Drain the swamp

Jonathan McCollough | Staff Writer

Rain drop, drop top, GOP flip-flop.

The new Republican-led U.S. Congress had a controversial start in its first session when massive public outcry, as well as criticism from President Trump, forced House Republicans to backtrack on a proposal to gut an independent ethics committee. The proposal would have significantly weakened the Office of Congressional Ethics, which is in charge of investigating ethics accusations against lawmakers.

Such an irresponsible and corrupt move would seem like action of the past now that an anti-establishment candidate has secured the White House, but the duty of draining the swamp is one that Trump can not do alone.

It’s fairly well agreed upon that Trump’s success can be attributed to his position as a “change” candidate. In fact, on election day New York Times did exit polling in which they asked voters what the most important quality in a President is, including “has the right experience,” “has good judgement,” and “cares about people like me.” Hillary Clinton won every single category in the exit poll except for one: “can bring needed change.”

It’s clear that the American people wanted change, yet 97 percent of sitting Representatives and 90 percent of incumbent Senators won reelection. In a “change” election, the American people sent more than 90 percent of Capitol Hill right back to the swamp.

People tend to believe that it’s not their Senator or Representative who’s the problem, but that’s just simply not true. The Washington Post reports that Congressional polarization is as high as it has ever been as politicians on both sides vote along party lines instead of voting in the best interests of the people they represent.

While politicians tend to vote along party lines, they are still very responsive to public opinion. This was evident when, after a national uproar and thousands of phone calls, House Republicans backed down from their plan to gut the ethics committee. The issue is that voters oftentimes do not take advantage of their powerful influence over the people they choose to elect.

The 2014 Congressional midterm had the lowest voter turnout in 70 years with only 36 percent of eligible voters going to the polls, and the 2016 election had the lowest turnout since 2000 with 58.4 percent of eligible voters casting their ballot.

Politicians are not going to change if they know that the public does not even care enough about what they are doing to go out and vote.

The ultimate arbitrator of ethics in this country is not some Congressional Committee, but we the people. The most dangerous thing for Congress would be for us, the voters, to hold them accountable for their actions or inaction. This is why we should not look at voting as a right, but as a responsibility.

Until the voters are responsible, we can not expect our government to be.