Potomac Fever Innoculation

Veritas Libertas by Edward Wimberley

The election of 2010 is over and the people have spoken. In January of 2011 a whole new crop of newbie senators and representative will make their way to Washington D.C. intent upon making some serious changes in our nation’s capital. Unfortunately, little do they realize that their single most important task upon moving to the capital is to resist being seduced into the social, political and financial elitism of the District of Columbia and its environs that locals refer to as “Potomac Fever.”

Potomac Fever’s onset is subtle and not altogether unpleasant. Not only is there no sense of discomfort or ill-ease accompanying the infection, it is in point of fact a heady experience as new legislators find themselves courted, wined-and-dined and catered to as influential celebrities. They are convinced that they are “special,” “gifted,” and uniquely chosen to assume their important leadership roles. They are also reminded that they are not like the “regular” people who make up the constituencies of their districts and states but are an elite corps to whom special privileged dispensation has been granted to govern on behalf of and even despite the uninformed preferences and opinions of their constituents. In this way their gradual seduction into the power-elite begins and without even realizing the subtly of their transformation, these once idealistic and heartfelt patriots find themselves inducted into the cloistered community of the nation’s political elite. Inevitably our elected officials will become disoriented regarding who they serve and what they stand for and perforce will become the latest power-lackeys of the ruling elite in Washington. Their constituents and their home communities will become a distant, distorted memory as they come to consider themselves as being more informed, more knowledgeable, wiser and more important than the regular citizens who elected them.

Given the insidiousness of this condition it is imperative that this new crop of political leaders should embark upon their public service forewarned and prepared to eradicate this infirmity at its root – for there is a ready solution to the problem of Potomac Fever, if only these new politicos have the courage and the determination to do what must be done.

Potomac Fever is produced by the allure and isolation of the nation’s insular capital. As a consequence, immunization for Potomac Fever quite simply necessitates moving the site of legislative deliberation out of Washington and back to every locality and state in the nation. Such a recommendation may strike the reader as foolish, and until recently it would have not only been foolish, it would have been impossible. However, modern developments in computer and communications technology enable businesses to conduct their affairs online and by video hookup over vast geographic distances.

Similarly, accountants manage financial portfolios a continent or more away, attorneys conduct legal affairs and hearings without ever leaving their offices and students around the world take classes and interact with their professors via the magic of the internet and the latest computer technology. So if business can be transacted without benefit of immediate face-to-face contact and attorneys, accountants and professors can perform their duties online and digitally, then there is no reason in the world that our new senators and congressional representatives can’t change the rules of the House and Senate and come home to author, read, review and vote on major legislation within their states and districts.

This is not a vision of some distant future. Conducting the people’s business can be conducted locally now with the sure knowledge that when our elected representatives take leave from their offices at the end of each work day and proceed back to their domiciles that they must be prepared to justify their actions, words and decisions to a local constituency who know them intimately and who will not be disposed to treat them in terms of what they are not (i.e. a ruling-elite celebrity class) but rather to relate to them as the hired help they are and to relieve them of their public roles the moment they fail to deliver upon their commitment to serve the people of this nation and to honor and obey its Constitution. If they demonstrate their worth then they may be allowed to continue serving their districts, states and nation, but in the world to come – and hopefully come very, very soon – they will not be Congressional representatives ensconced amid the power elite of Washington, D.C.

To the contrary, these servants of the people will serve locally and must be prepared to explain themselves to their constituents every time they emerge from their offices and venture among the public. This I believe is what absolutely must be done to insure that democracy works again in America, and in fact, we would probably be well advised to first apply this approach to our representatives in Tallahassee and allow our state government to serve as a laboratory for liberty that can be replicated in other states and ultimately in the capital.

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