“Better Late Than Never” Dept.
“Congress, Come Home: Faxes Can Do the Talking on Capitol Hill”**
–Ross Kaplan, Star Tribune Op-Ed page (1993).
OK, so I got the part about faxes wrong: today’s technology, including Zoom, FaceTime, and streaming video, positively blows away fax machines.
And, I didn’t anticipate the health and safety reason (i.e., a pandemic) for Congress to work remotely.
But, my four other, pre-Internet arguments for members of Congress to be able to vote (and work) from their home districts are just as compelling today as they were almost 30(!) years ago:
One. Closer to voters (literally).
Want politicians to identify more closely with their constituents and their concerns?
Bring ’em closer, literally, to their voters.
Two. Less accessible to corporate lobbyists (the converse of #1).
Lobbying members of Congress now is like shooting fish in a barrel, because they’re all conveniently located in one place, Washington.
Dispersing legislators around the country raises the (lobbying) cost of doing business.
Three. Attract higher caliber people to politics.
Never mind modern-day political turn-off’s such as constant campaigning, fundraising, loss of privacy, and the inevitable negative ads from opponents (at least, in jurisdictions that don’t have instant run-off voting).
Serving in Congress now involves a less-than-ideal lifestyle: being separated from one’s family, constant commuting, etc.
Technology can significantly mitigate those (lifestyle) costs.
Four. Lower economic cost for members of Congress.
Politicians who can live and work (mostly) in their home districts don’t need to buy expensive D.C. area homes — or uproot their families to relocate there (see, “Reason #3”).
That would open up national politics to people who aren’t disproportionately wealthy.
One last fringe benefit of decentralizing Congress: it would help sever the link between federal politics and big-buck, DC-based corporate lobbying (what a majority of members of Congress do next).
P.S.: The same argument(s) apply equally to state legislatures, especially in large, sparsely populated states like Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas . . .
**My proposed headline, which the Star Tribune nixed: “Why Mr. Smith SHOULDN’T Go to Washington.”
See also, “2016 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting to (Also) Be Online For 1st Time“; “Don’t Do It, Howard!!”;”Friedman Endorses “Ranked Choice” Voting“; and “When Being Close Counts: Horseshoes . . . Hand Grenades . . . Ranked Choice Voting(?!?).”