Does Congress need privacy?

To the Journal editor:

Could Congress’s current partisanship and grid-lock have been exasperated by its own well-intended 1977 transparency policy?

Post-Watergate calls for transparency spurred televised coverage reform. In 1977, Congress authorized a closed-circuit testing period and the House approved the establishment of its own television broadcast system shortly after. In 1979, C-SPAN started tapping into the House television system to begin live broadcasts of Congress at work.

Over the last two decades, Congress has digressed to a TV reality show where the goal is to thwart legislation from the opposing party at all costs in order to hold on to or regain power. Floor debates have been transformed into re-election soundbites since every word spoken on the floor is distorted by cable TV and social media trolls in real-time.

A representative’s own party will now threaten to scuttle their re-election chances if any attempt is made to reach across the aisle or think independently. Our legislators are being transformed into hired actors memorizing a script handed to them by party leaders to boost their follower’s passion for the show. The tragedy is that our Democracy might end up being canceled.

It seems counter-intuitive, but pulling the plug on TV/media coverage of the chambers of Congress may actually allow our representatives the privacy needed to create-debate-agree on bi-partisan legislation for the advancement of America. There’s a reason our Founders locked the doors from the public while they debated and agreed on the Constitution of the United States of America.

“They [Constitutional Convention representatives] would not be able to listen to each other’s arguments, giving differing opinions due consideration, if they had to constantly justify every word they spoke and every vote they took to constituents at home.” — teachingamericanhistory.org

Artist hide their masterpiece from art critics until they figure out how to best express their vision. If we reverse the 1977 transparency policy and lockout the political critics from the chambers of Congress, our representatives might have the privacy and freedom to figure out how to work together as fellow Americans and start creating balanced bi-partisan legislation.

As long as we have co-equal judicial and executive branches, a free press, and independent minded voters, we should have ample transparency and opportunity to critique Congress’s legislation visions.

Providing Congress a little privacy might be one small step toward restoring Congress back to the functional branch of government our Founder’s masterpiece intended.

Just a thought.


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