If you have been anywhere outside your home. Or for that matter spent any time on Social Media, you have felt it. It is hard to miss. Whether it is in the halls of Congress when two women confront a United States Senator. Or when you speak to your cashier who speaks of how crazy the government is, and never listens. Or when you are told over and over again of why victims do not report. For that matter, there is a demand that the rules of the game change and victims must be believed.
To be honest, there is a level of tension we have not seen, or felt, in a while. There is anger. It is consuming and spreading across the land. It is leading to people doing something they usually do not do: People are paying close attention to their government. This is important.
This is precisely what your government elected officials do not want. Sure, professional politicians want you to vote in November, for their side mind you. If you are thinking of voting for the other side, they’d prefer if you sit this one out. And the other side is the other party. They would rather you join the one hundred million who already do not vote. This is why they are giving you that as a unique solution to the problems we face. And that is part of the only solution they are giving you. Vote.
I am here to tell you that the last thing the political class wants you to do is precisely what you are doing right now. The last thing they want you to do is to pay attention. I am here to tell you to do precisely this. Voting is hardly enough. It never has been. What you need to become is an engaged citizen, and not just when critical events arise. You need to follow the minutiae, and you need to be aware of what they are doing. By not doing that, we empower them to do their business in the halls of power and trade our future for much of their benefit.
Mind you, not all politicians are like this. The closer they are to the people’s level, the less likely they will trade all for a few shekels. But you must assume that you need to keep an eye on them. After all, you supervise your employees right? They are, ultimately, your employees, They work for you.
Here are a few steps that any engaged citizen should follow. If you are not doing that, consider this a primer on engagement.
- Learn who represents you. This ranges from dog catcher on up. Know their names, and their contact information. Realize that depending on the body, they may get termed out every so often. Or rarely, as incumbents, lose their seat, So update your contact information as needed.
- For some reason, many people fear politicians. They wake up and put their clothes in the same way you do. They have the same fears and desires you do. Lose that fear. They really do not deserve it. Remember, these people work for you. It does not matter what party they nominally belong to. They work for you. They are not your leaders, they are your representatives. If you do not agree with a position, contact them. If enough people make enough noise, perhaps they will change their position.
- There is an art on how to do this. A handwritten (legible) letter is far more effective than any online petition you may ever sign. In fact, this is the most effective way, beyond a personal visit to a home office. Phone calls also work but are less effective than a personal, delivered by mail, handwritten letter. Incidentally, avoid using cursive, most younger staff cannot read cursive. And this letter will not be read by your member of whatever body, unless it is very low in the totem pole, like a fire board. In that case, a chat over coffee will be effective as well.
- If time is of the essence, mail them to the local office. After 911 Congress, in particular, has all letters go through an Anthrax check, ergo that takes time. Local offices do not. If you must, transcribe this letter and also send an e-mail. Remember, sending letters to any who do not represent you is a waste of time. They don’t represent you. The only exception to this rule is the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House. Every other representative does not have any obligation to pay attention to you. And as far as the Speaker, some, like Nancy Pelosi, established a separate website to serve those outside her district.
- Be polite. At times you may want to scream at them, but remaining professional is essential. However, sometimes screaming at a politician can work. Use your judgment. However, they need this reminder often, .they work for we the people. This is something that is very easy to forget in the circles of power. And the higher the office, the easier it is to not remember that. It is not like the local fire board President has a security team, but mayors in larger cities do. And there is nothing more impressive than a United States Senator going to the office, with state police escort and safely inside an armored vehicle. I am sure it is for their own protection. However, that bubble means these people are unaware of how you live. And their pay is very good too. So that insulates them as well. Why they do not realize what the average pay is.
So they honestly need that reminder. They work for us. But is also critical to becoming knowledgeable of the at times arcane procedures that are used. It does not matter if this is your local school board, or the United States Senate.
What happened in the Judiciary Committee?
There are people who did not get the procedural minutiae we saw in the committee. It was very much inside baseball, but the kind of maneuvers you usually see when quid pro quo is involved. This is more colloquially known as you scratch my back and I scratch yours. This time it did not involve any of that. It was likely a vote of conscience and a moment of compromise. When Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) came into the room, he was shaken up. It was obvious. He has been reportedly struggling with the vote. Incidentally, this is what hard votes should look like, they often do not. He was also challenged openly by two women. They were victims of assault and their words likely had an effect on the Senator. Why he was visibly shaken.
What he did was something we do not see much off these days, He did talk to the other side, and more politicians should do this in our tribal reality. Our system of government works when there is a compromise. We see it rarely these days. Then he did something that is way, and I mean this, this is way inside baseball. He voted to advance the nominee to the floor, for a full vote. (There are two other procedural votes before they get to the last one. So bear with the process, it can get confusing) He also said something else. I am paraphrasing. I am advancing the nominee, but you do not have my FINAL vote unless there is an FBI investigation. He is waiting to see what that investigation reveals. If there is nothing, it will be cover to vote aye. If it does tell us there is something there, there, it will be cover to vote no.
This is the minutiae a lot of people were confused about. How could this be possible? Vote aye now, but promise to vote nay later. This is done often at all levels of government. What you saw was a nomination advanced out of committee. It could have been a bill as well. The process is not that different.
The hearing with both Doctor Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh was heated. It was partly political theater. And no, it was not that unusual as some young tv commentators have said. Replace one judge for another and we would be in the same place, with some of the same cast of characters, over a generation ago. When young broadcasters tell you this is unusual, they either never covered their local city council, or they lack the memory of other times when it was this heated. Watergate, the McCarthy hearings, the Judge Clarence Thomas confirmation, are but three examples of very heated moments. they happen more often than most would like to admit, and they are mostly forgotten. Most hearings are quite sedated and a working government requires that. Which is one reason why most people do not follow hearings closely; they lack the drama this one had.
So what do you do this coming week? Try to gather what is the whip count, meaning the vote count. They need 49 votes in the Senate. In that case, the Vice-President, in his function as President of the Senate, will break the tie. There are 49 Democrats. This is your magic number. If they do not have 49 votes, they will either hold it, to make sure its over, or they will pull the nomination.
Here is where things get interesting. Three Republicans are in play. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. On the Democratic side Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. These two Democrats, are in states that went for Donald Trump in 2016, and they are up for reelection. This is potentially five votes that could change. If for example, Collins decides to vote against the nominee, but Manchin crosses, the math remains the same. And yes, this is essentially a math exercise.
This is the kind of minutiae that most Americans do not pay attention to. And no, they do not print program notes or field guides to Congress. It takes time and watching these bodies to understand how they work. It’s not that complicated, just time-consuming.
Americans know something monumental is occurring. It is not just about the politics of the nominee. Incidentally, they matter. It is about a changing society. Those who hold power at present are going to fight every step of the way. None gives up power easily or willingly.
Perhaps we have reached a point of cultural inflection. The powers that be will not give it up willingly.
This is why the country feels as if they are under assault. These forces are pushing, even when large majorities are saying no.
As to Judge Brett Kavanaugh in particular…his anger at the whole exercise. His, yes, sense of entitlement, was in full display. On those grounds alone, he does not have the temperament to be on the court. Call your Senators and just your Senators. But when this is over, vote in November and remain engaged in the process. Keep the feet of your employees to the fire. Do not demobilize, remain engaged. Remember, they work for you.