Every once in a while it’s good just to step back a bit from the daily mishmash of political news in Washington to get a broader perspective on where we are, where we’re going, and what the American people expect of the people they elect to public office.
When I took to the road last year and spent two months talking with people along U.S. Route 50, one of the things I asked was that very question: What do you expect of your representatives in Washington?
“Not much” was a common first reaction, but upon reflection there were some very perceptive observations, some common themes, and a lot more shared expectations among Democrats and Republicans than we’re used to hearing about in Washington. Here’s a sampling of the answers:
Well I’d like it if they actually listened, but I’m not exactly sure that always happens. I don’t expect them to do everything for me. I expect them to do what’s right. I don’t expect them to ignore their own conscience – assuming, of course, they have one. I expect them to be bigger than party affiliation, and that sometimes means bucking your own party if you know it’s wrong.
Ellen Terrell Washington, DC
To be less party animals and more representing what Colorado needs… The Republican and Democratic parties, I think, are becoming antiques. You know, a conservative, a liberal and a moderate party – a three-party system – is probably the reality of where this country is. But not in terms of the party establishment.
David C. Russell Jr. Canon City, CO
The influence of big money and the power of Washington lobbyists was a recurring theme that popped up in answers all across Route 50.
What I would really expect – you know, it’s a pipe dream – is that they would be more open to commonsensical things, and pander less to political pressures generated by political correctness, minority special interests, and big business. The big business influence has really got to go. Corporate America is really beginning to take over, and that’s what I’m afraid of.
Allen Large Jr. Lawrenceville, IL
I expect that if the people of the St. Louis area, the state of Missouri, vote them in for what they run in their campaign, they should go and do that. And not get messed up in the money that really corrupts them… It would be nice if somehow – and I know it’s a dreamland – we could take the whole money factor out, which is campaign contributions, and stop tempting those people.
Nancy Cash St. Louis, MO
You have to get the money interests out of the politicians’ pockets. Otherwise we’ll never have control over what’s the best route to go. What I look for is integrity. People who will actually do what they think is the right thing to do, and listen. I mean I don’t expect a representative to listen to everything the constituents say, because it would be nuts. But that they state what their principles are, and then they pursue those principles. And they don’t change them because you’ve got somebody lobbying you and giving you a lot of money to take a position on something you don’t believe in.
Martin Fine Camino, CA
I think once they get in the door all of their high ambitions and lofty aspirations go out the window. They’re stuck in a system that they have no control of, and I think they, unfortunately, lose their integrity.
Bob Burk Montrose, CO
If there was one theme I heard more than any other on the road – both in answer to this question and to several others – it was that people want their representatives to listen more to what the people want and need. Whatever members of Congress may feel about their connection with their constituents back home, that feeling of connectedness is not shared by most voters.
I expect them to be more in contact with the people, and with the real world, instead of living in their own little private wonderland that they think the world is. They’re totally out of touch with the real working class people in this country. They don’t have a clue of what it’s like to go out and try and make a living and meet your debts. It’s almost impossible to do any more, and it’s not getting any better.
Chuck Tibbitts Delta, CO
I want them to spend more time with the people they represent. I don’t want them to have a $2 million home in Washington, DC… Because if they have a $2 million home there and a $150,000 house here, where are they going to want to spend their time? Who are they going to associate with? It’s not going to be back here. They’re not going to sit on the porch. They’re going to go down on D Street or G Street or whatever and have a $75 meal, smoke a big cigar. That’s fine, but don’t lose sight of where you came from and who you’re there to represent.
Greg Baer California, MO
It’s August in Washington and Congress is in recess. Let’s hope the members, back in their districts, are getting an earful.