The relationship between a member of Congress and their constituents should be similar to a golfer and their caddie. The caddie is there to help navigate them around the course, offer local insight, and help the golfer understand the conditions on the ground, so that they can respond accordingly. But when the caddie isn't even along for the ride, and is made a far-away spectator, his/her concerns are ignored.
In a way, that's what we're seeing now with members of Congress, particularly during the August recess. Politico reported yesterday on the increase in fancy golf outings and vacations with lobbyists and big donors that members are taking to raise huge sums for re-election. Members are forgoing their "caddies" (constituents) altogether, and instead playing a round with the wealthy country club member, who can write a big campaign check, and cares more about keeping his golf cart on the path than what is happening on Main Street.
From the Politico story: “I think from a House perspective, when Republicans got back into the majority, you have more of an ability to attract people,” Bellwether Consulting Group fundraiser Monica Notzon said. “I’ve definitely seen an uptick, not just from freshmen, but members who have been around for a while who have forgone trips.”
This is certainly not a new phenomenon, and members of both parties partake, but the increase in these types of events offers yet another window into how members of Congress disconnect themselves from their constituents. While they ham it up at swanky golf clubs and posh vacation destinations with big money lobbyists, ordinary Americans continue to struggle in a bad economy.
Just look at the number of these kinds of events, provided by the Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time website (and these are just the ones we know about).
Instead of meeting with constituents to discuss ways we might get more Americans back to work, too many Members are busy filling up the campaign coffers in order to keep their own jobs. It's no wonder that with just about every new poll we find that Congress has set another disapproval record. People don't feel like lawmakers are working in their interest, and hob-nobbing with big donors and special interest lobbyists definitely doesn't help.
And as we've seen in the last few election cycles, the American people will not hesitate to take a "mulligan" on the people they previously elected. It's not the politicians themselves that are necessarily the problem, it's the system that forces them to constantly fundraise for the next election. We can change that with the Fair Elections Now Act, which is currently before Congress. Now, more than ever, this should be a "gimme."