Democracy at work

Despite my usual cynical nature, I had a favorable brush with politics last night. I was up in my kid’s bedroom, getting her bathed and ready for bed, when the phone rang. When my hands are full of soaking wet toddler I don’t usually answer the phone, but for some reason I picked it up. To my surprise it was my Congressman—he was holding a phone conference with his constituents. I did not vote for this guy, and I’m pretty certain I never would, but he is my representative, so I joined the conference (by failing to hang up).

The district I live in is quite mixed. Economically it runs from moderately wealthy to not-doing-so-great. There are a huge number of home foreclosures, and people are losing auto industry-related jobs. Within a square mile of my house there is a Korean market, two Indian markets, a Halal butcher, a Kosher butcher, an Israeli restaurant, a Lebanese restaurant, a Chaldean market, a Jain Temple, two Synagogues—you get the idea.

The calls that came in were a mix. One of the things that politicians are usually good at is responding to individuals when given the opportunity. I’ve written to representatives on behalf of patients and gotten wonderful responses. Many calls were from people about to lose their homes, and the rep gave them contact numbers, etc. A few calls complained about illegal immigration, although I’m not sure why—Michigan had a hard time bringing in the crops last year, a folks from my area weren’t heading Up North to do field and orchard work.

Most of the calls were handled without the usual political lip service (most—not all). Some callers were clearly disturbed, and he handled them very well.

All in all, I was very impressed with the job my Congressman did communicating his ideas, even the ones I think are idiotic. I was even more impressed with the way he dealt with his constituents. He seemed to be in politics for all the right reasons (and, no, I don’t think I’m being credulous).

So, despite my dislike of this individual’s politics, I felt a renewed sense of optimism about American democracy. Plus, I got two loads of laundry folded and one poopy diaper changed while participating in my government. Woo-hoo!


  1. Kagehi

    Well then. I suppose its only fair to depress you:


  2. Sounds like your representative is an actual professional politician. I am always pleasantly surprised when a politician, an elected official, behaves as a professional first and a ideologue second.

    I read your blog regularly (but don’t often comment) and am impressed with your defense of modern medicine in the face of homeopathic and religious ideologues. A doctor (or any other health-care professional (I have a PA I see regularly for sinus problems and am very happy with her)) must, first and foremost, be competant. Competency comes through experience and education. We expect this in almost all professions.

    Politics, though, is sometimes treated as a different animal. I’ve heard people rail against ‘professional politicians’ for years. How does one become a professional politician? Usually, through courses of study in public policy and law, followed by experience working under other politicians and elected office (usually starting local and small, and working upward).

    In my experiences with politicians (good and bad) I have found that even ideologues can effectively serve their constituents if (and only if) they have the education and experience described above. The problems tend to be those who have used celebrity (sports, military, or movies) to skip the troublesome education and experience part and jump right into practice. Sometimes this works (I’m thinking of Eisenhower), but more often it doesn’t.

    Basically, politics is a lot like medicine. The MD (med school, residency, etc.) is analagous to the professional politician — they can be assholes but, if they are not competent, they most likely won’t stick around long. The best medical analogy to the actor/sports star politician I can think of is the people like AIDs denialists, homeopathic zealots, water-cure believers, etc. They want to be doctors, but don’t want to do the necessary preliminary work.

    Sorry for the long comment. Occupational hazard.

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