I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Colin Powell give the keynote address at the Garter Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando this past week. A conference dominated by emerging information technology hosted one of the most respected military figures in recent U.S. history, I thought to myself, this has to be interesting. He made comments about EZ-pass, social media, and sort of catered to the techie crowd. However, his comments concerning Congress in the election particularly resonated with me. I want to explore two issues; first, how does Congress fit into the overall election ethos; second, what would the anti-federalists say about today’s government? I ask these two questions because the two are linked, as I will soon explain.
Since I began studying politics (when Bob Dole ran for the presidency in 1996), I have always been fascinated with the relationship between the President, Congress, and the American people. Looking at such questions as: Who do we blame for our economic woes? Who is responsible for this change we have heard about? Who will make my life and my family's life better? Well, as you very well know, they are not particularly easy questions to answer.
To my first point, concerning the role of Congress in our political decision-making — simply put, they have been horrible. Colin Powell quasi-sarcastic comment, “They cannot even pass the appropriations bill…” And, the sad thing is, he is right! Congress controls the budget purse strings, they make the law, they approve the appointees, they serve as a check on executive authority — and as John Stuart Mill would never have us forget — they represent the people.
In all of the above areas, they have failed or succeeded incredibly well (in the eyes of the executive) in supporting various agendas. Congress has an approval rating of less than 20 percent, and we wonder why “change” cannot come to Washington or this country, and I think it is important to discuss some manifestations of this problem from both political parties perspectives.
The right argues, "We want Obama the 'socialist' out so Romney can fix this country." A bit ironic, wouldn't you say? They want to throw out the wine and cheese elitist for the country club elitist. The end of big government! No, simply the beginning of a different one. The right's attack on Obama has been for expanded government — which translates into — Romney will solve it all as president. This sounds a bit like 2008..."Yes, we can." The GOP's historically anti-federalist position has moved into an extraordinarily federalist position in order to capture the White House.
The left argues, "Obama's policies can solve these problems better than the Romney's policies." Not entirely ironic this time, but certainly a feeling of uneasiness. At present, the American people are caught up in a system of reliance on the ederal government. Obama’s elitist attitude “I will do this, and I will bring change,” is precisely what the anti-federalists warned and fought against. Creating a monarchical-like executive because the American people continue to rely on the executive government for “change”; it is a vicious cycle.
Now, I am not arguing that I think the “masses” should have rule, but I will adopt a Lockean approach where the legislature is not supposed to be a unit of the people, but for the people. Has anyone ever been elected because they promised to not bring change? But, it really is not their job to do so. Of course not! Americans, because of an institutionalized culture of reliance, only believe that a president should be responsible for all change. We are on a path to monarchy and soon another will enter the crown. Congress is the path to emancipation, but unless Americans start to care about what they do, “change” will never come to true fruition.