Saturday, January 5, 2013

It's Good for Us - Diversity in the Halls of Congress

New beginnings fill us with great hopes, and so it is with the incoming 113th Congress, sworn in on Thursday this week. The new legislators in both the House and Senate include 101 women, the first Hindu representative, the first Buddhist, the first openly gay woman elected to the Senate, the first black Senator from the South since Reconstruction, and for the first time ever, the majority of Democratic Representatives in the House are not white.  Many laud this new peak in ethnic, gender and religious diversity as heralding a renovation of the democratic spirit in the country and look forward to a fresh start to politics inside our capitol. However, the first bill introduced in the 113th Congress, by Rep. Michelle Bachmann, was a bill to repeal Obamacare, marking hardly a shift in tactics by the far right. But in the long term, the new membership, not tied to the ideological battles of yesterday, is sure to look at polls showing popular support sinking like a stone for the legislative branch of the government, with 69 percent of the public now sharing an unfavorable rating for the work of their elected officials. Let's hope that the new diversity in the halls of Congress translates to an open-minded ability to improvise and work together to find solutions to the common problems facing us.  Tops on any wish list for renovating reformers has to be a change in the filibuster rules to prevent the gridlock that the filibuster process has enabled for too long. But the most important procedural reform in my humble opinion is to move the entire electoral process to publicly funded campaigns. It will put telemarketers out of business,  but make me less likely to have outbursts of phone fundraising rage on otherwise quiet, post-election Saturday afternoons. Sorry, Democratic Congress Campaign Committee guy on the phone today. I didn't mean to go off on you like that. And I know the Koch brothers are truly evil. But I'm tapped out and will be for the foreseeable future. If Michelle Bachmann and the remnants of the Tea Party aren't enough to sink the GOP in 2014, then my dime is probably worthless anyway.

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