep that member of congress true to his statements, his electorate and true to his party’s principles? There is none!
It’s past time for the Republican Party to adopt new rules, whereby the party itself decides on policy for all major issues. This would happen in state and national councils set up for that purpose. To keep the policy-making body separate from the voting members of congress, the party should rule that no member of a policy council, past or present, may run for office under the party’s aegis. Under this arrangement, all policy decisions would be handed down to all the party’s members of congress and they would vote in accordance with those decisions, always. As for new legislation, there would be no legislation introduced by any party member without the prior approval of the policy councils within the party.
Members of congress failing to comply by introducing their own bills without prior party approval or who vote in opposition to the party dictates, would be expelled from the party. There would be no second chances or consideration given for time in office, seniority or any other factor. Expulsion would be automatic.
With such rules in place, although there would be no absolute guarantee that a member of congress would remain uncompromised or remain true to his party and his electorate, it would provide for his expulsion if he did not, with the likely result that he would not win re-election. There would thus be a powerful inducement to stay in line. The great, great benefit in such a scheme is that when we in the electorate now vote for a member of congress from this party, we will know that they will adhere to the party platform. In this way too, the party can also be explicit in what it aims to achieve in both the short and long terms. They can put in writing for all to see, what exactly their legislative and policy goals will be on every issue. As things stand, the party really cannot put in concrete terms what they intend to do because every one of those in elected office decides for himself what he will do and that’s frequently outside of what the larger party stands for! This is ridiculous!
As a part of this arrangement, the current practice of registered lobbyists calling on individual members of congress would cease. For example, a “deal” was reached recently in the fiscal cliff mess which also featured tax concessions and special treatment for numerous specific industries! How does any of this benefit the American people? What politician ran on a platform of “I want tax concessions for Hollywood, for algae growers, rum producers…” and etc.? No one ran on that, but there it is. Lobbyists got to individuals.
The proper relationship between these various industries and other interests is with the larger party, not with the few individual members of congress. The party councils should be entertaining any lobbyist and the party councils should decide who, if anyone, gets special concessions to do this or that. This larger body of people would also be far more difficult to sway or corrupt than a single individual or individuals. It would be difficult for a lobbyist to hide bribes or other “trades” to several bodies made up of numerous members.
By de-personalizing our party – whichever party that is, or becomes – we can greatly increase our control. By “de-personalizing”, taking the focus off the smiling, handshaking individual is the aim and putting it on the larger party instead. The person in office, while enjoying all the perks and prestige of that office, now becomes a party policy instrument and not a decision-maker in that policy. With political goals established by the party, with our constitution as a base of reference and then put into a publicly available agenda, we can truly know who and what we are voting for, because it will be the party controlling those people after they have been elected.
For all of our lives, we have voted for a smile, a handshake, a deep part in the hair, the appearance of sincerity and vague promises. Then we look on in despair as we see things fall apart. It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s change the rules.
January 2, 2013