Service to country. It has long been recognized to be the highest calling for Americans. Service in our armed forces is an obvious example, but not the only way to contribute to the wellbeing of our nation. It was also the way we would characterize individuals who seek elected office and play a critical role in our democracy. A representative government prescribed by our Constitution requires that we, the people, will carefully weigh the qualifications of candidates based on experience, but also adherence to the needs of constituents, and choose those best qualified to serve. The choice had little to do with how rich or powerful or connected a candidate might be, but rather how true to the principles of Constitutional governance and how dedicated to the service of those represented. It was also expected that differing views would exist within and across parties, and debate of the issues of the day would take place, consensus reached, and laws agreed upon that benefitted the governed. Service as an elected official assumed the chosen would do his or her best, and though some would succeed more than others, trust in their intent was understood.
Today, we face a new political landscape in which such assumptions cannot be drawn and that those who hold elected office are not bound to any contract with those they represent. Exploitation of the privileges of high office by individuals is nothing new, but never has America experienced such a wholesale abrogation of accountability to the people by a political party as we encounter today by the majority caucus in the House and Senate. The actions surrounding the crafting of the American Health Care Act in the House and Senate is just the latest egregious example.
Virtues such as transparency, compassion and truth that had once characterized the Republican Party have been replaced with secrecy, greed and deception. The aggressive partisanship practiced by the GOP over the past decade has reached a near lawless level, as many of the longstanding practices employed by the Congress in conducting the people’s work have been abandoned, and honest debate withheld. Some, like Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, have even refused to hold town hall meetings and answer for their actions to constituents.
Service to country, exemplified by names like Everett Dirksen, Gerald Ford and Jack Kemp, has become sullied by the115th Congress and rendered unrecognizable.
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