PARTY LEADERSHIP in Congress is impairing the public good

The Father of the Constitution, James Madison, said that the wisdom of elected representatives may best discern our true national interests.  Their patriotism and love of justice will make them less likely to sacrifice national interests to other considerations.  But, James also said the opposite may happen, men of divisive and partisan tempers could attain office and then betray the interests of the people.[1]

Although James Madison saw the possibility, I don’t think he would believe the extent of today’s partisan gridlock.  National interests have been held hostage by partisan interests in the name of “patriotism” for a long time.  This partisan gridlock exists regardless of the party in control.

I believe a “true patriot,” as envisioned by James Madison, would be willing to compromise toward moderate views in the best interests of the nation.  I believe that individual Senators and Representatives who are unable to compromise when needed to advance the nation’s interest are not true patriots.  Among the most divisive are those few who serve in Congressional leadership roles.  Once they attain it, they are unwilling to sacrifice their power over the chamber and their influence over party colleagues.  A true patriot in a leadership role would compromise to advance this nation’s interest.

For years, Congressional leaders have prohibited any true patriot among them voting their conscience.  Rather, Congressional leaders demand strict party-line votes on legislation; they infringe on your representative’s freedom to vote his conscience.  A non-compliant Senator or Representative knows that he faces severe consequences if he strays from the party-line.  Among those consequences is the lack of financial support from the national party in their next re-election campaign.

What James Madison did not foresee was the establishment of House and Senate Rules that are more authoritarian than democratic.  One man in each chamber of Congress (the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House) can essentially control the legislation that reaches the chamber floor for debate and consideration.  That is authoritarian; it does not conform to a true democratic process.

It’s time for the Republicans to take charge, become true patriots, and significantly reduce the power of Congressional leaders.  Rules must be implemented to guarantee that any bill passed in one chamber will reach the floor for consideration in the other chamber.  Rules must be implemented that require elected representatives to affirm that they have read the bill before casting their vote on a bill.  Rules must be implemented that require elected representatives to affirm that they have not been offered incentives, warned of consequences, or otherwise pressured in any way or unduly influenced before casting their vote on a bill. Finally, for the public record, every elected representative should file a statement explaining, in reasonable detail, the motivations or reasons for every vote cast.

[1] James Madison’s Federalist No. 10 – “The effect of [the delegation of the government to a small number of citizens elected by the rest] is, on the one hand, to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of their country, and whose patriotism and love of justice will be least likely to sacrifice it to temporary or partial considerations. Under such a regulation, it may well happen that the public voice, pronounced by the representatives of the people, will be more consonant to the public good than if pronounced by the people themselves, convened for the purpose. On the other hand, the effect may be inverted. Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.”

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