From Ed Case, Congressional candidate:
Too many of us will remember 2011 for our Congress’ failure to deliver strong and effective leadership for our country when most needed.
In my seven years on Capitol Hill, beginning as a 22-year-old legislative assistant to Sen. Spark Matsunaga and later as Hawaii’s Congressman, I grew to trust in representative democracy and cherish the institution. But over the last decade and especially the last year I’ve gone from puzzlement to discouragement to anger to just plain embarrassment.
Much of the blame is rightly laid on skyrocketing hyper-partisanship, debate framed by the outer extremes, paralyzing gridlock and special interest money and influence. But wrongly and most disappointing, too many believe it will never change and will only get worse.
It doesn’t have to be, and can’t be. From fixing our economy to balancing our budget to preserving our safety net to improving education to charting the right course in our world, and on and on, we need a Congress that works.
Some say that it’s not the people in Congress but the system. I don’t buy that at all. Of course it’s about who we elect and their commitment to deliver what we want and need, for Congress is nothing more or less than that.
A critical mass of Senators and Representatives willing and able to break out of this morass and find a better way of governance will make all the difference.
It is also about campaign finance reform, where recent court decisions and a failure of will inside Congress toward further reform have gutted hard-earned progress to date.
Without that, it will be very hard to escape the destructive closed loop of special interest lobbying-decisions-campaign contributions-reelection and endlessly back around again.
And it is in part about the traditions and rules of Congress, which have too often worsened the problem. Among many good change proposals, one thoughtful package was offered recently by the organization No Labels, which aims to “support reforms, leaders and legislation that will help fix America’s broken government and break the stranglehold that the extremes currently have on our political process.”
Its proposals include “no budget, no pay” (“If Congress can’t make spending and budget decisions on time, they shouldn’t get paid on time either”), filibuster reform, longer work schedules for Congress in DC, one common fiscal report and bipartisan leadership committees.
It will take all of this and more to fix Congress. The one common ingredient is us.
The beauty of a New Year is that it provides a fresh start. This New Year of 2012 brings just that in the form of crucial elections for our Hawaii and country, elections when we can, if we dare, seize the opportunity to correct our course.
I know we can, and truly look forward to debating with my opponents early and often who can best contribute to fixing Congress and solving our challenges.
Warm aloha and Happy Fresh Start!
U. S. Congressman (2002-2007)