“Where is Congress?”
That is the $4.4 trillion question everyone on all sides of the political spectrum is asking as the unelected bureaucracies and courts seem to run our country and the people’s representatives do nothing to effect change.
The reality is that Congress, which was to be the “predominate” branch of government, according to Madison, is on a long-term sabbatical as the executive agencies continue to promulgate harmful and often unconstitutional interventions in our economy and the courts control every political and social issue of consequence. In one giant case of adverse possession and squatter’s rights, the unelected branches have gladly acquired what the people’s representatives have abandoned. It serves nobody well.
Even the few members of Congress who are looking to challenge the prevailing system feel overwhelmed and are understaffed in their effort to combat the leviathan. At best, conservatives can mount a fight on one or two of the hundreds of harmful government policies in a given few months. Take a look at the size of the legislative branch of government as compared to the executive branch, and you will see the problem:
The size of Congress is .001 percent of the executive branch and is dwarfed even by the size of individual executive departments. Even if we don’t include the cost of the federal programs and just factor in the discretionary spending to fuel the executive bureaucracy, it is still over 300 times larger than Congress. The budget of the Department of Education alone is 15 times larger than that of the entire legislative branch. Whenever you wonder why there is no voice for the forgotten American amidst the special interests fueling harmful government policies, just remember that even the few members of Congress who intuitively sympathize with us feel they lack the time, resources, knowledge, and energy to deal with it. Often, they even lack an awareness of what is going on with a specific policy, and those affected by it can’t find anyone to give voice to their concerns.
Liberal members of Congress have the same problem from their perspective, but they don’t need to fight the system. The system takes care of them. They have endless think tanks and NGOs to promote their issues and supply them with information, along with incessant media coverage to raise awareness of their priorities. Conservative rank-and-file members, on the other hand, are left out in the cold, as they have to fight their own party along with the cultural institutions to raise awareness of their priorities.
Members simply don’t feel they have the resources and knowledge to hold hearings, write reports, and pursue an aggressive media strategy on our side of health care, immigration, the drug crisis, education, regulations, etc.
This is why I’m firmly convinced that we will never change Washington from within. Change and fighting back against the agency encroachments on our liberty must come from outside Washington. However, those few brave souls in Washington who want to change the way things work can harness that outside energy and help lead this new movement.
Last night, I had the privilege of being on Mark Levin’s new Fox News show for a full hour together with campus activist Charlie Kirk. I mentioned the idea of creating citizens’ task forces to promote grassroots policy-making and a shadow government to challenge the system. I’d like to present a more detailed sketch of that blueprint I put out several weeks ago.
A few dozen conservative members focused on their districts, raising money, and treading water in Washington can barely scrape the surface of one percent of our policy concerns. But what if we had thousands of ordinary Americans with experience and personal stories in health care, education, job creation, law enforcement, military matters, etc. who shadow-boxed the government with ad hoc committees to do the oversight that Congress won’t do? What if a group of Freedom Caucus members spearheaded “committee assignments” to grassroots citizens to expose how government programs and interventions are hurting doctors, patients, students, small business owners, taxpayers, and consumers on any number of issues?
As I work on as many policy issues with my limited resources, I come across so many ordinary Americans who never worked in government or politics who have so many important insights on what is really happening in the real world and how government is hurting their line of work. These voices need to be heard. Members of Congress who want to do the right thing but feel neutered by the existing structure and party system can spearhead this movement, empower these citizen task forces to write reports, give testimony of personal experiences, draft solutions, and hold high-profile hearings inside or outside D.C. – all without the authorization of their party leadership.
Why wait for some inspector general or the Government Accountability Office to audit government programs, subsidies, regulations, standards, and interventions? Let we the people engage in self-governing oversight. It’s time for Americans to do the jobs Congress won’t do (even though they were elected to do them). The committees can be divided by the traditional jurisdictions such as “energy and commerce,” “judiciary,” and “finance,” or they could be of a completely different structure. They would each engage in oversight of the agencies, programs and administrative offices in all branches of government responsible for that area of policy. After producing reports and holding field hearings with conservative members of Congress, they can launch an aggressive media campaign to raise awareness and pressure the politicians from the outside to act on a specific issue or cease and desist from acting, depending on the issue.
This could work in tandem with a potential run for speaker by former Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. As I noted last week, conservatives lack the votes to win and change the party from within, but some like Jordan can use this as a platform for a new Contract with America, a new vision, and a new strategy to empower grassroots policy-making to raise the prominence of that new agenda. He can also hold a signing ceremony for this new platform on the steps of the Capitol and get primary candidates to join the effort and commit to working with the outside to flush out the swamp rather than futilely trying to clean up the muck from within. The Freedom Caucus, Liberty Caucus, and Sens. Cruz, Paul, and Lee can help the movement as well.
Look at what the high school kids promoting gun control have accomplished without any facts or detailed policy work. Granted they have the incumbent media on their side, but it still demonstrates the power of an outside game in this era of ubiquitous communications. In the past, conservative organizations have tried to encourage political activity from the grassroots as a means of fueling their policy positions. But the professional D.C. movement is so broken that there are few initiatives on policy to even promote. It’s time to turn the tables and empower the grassroots to do the policy work and have the semi-decent politicians help with the political work.
We always tell each other the solutions are not in D.C. Well, it’s time to go outside and find them, harness them, and make D.C. finally listen to reason, facts, and common sense.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.