You, too, can be a Congressperson

Why would you want to become one? Here are four very enticing reasons:

1. You can get federal money and other favors for the people, companies, and interest groups who supported your campaign. Although you can do this with major legislation and backroom deals (otherwise known as negotiation, or “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”), skillful parliamentarians do it by placing a well-timed and little noticed amendment into a bill about something totally different. Keep your eyes open; you’ll get the hang of it. You can even do this to get support or favors for your community back home. (You can also do it to personally benefit yourself, like helping a company whose stock you or a relative own. But this is tricky. There are actually laws against this. So it is usually better to trade favors: You vote for something that benefits a fellow Congressperson and they vote for something that benefits you.)

2. You can get the people for whom you got favors to pay you money to get re-elected — and even get a few perks like parties and foreign tours (and maybe ladies and a little coke on the side, at least if you’re a guy). But the important thing is to keep your campaign funders really happy. Really, the whole point of being a Congressperson is getting re-elected. Once you’re in, you can also participate in rearranging Congressional district boundaries to include more of your supporters and fewer of your opponents. It’s amazing what those computers can do!

3. You can get your name in the media and hang out with other powerful people. (Some Congresspeople do wild things to get more attention and/or reputation with the in-crowd, but it’s risky, so don’t go too far unless you know what you’re doing. Check with your PR people first.)

4. You can create reality, both through PR spin and through legislation. By using your party’s talking points and imagery, you can create a psychological juggernaut together that actually changes how people see the world. Just don’t get too distracted by supposed realities that lie outside your and your party’s reality-picture. It’s best to push whatever view of reality serves the people who support you and package it in language and imagery that most other people will support, too. Don’t go it alone on this one. There’s an art and science to it; that’s why we have PR people — and it makes all the difference if you and your partisan colleagues speak with a unified voice. If a message comes from multiple sources, it BECOMES true. This approach is so effective, you’ll see tens of thousands of people amazingly support candidates and laws that actually harm them, their country, and their community — while in their minds they think they are doing the right thing. This is especially effective if you focus on morality, patriotism and ideology rather than what’s actually going on and the real needs citizens actually have.

Some people think that you can do great things for your country by being a Congressperson. Well, that is possible, and some Congresspeople are able to do that. But you have to really fight against the crowd or be a saint at negotiation (sometimes with brass knuckles) to do it because things aren’t really set up to help you do that. Best to stick with the points above and line up with your party’s program of making sure the other party doesn’t get re-elected.

I mean, just think about that for a moment. Get real! In order to do things that actually benefited the whole country (or even the world or everyone’s grandchildren, for God’s sake):

* You might have to advocate policies that would be hard on yourself, your constituents or your supporters — even temporarily. You might become unpopular. You might get assassinated or your plane might develop unexplained engine trouble and crash. You might even not get re-elected!

* You would actually have to face reality, get the facts, learn about complicated stuff like how complex systems work. (It’s really unfortunate, but most of our thorny problems are all tangled up with complex systems that are tangled up with other problems, too. Yuck!!)

* You would have to listen to and work with people who see things differently from you. After all, they may know something that’s important to take into consideration. That could be really unpleasant and take you far afield from your party line, out in the political boonies where the real danger lies.

* You just wouldn’t get the same adrenaline rush you get when you stick with oversimplifications, grandstanding, being loved by your supporters, and launching juicy attacks on your enemies. There just aren’t as many ego-strokes or perks available for working with others to deeply understand things and come up with what makes sense for the long haul.

Of course — and this is a Big Secret, believe me! — you could get around all this by setting things up so that diverse citizens, themselves, were coming up with the policies that made sense for the whole country. This gets you out of the crazy political rat-race I described above AND gets you off the hot seat of making hard decisions that your constituents don’t like — because your constituents have made those decision and struggled with the complexity and trade-offs themselves, so they know what’s involved. You could give them your input, but mostly you’d do what they came up with — partly to keep it simple and partly because the chances are it is much better than what Congress usually comes up with using the traditional method described above.

Simple in theory, of course. But how would that actually work? Here’s an interesting approach: The Co-Intelligence Institute’s “Politician’s Pledge to Hear the People’s Common Sense” Just remember, if you do this, you are stepping totally out of mainstream politics and who knows what dire fate will befall you for doing that!!

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