The greatness of American democracy

In most countries through history, the people have had to grovel to their rulers. In the U.S.A., the rulers have to grove to their people.

Where else could eight ordinary folks from a small town in Oklahoma–one of whom (whose identity I will not reveal to preserve our family honor–my brother) was wearing an Aloha shirt and short pants–walk right up to the office of their elected Congressman (Dan Boren), who pulls an intern (Benjamin) from important duties of state to give these ragtag constituents a tour of the Capitol building?

If you go to Washington, D.C., instead of waiting in line and taking the mass tour of the Capitol building, be sure to contact the office of your Congressional representative or senator a few weeks before your visit to arrange for the staff led tour. It will remind you of the glory of democracy, which, far more than these sublime buildings, is really what America is all about.

(More on what I learned next time.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://heresyhunter.blogspot.com Bob Hunter

    Oh, there are other countries with democracies where you can do that.

  • http://heresyhunter.blogspot.com Bob Hunter

    Oh, there are other countries with democracies where you can do that.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Since my congressman is Keith “X” Ellison, I don’t think I’ll be doing that myself.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Since my congressman is Keith “X” Ellison, I don’t think I’ll be doing that myself.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    My reference was to “countries throughout history.” And I daresay that a number of those other democracies may not have existed were it not for the existence of ours.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    My reference was to “countries throughout history.” And I daresay that a number of those other democracies may not have existed were it not for the existence of ours.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, Lars, you can always ask your senator-to-be, Al Franken. Oh, sorry.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, Lars, you can always ask your senator-to-be, Al Franken. Oh, sorry.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Oh, sorry.”

    As we will all be if that horse’s patootie is elected… even if he finds himself right at home.

    Of course Minnesota hasn’t had a great voting track record, having elected a governor who wanted to be reincarnated as a size 38-DD bra, which suggests he was better qualified to fill the bra.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Oh, sorry.”

    As we will all be if that horse’s patootie is elected… even if he finds himself right at home.

    Of course Minnesota hasn’t had a great voting track record, having elected a governor who wanted to be reincarnated as a size 38-DD bra, which suggests he was better qualified to fill the bra.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My wife and I recently traveled to D.C. with her Science Olympiad team (the national competition was there in May), and we also took the intern-guided tour.

    And while I enjoyed it, I came away with rather a different impression than you did. While we were waiting in the long security line in a dank basement hallway, the interns asked if we had any questions. Since none of the high schoolers did, I asked about the best ways for constituents to contact their representative, and how that plays out in their office.

    It was a fairly cynical discussion, which left me feeling rather impotent when it comes to influencing my Congressmen, and ranked somewhere below congressional interns in the pecking order. Oh well, there’s always November …

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    My wife and I recently traveled to D.C. with her Science Olympiad team (the national competition was there in May), and we also took the intern-guided tour.

    And while I enjoyed it, I came away with rather a different impression than you did. While we were waiting in the long security line in a dank basement hallway, the interns asked if we had any questions. Since none of the high schoolers did, I asked about the best ways for constituents to contact their representative, and how that plays out in their office.

    It was a fairly cynical discussion, which left me feeling rather impotent when it comes to influencing my Congressmen, and ranked somewhere below congressional interns in the pecking order. Oh well, there’s always November …

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    That’s right, tODD. There’s always November when we all of a sudden get very important again. I suspect it does have something to do with the Congressman and maybe the cynicism of that particular intern. According to ours, a big part of his job is tracking constituent input, entering every request to vote a certain way into a data base for the Congressman’s consideration. So I came away thinking we constituents have more clout than I thought we did.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    That’s right, tODD. There’s always November when we all of a sudden get very important again. I suspect it does have something to do with the Congressman and maybe the cynicism of that particular intern. According to ours, a big part of his job is tracking constituent input, entering every request to vote a certain way into a data base for the Congressman’s consideration. So I came away thinking we constituents have more clout than I thought we did.

  • Don S

    I agree, Dr. Veith. My wife worked on Capitol Hill back in the 80′s, and had the occasion to be involved extensively in constituent service over the years. It is true that all communications are carefully logged and tallied, and reports are regularly made to the Congressman and senior legislative staff so that they can take their constitutents’ views into account on various issues. One thing to keep in mind is to make your communication as personal as possible. If you merely forward an email sent to you by an advocacy organization, or send a postcard, or things of that nature, they are counted by not highly valued. On the other hand, a personal note expressing your concerns about a particular issue will be read by an appropriate staff member, acknowledged, and tallied.

    Obviously, if you are a gadfly, always sending messages to your representative, or if your politics are directly opposed to your representative’s politics, you are probably not going to change his/her mind about those types of party-line issues which tend to be established by party and enforced by the party whip, or which are ideologically aligned with your representative’s thinking. But on the less ideologically clear issues, and particularly on issues of personal or local concern, where your message might be forwarded to the local office, you will be surprised at the level of attention you will receive.

  • Don S

    I agree, Dr. Veith. My wife worked on Capitol Hill back in the 80′s, and had the occasion to be involved extensively in constituent service over the years. It is true that all communications are carefully logged and tallied, and reports are regularly made to the Congressman and senior legislative staff so that they can take their constitutents’ views into account on various issues. One thing to keep in mind is to make your communication as personal as possible. If you merely forward an email sent to you by an advocacy organization, or send a postcard, or things of that nature, they are counted by not highly valued. On the other hand, a personal note expressing your concerns about a particular issue will be read by an appropriate staff member, acknowledged, and tallied.

    Obviously, if you are a gadfly, always sending messages to your representative, or if your politics are directly opposed to your representative’s politics, you are probably not going to change his/her mind about those types of party-line issues which tend to be established by party and enforced by the party whip, or which are ideologically aligned with your representative’s thinking. But on the less ideologically clear issues, and particularly on issues of personal or local concern, where your message might be forwarded to the local office, you will be surprised at the level of attention you will receive.


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