Having no election this November has been a relief, if for no other reason than giving everyone a break from opponents who seem to disagree on everything. That reprieve won't last long, however, as a congressional race is heating up for next November between two candidates juxtaposed on the issues.
I listened this past weekend to Adam Kinzinger, 31, a rising Republican running against U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson for the 11th Congressional District seat. Admirably, he repeatedly emphasized if elected to the House of Representatives, he will represent and listen to voters, because that's a representative's job.
Of course, his comment came wrapped in criticism for Halvorson not having in-person town hall meetings on health care. Many Democrats have followed that path due to the prospect of meetings filled with screaming by opponents of health care reform legislation.
Representatives do, for the most part, listen to constituents, but actions they take in Congress generally reflect their parties' platforms.
Make no mistake, if Kinzinger is elected, he'll listen to arguments and concerns, but on certain issues where he's not going to budge. Talking to a group Saturday, he sounded absolutely pro-life, said marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, and he supports gun owners' rights, including the right to carry concealed weapons. On war in Afghanistan, he expressed support for the U.S. general who requested more soldiers, saying those 40,000 troops "need to be sent there yesterday."
Democrat Halvorson listens to her constituents.
As a private citizen, I sent a letter to her office about a specific concern when Chase took over Washington Mutual and forced WAMU credit card holders to swallow an interest rate increase or cancel the card, forcing cancellations onto credit reports. She, or her office, got back to me, but I think I got a form letter about things she was doing in general in the fight against outrageous behavior of credit card companies.
I sat last spring in a room filled with Farm Bureau leaders, bankers and agribusiness folks from the district, and heard her thank them for their input because it helps her make decisions. Several expressed opposition to "cap-and-trade" legislation if it would hurt agriculture or punish soybean producers based on perceptions that Brazil is being deforested for biofuels crops. Halvorson told them "something had to be done" about carbon, but indicated she'd be hesitant to approve a bill that would hinder agriculture.
Then in June, she voted along with other Democrats who followed President Barack Obama's wishes to support cap-and-trade.
But even if that particular bill, which has not passed Congress, didn't target agriculture practices, that doesn't mean carbon tax credits wouldn't affect farmers or other taxpayers. While it might sound good to charge polluters, forcing industries to buy carbon credits surely would harm industry. In addition, it would affect energy companies and, the way I read it, be a tax that would cause them to pass costs down to consumers and small business.
Politicians who lean a certain way often will be swayed more easily in the direction they lean than in others, often regardless of how many times they come to hear constituents. In American politics, where election campaigns start right after elections and where free-thinking politicians are likely to lose in primaries, it's important for voters to listen to their politicians and for politicians to listen to voters.
It seems the government "by the people" almost invariably serves only a portion of the people. But even though politicians seem to never stop campaigning for votes, I don't know if I know of a better system than America's.