BOSTON (CBS) – It was a sunny day in Washington Thursday and Capitol Hill was crawling with newly-elected members of Congress, basking in the limelight of their first day on the job. Every last one of them seems bright-eyed and eager to turn all their dreams and campaign promises into reality.
Listen to Jon’s commentary:
And whether they’ll say it publicly or not, I suspect all of them believe that they were sent there to clean up the disreputable mess that Washington has become, and are sure they will wind up as part of the solution, not part of the problem.
At one point I ran into a new member I know casually, and he asked me an interesting question – what should I do to stay focused and avoid getting sucked into DC’s bad-habit cesspool?
I applaud his concern and willingness to say he doesn’t have all the answers. I know I don’t. But I repeat what I told him in the hope that you’ll add your own ideas to mine, and it might give our self-awareness-starved political culture some food for thought.
I told him, don’t go underground.
On Capitol Hill, members of Congress can and do spend their entire workday inside, walking between office buildings and the Capitol building in underground tunnels and, if walking isn’t quick enough, riding a special subway they have just for members. Their parking spots are reserved; many of them never have to drive themselves or pump their own gas.
When you are rarely exposed to the elements and the costs and petty hardships of life, you will quickly lose touch with the way most people live, and how it shapes their view of everything from snow removal to gas taxes.
When you live in a bubble of unreal privilege and deference, over time you lose your capacity to truly understand what real life is like for the rest of us.
And when you lose that, you lose touch with the reality you were sent to Congress to address.
I think the poor rookie Congressman I told this to thought I was nuts.
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