Still another problem is that elections cost so many millions of dollars that most voters (we’re not talking about the rich and powerful here) know that a few dollars from them in campaign contributions won’t make a difference.
So we have a situation where House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican who represents my hometown in Ohio, puts out a press release trashing President Barack Obama’s latest call for action on jobs and economic improvement well before Obama even gave his speech. Couldn’t Boehner have listened first?
We have a situation where Obama says sternly he won’t stand for inaction and gridlock, and we know there’s not much he can do about it.
But it’s our country and there is a lot we can do to make Congress listen and act. Tea partiers learned that. If they wanted progress, we might be fine.
When a member of Congress votes 40-odd times to repeal a health care law that has been upheld by the courts, we can write, call or email to protest. When a member of Congress refuses to vote to reduce the cost of student loans, we can protest. When Congress consistently votes to cut funds for Head Start but votes to continue oil, sugar and farm subsidies, we can write, call or email. Or tweet, blog, go to rallies, hold up signs, etc.
If enough of us speak, Congress will listen.
We have to relearn what we were taught in kindergarten. Swearing, shouting, stamping up and down, personal vilification, refusing to listen — these are not the tools of polite or beneficial political discourse.
Most of all, we have to care. We can volunteer to work for members of Congress who share our values and priorities. We can put signs in our yards. We can write letters to the editor, thoughtfully and logically spelling out our positions.
Squeaky wheels get oiled. Student loan interest gets reduced. Wars end. Highways get repaired. Toxic waste gets cleaned up. Children get health care.
The power of democracy means eventually the people’s will prevails, although it may take a while before it’s clear what the people’s will is.
Scripps Howard News Service columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)