To say that the 112th US Congress was unpopular would be an understatement. One of the most polarised congresses in US history it is no surprise that it is also one of the most unpopular. While Democrats must of course share some of the blame, the majority of it must fall at the feet of the current house majority - the Republican Party.
A party which seems to be on the verge of collapse, with the vocal Tea Party minority, forcing the majority moderates to the right - through a combination of filibusters, and the threat of primary challenges - the Republican Parties attitude this congress can best be summed up by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the job of this congress "must be to deny President Obama a second term." That's right, folks. The jobs of Republicans in the 112th Congress was not to debate legislation, or pass laws or represents the people who voted for them. It was to deny the President a second term.
But nowhere was the political polarisation of the last congress more apparent than during the "fiscal cliff " negotiations at the end of the last year. The fiscal cliff for those of you not obsessed with US politics was a set of tax rises and spending cuts that would kick in on the first of January if a deal was not reached. Was a deal reached in time?
Well yes. But it was a retroactive deal. The deadline went sailing merrily by without a House vote, due to the unwillingness of the Republican Caucus to accept any deal put across by Democrats. Despite the fact that going over the fiscal cliff would most directly and adversely affect the middle and low income voters who put them in their seat, the Caucus refused any deal that meant higher taxes for millionaires and big businesses. They preferred letting America go over the fiscal cliff than doing right by their constituents.
The job of any politician be they an MP, a Representative or a Senator, or whatever is to serve the general public. It's not a case of they elect you, and then you get to do what you like until the next election. You have to serve your constituency and vote and act according to both your conscience and what will affect those you serve.
In short unless you've actually been elected as the Representative for Koch Industries, your job is not to serve them. Your job is to serve the people of the Washington 1st or the Colorado 5th or whatever. While there may be times when voting with your party is the right thing to do, you should never vote in lockstep. If you think what your party is doing is wrong, then vote against them. Don't worry about what your whips will say. Think about what you will be able to say during the next election season.
I would like to think that the 113th Congress will be a little less partisan and a little more sensible. Unfortunately just three days into the term that seems unlikely. But we'll see what happens.
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