by Peter Bearse
The wave of presidential primary politics has crested and broken over New Hampshire. The surf has moved on to other states. Just the race to select party nominees – not the main event of actually electing a President – has completely preempted all other major ’08 election contests. It started a year early, consumed hundreds of millions of dollars; got all the attention of media, volunteers and voters; and sucked up all the political oxygen. The only benefit of this federal election fetish was to begin to focus on the most fundamental issue to face us is ‘08 – REAL CHANGE. What is it? And if we really want it, why do we look to some white (or black) knight to come riding into the White House to provide it?
For in a democratic republic, real change should come from the Congress, especially the House of Representatives. Waves of increasing centralization of our government, the latest inflated by Pres. GWB, have vastly increased the federal bureaucracy – to the point that it’s virtually out of control of any president. It has a life of its own. We increasingly live in an administrative, not a democratic state. You think “activist judges” are a problem? Look again. Bureaucrats, not legislators, are increasingly making law in the form of regulations that govern our lives. The bureaucratic tendency is simply to wait out any president. The bureaucrat’s attitude is: “I’ll be here after the President is gone.”
Yet, the Congress has become part of the problem, not a source of solution(s). By and large, its members are no longer legislating as members of a deliberative body. They too often vote on major bills without having read them, let alone understanding their implications. They’re too occupied “dialing for dollars” to raise at least $2000 at day for their reelection campaigns. They’re hustling to get press coverage. They’re talking to leaders of interest groups. They’re helping constituents. No change here – same sh--, different year.
They’re also part of the problem in two major ways that impede or torpedo any attempt at “real change.” (1) There are few, if any, Members of Congress who know how to generate it. (2) Congressional staff tend to get into bed with executives of federal agencies [leading bureaucrats], along with leaders of interest groups, as Congress seeks to make decisions on federal spending. Both groups favor increasing expenditures for agencies and interests. Thus, there are built in Congressional forces increasing the size of the federal (“Washington”) establishment.
“Real change” is not the change of faces at the top, nor is it the outcome of a game of musical chairs in the Congress. It’s change in the structure and operations of the Congress so that the public’s business can be done better and the American people can be more involved in the process. These are changes a President cannot make. Real Congressional leadership is called for. This is not just a change in political party leadership. Change begins with the number one – one Congressman, one innovator, and one Congressional district, just as Newt Gingrich from a small district in Georgia led the charge for change in 1994.
Real change also means working an insider/outsider strategy. It’s not enough for a Member of Congress to just play the insider’s game in D.C. He also needs to mobilize people, the public-at-large; otherwise, the insiders will, like they already have with “lobbyists reform,” water down or kill any attempt at real change. As a former community organizer in Chicago, Sen. Barack Obama seems to understand this basic point, but does he understand that it takes a Member, not a President, to be a community organizer?
Look, for example, at national security, still a #1 issue. There are over 80 Congressional committees that intrude into the Department of Homeland Security. What kind of strategy to ensure our security can arise from such a mish-mash? Thus, reform of the Congress committee structure should be a #1 issue. There are many more Congressional organization and process problems that affect every one of the “issues” featured by the media.
Who among the candidates for Congress stands for real change? There might be one in the 1st Congressional District of the First State NH CD1. If you are really serious about “real change,” you’ll need to look and vote for a different kind of candidate. Fortunately, there’s the search power of Internet technology. Try to find him.
PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., International Consulting Economist, Fremont, NH CD1, 1/17/08