Recently on CNN Former Majority leader Trent Lott appeared and discussed the ongoing stall in the fiscal cliff talks, and delivered his take. Congress he said was a much different place when he first arrived, because everyone in both parties socialized more, and they all had permanent residence in Washington DC. Before cell phones, the internet, fax machines and other devices people needed each other’s presence more to fill time, and members in both parties played golf together, went to happy hours, and had family dinners and BBQ’s. The technological innovation in the last 15 years has created a distance between members within their own parties and across the aisle that was essential to how our political system worked. Bob Dole, the 1996 presidential nominee for the Republicans frequently joined Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the most liberal members in the senate to in passing bi partisan legislation in the sixties and seventies. In the eighties Ronald Reagan frequently had Tip O’Neill over for drinks and passed bi partisan tax reform on an enormous scale (once in 1981 and again in 1986). They had a relationship, a friendship, and that trumped their political gamesmanship. Those relationships made the system work, and America’s biggest legislative success in the last fifty years has been on a bi partisan basis (Civil Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security Reform).
Members now work for two days a week. They work on Tuesday and Wednesday and leave for their district on Thursday night. Some members even sleep in their offices! Our political system can’t be successful if they don’t build the relationships necessary to put the partisan bickering and political games behind the greater good of the country. Technology has led society in a more inward direction, because people don’t have to rely on other peoples company as much as they used too. It has also created a barrier in our political system by allowing our members to be constantly monitored from their home districts. The end result means they leave Washington more frequently to explain themselves to their constituents, and our country is left without necessary solutions to sustain itself.