House of Disregards.

March 21, 2014

Sometimes life imitates art. More often, art imitates life. So it is with the fascinating, made-for-Netflix hit, House of Cards.

My wife and I? We try not to watch. Because, with all of the episodes readily available on Netflix, one can easily indulge in an entire season in one sitting. So elongating the painful period until the next season drops.

So, we try to avoid it. Like an alcoholic tries not to drink. As much as we wish to gander just one episode. Yet, we can never stop at one. So, we attempt to stay away. To avoid its sweet-as-nectar content in order to prolong the pleasure. But, we can't. Inevitably, we find ourselves on the coach. Binge watching episode after episode. Until the bottle has poured its final drop.

House of Cards is based on the BBC show of the same name. Which is based on the British novel of the same name. All of which are prone to fictitious flights of fancy. But, the book and its offspring do effectively portray the Olympian levels of hubris, ambition, greed and corruption through which Federal politics are distilled.

Moreover, after a few episodes, even the casual observer might ask, "Where are the voters?"

Though a small aside, this is, in fact, another revelation wrought by the show. The idea that Federal politics occur within the ecosystem of Washington D.C. A world in which voters are relegated to the role of extras.

Today's polling numbers reveal an electorate that does not trust its politicians. In fact, discord with our political institutions sits at historic lows (here).

Amid a prolonged economic downturn. Weekly revelations of political corruption and hypocrisy. The enactment of questionable national policies. And a seeming lack of leadership at every turn, who can fault the electorate's disillusionment?

The Declaration of Independence foresaw such problematic periods. And built in a means of addressing them.

"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury."

Only, the Founders wrote of their redress against a tyrannical English monarchy. Yet, how can those words not be applicable today? When the electorate is so commonly aggrieved, manipulated and turned upon by those elected to represent its interests?

The greatest irony? Whenever things get vicious (translation: bad poll numbers for leading political figures), these elected officials take every opportunity to find a television camera and demand a return to civility. Though, those politicians are nearly always the source of such incivility. Always ginning up the tools of divisiveness before each election. Because it is more politically expedient to turn one's constituents against one's opponent than it is to run on one's record. Or lack thereof.

Mahatma Gandhi said that "Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today."

And yet, corruption and hypocrisy remain two of D.C.'s major exports. Which is why our democracy has been limping.

For democracy to work, voters must believe in it. Yet, every year seems to bring a diminishing faith in our public institutions.

We watched the IRS bully Tea Party groups in Ohio. We watched Wall Street and D.C. tar and feather Occupy Wall Street. The "Fast and Furious" scandal and cover up. The Department of Justice spying on Associated Press journalists. The bungling and cover up of the embassy deaths in Benghazi. Government shutdowns. The NSA's secret surveillance of, well, everything.

The sheer volume of ineptitude and deceitfulness does not engender confidence.

And yet, when citizens have had enough, and create political movements that seek to redress the wrongs wrought by greedy, misguided politicians and political institutions, the political class calls for a return to civility, and an end to all of the contention.

Regardless of their politics, organizations like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party share a common interest. The goal of changing a massive government bureaucracy that does not listen to the people it is supposedly there to serve. By whose very consent and support they even exist.

Notice, however, that when these movements gain any traction, Republicans and Democrats, the largest, most powerful organizations in the world, react by targeting, attacking and isolating these disillusioned voter groups.

By engaging in their First Amendment rights, these activists are branded as part of the lunatic fringe. Such tactics have long been utilized by governments intent on the consolidation of power. Focused on weakening the ignorant, unwashed masses.

Today's elected officials don't view you as a constituent, but as a constraint.  A vote to be won, or a problem to be managed. As House of Cards aptly demonstrates, citizen voters are simply a means to an end. A necessary commute to the halls of power. Once arrived, most politicians quickly demonstrate that their loyalty is to party and self. To those who can keep them there. Not those who sent them.

D.C. remains the only formal ball where it's standard procedure to leave your date at the door.

In D.C., an elected official will spend markedly more time with lobbyists and special interest groups than with the constituents of his district.

Thankfully, this problem is solvable. Bring our elected officials home.

Technology permits professionals in nearly all fields to work from anywhere in the country. Why are politicians any different?  If our local Representatives serve our interests at our pleasure, then should they not work among us?

Elected officials could easily work in their districts full time. Perhaps return to D.C. once per quarter for major votes. Or better, why can't they vote from their districts? If the rest of us can do so, then surely a cadre of public officials can follow suit.

If elected officials worked within their districts day in and day out, then perhaps they might better sympathize with voters. As opposed to their parties. Because any antechamber consistently packed with angry constituents will quickly eradicate the formerly pressing need to satiate some committee chairmen or party head.

More importantly, having our elected officials spread throughout the country would immediately dull the power wielded by lobbyists. Even the deepest pockets would find it difficult to travel all 50 states to press their interests. Much easier to deal with a captive audience -- like all of the nation's legislators living within the capital. Even the NRA would admit, that's shooting fish in a barrel.

Best of all, bringing politicians home will finally impress upon them who their real employers are. Not large corporations. Not large lobbyists and influence peddlers. Not the political parties. Not the special interest groups.

Nope, Congressman, those guys do not pay your salary. But, if you listen real hard, you can hear the guy who does.

He's in your reception area.  Hear him belching, laughing aloud and cracking inappropriate jokes? Well guess what, Senator? That is your boss. He made you. Bought into your promises. And now that you live so close, he's here for your quarterly review. So swig some Scope and and think of something funny to say, because he hasn't laughed with you in a long, long while.

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