Why a lot of pundits do not understand our government

And why we do better at this than they do.

Because we’re not pundits. We are voters. As one of us, I vote for a representative in the House and for two senators.

Pundits who live and work in Washington, DC do not know as much about elective federal government as we do. Because DC does not have a voting representative or senators.

DC doesn’t have representation in our federal government. They vote only for the presidency.

I have very smart friends and family who live in DC, whose values and political views are similar to mine. But the way they regard Congress is subtly but genuinely different from my view of Congress.

As a voter, I participate fully in Congressional affairs. They don’t; they can’t.

People who can’t vote for representatives see national politics differently, with a soup├žon of cynicism, a dash of bitters, a couple of ounces of deprivation. They’re shut out of the process, forced into disinterest, without the power I feel as a voter. They don’t share the sense of membership I have in government, the alliance I’ve made with three people, and a sense of pride when those people take actions that reflect my ideals about democracy.

Pundits are professionally mandated to deliver wisdom about government but they don’t have a necessary ingredient for such political wisdom: the experience of electing representatives, of spending time considering the candidates, of thinking through their policy presentations without devaluing them as “performance,” as part of a TV game show.

They don’t have our experience of going to the polls, of signing our names in a big log, getting that ballot, of blacking out boxes with the pens we’ve been loaned. Of taking that ballot to the scanner, of putting the ballot into the scanner and watching it whoosh through, knowing it’s landing intact in a sealed area for a future which may include a methodical hand-count.

Voting is a deep thrill, an act of profound meaning and history.

Pundits are ignorant of that.

I’ll bet that when DC gets full representation — at least one voting Congressperson and two Senators — it will produce a sea change in our Congress, and will also elevate professional commentators into genuine pundits.

 

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