Hyper-partisan politics have polarized the nation in a manner that negatively impacts our homeland security, economic security and national security. This debilitating partisanship continues to adversely affect millions of Americans and American businesses across our country. All Americans have an obligation to demand more from their elected representatives. Whether they were elected as Democrats, Republicans or Independents, politicians seem to forget that they have a responsibility and an obligation to represent ALL of the constituents in the jurisdiction, district or state for which they were elected to represent, whether one group or another of constituents voted for them or not. The time has come for politicians to be held accountable to do what is best for the American people and not the political party to which they may be affiliated or whatever their major contributors want.
The following are some measures that can dramatically alter the manner in which our great nation is led by our elected representatives and should be immediately implemented:
- Bipartisanship should not require elected representatives in the House or Senate to “reach across the aisle” to work together. Eliminate this arcane practice of separation by party affiliation, which was only established so party leadership could control their members and easily intimidate them into holding the party line. Constituents need to demand that a change to the seating arrangements in both chambers occurs. Seating should be arranged so there is no across the aisle separation by party affiliation. Congressional representatives and senators should be seated in their respective chambers and during committee meeting and hearings on an alternating basis by party affiliation, seating them in the following manner: D – R – D – R – I – D – R – D – I – R, etc. This will force them to talk to each other and begin to work with each other in the national interest – not some party-based platform or agenda.
- At the beginning of each new session of Congress and when a newly elected senator or congressional representative is sworn into office, they should be required to sign an oath stating that they will equally represent the interests of all the people in the respective state or congressional district from which they were elected. An additional provision of that oath should require working in the best interest of all the people in their respective state or congressional district over the agenda of the respective party to which they may be affiliated.
- Reports have indicated that the average senator and congressional representative spends four to six hours during the normal business hours of the Capitol at their respective party’s national headquarters dialing for dollars. These elected officials should be in their offices or on the floor of their respective legislative chambers doing the business of the people they were elected to represent – not fundraising for their political war chests.
- Require any law passed and signed into law, which has any restrictive legal or negative financial impact on individual American citizens or American companies, must first apply fully to sitting senators, congressional representatives and their staffs for a period of two years before the law can take affect for the rest of the country. This approach in itself would make elected officials more thoughtful about the consequences associated with laws, taxes and fees that they are enacting. This approach would more than likely result in revisions to many laws before they took full effect on the rest of America.
- The highly partisan-based annual budgetary battles in Congress have significantly impaired the ability of critical departments such as Homeland Security to meet their congressionally mandated missions, which ultimate puts all Americans at a completely avoidable level of heightened risk. Require the entire budget for the government to be passed by both chambers of Congress by Sept. 1 of each year so it can be implemented without delay at the beginning of each new fiscal year. Congressional representatives, senators and their staffs should be prohibited from receiving any salary after Sept. 1 until such time as a full budget for the government has been passed by the Congress and signed by the president. Should the president refuse to sign the budget and the Congress is unable to pass the budget with a veto-proof majority, then the president and his direct staff would also be prohibited from receiving any salary until the budget impasse is resolved and a full and complete budget for all of government is approved and codified. Congress should also be prohibited from granting themselves and their staffs as well as the president and the president’s staff any back pay for the period of the budget stalemate. Government shutdowns should never be allowed to occur and government workers, businesses and citizens in the rest of the country should never have to suffer due to the inability of elected officials to compromise on a budget agreement. Should a government shutdown occur due to failure by Congress and the president to compromise on the budget, then the president, all senators and congressional representatives along with their respective staffs should face stiff fines for each day that the government is shut down. Congress should be prohibited from granting payment of these fines or reimbursement from government coffers, campaign funds or donations.
- Any senator or congressional representative that decides to run for an office, other than re-election to the office they currently occupy, should be required to resign from the current office they hold. When senators and congressional representatives take time away from the office to which they were elected to seek a different office, they are failing to uphold their obligation to the people of the state or congressional district that elected them. Americans have a right to expect that their elected officials’ first obligation is to represent the people of their state or congressional district. If they have other aspirations, they should pursue them on their own time and not while they are being paid by American taxpayers to represent them.
- Require all elected officials to treat their office and all of their colleagues and constituents with dignity and respect. Honesty, integrity and civility should be a fundamental standard that all elected officials are required to maintain. A valid and transparent system should be established to hold elected officials accountable for their actions, make their record on compliance publicly available and strictly enforce these standards. Elected officials should face censure and even expulsion should they either consistently or egregiously violate these standards of conduct. As Judge William Webster once so eloquently stated, “Order protects liberty and liberty protects order.”
A Final Thought
Perhaps it is time to consider the establishment of a third political party in order to disrupt the divisive hyper-partisan environment that has evolved. One could imagine a Centrist Party being established. Many Democrats and Republicans are moderate centrist but are basically coerced by their respective party’s leadership to toe the line: the party line. One could envision a substantial number of Democrats and Republicans defecting and joining a newly established Centrist Party that is focused on actually doing what is in the best interests of the American people. The Centrist Party could quickly become the majority in both the House and the Senate, leaving far left-wing Democrats and far right-wing Republicans in the minority.
Once we achieve getting these structural changes in place on Capitol Hill, then the next step is to put this same process in motion for all elected officials at the state and local levels.
These few measures, if implemented, would have a significant impact on how elected officials operate and would go a long way to changing the way our country is governed. If all Americans pressed their elected officials to put these changes in place, the security of our homeland, as well as our economic security and national security, would be significantly enhanced for all Americans. America would prosper like never before, and disruptive partisan politics would be virtually eliminated.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email HSTodayMag@gtscoalition.com. Our editorial guidelines can be found here.