By Zach Dvorak
It took four days in The Washington Center program to start challenging the concepts I currently abide by. Whether the topic is of race, Congress policy making, or lobbying, the discussions stimulated by today’s speakers created chances I don’t typically receive in my day-to-day life.
These opportunities provided through this experience are creating healthy debates that only enable more internal struggle within myself that I so often crave. Conflicts that lead to the need of reevaluating my thoughts, and challenging my opinion and beliefs. By doing so, it helps create two key points in my ideology:
- It either contributes to the strengthening of my core values or
- I advance my knowledge on the topic to become more accepting of the new concept
Now this is not how everyone works, and I totally understand not all have the same concepts of growth as I do. But I will always discuss with anyone who wants their opinions on any matter since it provides me the chance to see new thought processes behind their ideas. I think therefore this course has been helpful for me in gaining a stronger knowledge of how people deal with their thoughts behind their beliefs.
As my classmate, Jessica Lynk so eloquently wrote about Greg Carr’s perspective on America’s history involving race and the correlation to our previous monuments tour in “America’s morally unresolved history.” I decided to focus on our evening meetings, which primarily honed in on the how and why Congress works the way it does.
As I hurriedly ate my lunch right before we left on our afternoon excursion to the Brookings Institution where we heard from Sarah Binder, a Senior Fellow in the Government Studies Program. My expectations for what was to come were small since I didn’t know what the Brookings Institution did, and my lack of knowledge on how intellectually stimulating Prof. Binder would be on the subject of Congress policy making. She touched on many topics, but the one that stuck with me was that of political transparency and how it could be a bad thing.
Ever since I had gotten invested in politics, I held the idea that lack of transparency was the main point holding back American policy creation. Well, naturally, I discovered my thinking was wrong in many ways. Our government infrastructure in America demands some privacy, especially in the new age of social media. With the new forms of communicating and the ability to hear each other voices is at an all time high. It may be a significant gain in society, but it is not for our Representatives trying to cross party lines. Which leads to something that Congress is sorely missing, the middle.
This topic became even more intriguing when we stopped by the Capitol and had a brief meeting with Congressman David Young (R-IA). With whom I had never met before, and after our group conversation, I would recommend to everyone to try and find a way to have a discussion with him. For some who might not know, he won re-election in one of the tightest House races in 2016, so Representative Young knows the importance of working with both sides. Luckily, he also doesn’t have to worry about transparency as much as others. Just look at Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the Republican primaries, he tried to make bipartisan legislation with Democrats in 2013 on the Gang of Eight bill, as it is notoriously named. For trying to break the stalemate in Congress, he was attacked viciously for not sticking to his parties line. Maybe with more transparency, these sort of attacks would go away, and ideological purity would dissipate in the electorate.
All I know is I am and will always be for pragmatic decisions. I think Sarah Binder helped me learn a new concept today and expanded my beliefs, and Rep. Young showed me there is still hope for moderates in Congress. Some new perspectives I sorely needed after this election, and hope for more in the years to come.