Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Way to Turn Congress Into Progress

Sometimes when I'm a bit slow to post, it's because I've been visiting other blogs and offering up my opinions over there. But if I post something elsewhere more than once in a given week, and it's never been covered here, then, well...there's my newest blog post!

I can't even remember the exact post that caused this idea to spring forth from my keyboard, but the second one was an Althouse post about the Al Gore kerfuffle involving a massage therapist who alleges that Gore wanted more than a massage. In the comments, a reader who was a constituent of Gore's (as both congressman and senator) noted that, in younger days, Gore was a pretty good guy, but Washington obviously changed him, and not for the better.

As someone who has never been a big Gore fan, mostly because of the hypocrisy (trying to get everyone else to reduce their "carbon footprints" while ignoring the Sasquatch-size prints of his own--huge mansion, hundreds of trips to climate-change conferences in private planes, etc.), it didn't even occur to me that he could have ever been a good guy. But if this is true (and I respect the Althouse commenter in question enough to take him at his word), then perhaps we should be doing something to keep people from falling victim to the cesspool that Washington has evidently become, because it's not as if Gore is the only one changed for the worse by being there. Mr. Smith may try to change Washington, but it's usually the other way around.

So how would we change Washington? My idea is to keep people away from there as much as possible. As I posted at Althouse,
Washington changes a lot of people, and often not for the better. So let's pause for a moment here and think about a solution to this problem.

Here's mine. It's a little unorthodox, but bear with me for a second: We should require members of Congress to spend a lot less time in Washington, instead requiring them to be in their home districts for about 75-80% of the year.

How would that work? By using today's technology--teleconferencing and the like. Most of the "work" of Congress gets done in their offices anyway, and there's no reason that office can't be at home, where they can stay close to their constituents and actually, oh, listen to their opinions on the things that are about to come up for a vote. Committee meetings, caucusing--even minor votes like naming a building after someone--can all be done by tele- or video conferencing, and everyone would only have to show up in Washington for really important votes such as spending bills.

Just think of all the advantages of this:

1) Congresscritters wouldn't have to maintain two households like they do now; they'd live in their own houses most of the year, and then stay in small apartments or hotels for their brief time in Washington. (The "carbon footprint" of flying back and forth would also be significantly lessened.)

2) It would be very difficult for lobbyists to get to all of them on a regular basis if they're spread out around the country. (And it would waste lobbyists' time and money to try, which I consider to be a feature, not a bug.)

3) The best part would be that they would likely be kept much more grounded by having to live in the regular world, among the people they are supposedly serving, rather than in the toxic bubble of Washington.

Sorry for the slight threadjack, but this is definitely an idea worth considering the next time someone wants to do a major overhaul of our federal government. (Term limits for both Congress and bureaucrats wouldn't hurt, either.)

And what made me think of it was Trey's post quoted above. I've been so disgusted by Gore over the years that it almost never occurred to me that he might have been a good guy at one time. And if Washington really is what does that to people, then it's time to keep them away from there as much as possible.
This is, as I said, a really unorthodox idea, but it could really work. The Founders never meant for public service (and I mean true public service, not the self-service that often goes on in Congress today) to be a full-time career, and the best way to prevent that might be by keeping people in the real America they're supposed to represent, not the artificial world that our nation's capital has become.

I realize this would take extraordinary means to implement, but it might reap some great benefits. Your thoughts? Let your voice be heard in the comments.

UPDATE: I posted my Althouse comment rather late in the thread, so it only received one reply, but it's a funny one. Obviously thinking of his/her representatives staying home more often, commenter "jgm" said, "There goes the neighborhood." Heh.

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