By Kate Brightwell
Whether one wins or loses a race, after election day the campaign is over right?… Wrong! In today’s society, Election Day is merely one more day in a never-ending cycle of campaigning. Challengers have to start their campaigns years in advance to garner enough attention to ever be considered as a prospect and incumbents start their re-election campaign the day after votes are in. With this continuous cycle of campaign slogans and handshaking, it is hard to imagine when elected officials find the time to actually do their job.
In a discussion from yesterday’s session at the Washington Center, Dan Glickman (former Secretary of Agriculture) lamented on the fact that this session of congress was unequivocally unproductive because of their obsession with re-election. He cited evidence of this obsession with regards to Harry Reid’s protection of certain senators from “hard votes”- i.e. votes that would make them look unfavorable to their constituents. In agreement with these statements former Senator Bob Bennett, stated that congress should not be a life-long career and he suggested that congressmen and congresswomen need to be prepared to take those “hard votes” or, to be blunt, do their job as elected officials..
This discussion was further amplified today when we met
Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack has served as Secretary of Agriculture for six years and has been witness to the perpetual campaign that seems to control elected officials. Today, while in a question and answer session, Secretary Vilsack expressed his frustration towards congress when discussing how congress refused to approve the closing of several offices of the Department of Agriculture. These closings would have consolidated funds and reduced unnecessary operating costs. Congress refused, Vilsack suggests, due to the fact that approving these closing would cause and unfavorable response from the congressmen and congresswomen’s constituents. In short, congress was more concerned with ensuring their future job and neglected to do their current job.
I do not want to suggest that campaigning for re-election is evil or unimportant. Elected officials seeking re-election must take the necessary steps to align themselves for re-election if they believe they can continue to serve the greatest interest of the public. These steps, however, should not impede on their ability to take those hard votes and make the hard decisions that may be unfavorable to their constituents, but be the right choice for the country as a whole. Elected officials need to get off the carrousel ride that is the perpetual election and allow themselves to do their job to the fullest extent.