Closer to Constituents, Further From Lobbyists
What if Washington Were a Ghost Town?
–Headline, Peggy Noonan Op-Ed piece; The Wall Street Journal (8/1/09)
My thoughts exactly . . . almost 16 years ago.
In fact, that was the thrust of my own 1993(!) Op-Ed piece:
Here’s an excerpt:
In an era of jet travel, teleconferencing, and faxes, why not bring Washington to the people? Specifically, let members of Congress work out of their home districts, under their constituents’ watchful eye. Such an approach would have several benefits, and surprisingly few drawbacks.
First, it would make members of Congress less accessible to lobbyists and special interests. Lobbying Congress now is like shooting fish in a barrel: All you need is a Washington branch office staffed by a few employees, and a well-heeled political action committee (“PAC”) . .
Conversely, locally-based members of Congress would be more accessible to constituents. The most successful businesses are the ones that “get closest” to their “customers.” Politicians’ “customers,” the voters, are scattered across the United States, not based in Washington.
–Ross Kaplan, “Congress Come Home: Faxes Can Do the Talking on Capitol Hill”; Star Tribune (9/27/1993)
Little did I anticipate that in the intervening almost two(!) decades, advancing technology would make the aforementioned proposal even more feasible — and Washington-Wall Street dysfunction make it even more necessary.
Nor did I anticipate that the presumed reason for bringing legislators together — that proximity would promote comity, consensus, etc. — would have even less sway.
So, is that what Peggy Noonan is championing?
The headline of her piece has to do with imagined advice that FDR and Richard Nixon would give President Obama dealing with today’s myriad policy “challenges.”