As Concerned Citizens, We Must Demand Civility From Congress, Now

October 29, 2011
Written by Janice S. Ellis... in
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Former Congressman, House Majority Leader, Majority Whip, and one of the longest– serving Speakers of the House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill. Photo Credit:

As concerned citizens, we must demand civility from Congress, now!

We must start now to reclaim a civil electoral and public policy process. And, it begins with demanding an end to the current charade taking place in Congress. We can not wait until the 2012 elections. If we do not see effective and clear changes prior to those elections, then those we choose to vote for or against should be very clear.

The powerful Congressman, Tip O’Neill, was known for his declaration that “All Politics is Local.” He authored a book with the same title. What is the state of politics and the public policy process — whether at the local, state, or national level? Just look around beginning with your community, your city, and beyond.

For those of you who may not have heard of or remember, Tip O’Neill, Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. was considered an American politician. O’Neill, an outspoken liberal Democrat in common political parlance, was one of the most influential members to have served in the U.S. Congress. Representing two congressional districts in Massachusetts during his 34 years in the House of Representatives, he rose to the positions of Majority Whip, Majority Leader, and was one of the longest-serving Speakers of the House under three presidential administrations (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Regan).

O’Neill had it right. Serving the people who elected him was his first priority. He clearly knew and practiced the art of compromise to have survived that long in a leadership position during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

What did he know that our current members of Congress do not seem to know or understand?

Tip O’Neill did not remain an effective voice and force by playing to the sound and fury of the rancorous and raucous few. Even being from Massachusetts, if the vocal nouveau Tea Partiers were in the minority, they would not have controlled his actions in Congress.

Fast forward to politics and the political environment today, Tip O’Neill must be rolling in his resting place. The rancor is palpable. The blatant acts and bursts of disrespect of the Office of President and the Halls of Congress are there for the world to witness. How did we get to this place in American political history?

Did the election of the first black President bring this unprecedented unguarded behavior to the forefront? It certainly begs the question.

Economic times are tough. They have been tough before — even worse by some standards. While this current administration and Congress have not been able to forge policies that could bring about real relief, the actions of administrations and Congresses past share the blame and responsibility.

So what really spun the contemporaneous Tea Party movement? Greed on Wall Street did not just rear its ugly head. The unfair tax policies and tax codes did not just come into existence. We did not just amass trillions of dollars of debt. Twelve million illegal Mexican immigrants did not just invade our soil in the last two years.

Why has such an unprecedented visceral, cancerous, obstinate posture taken over the current members of Congress? Why are they comfortable ignoring the will of the people?

So what should the people do? Use the greatest power they have: The vote and their power of persuasion to get others to vote.

We are bombarded daily with aspiring candidates who want to become President of the United States. Soon we will be bombarded with candidates at all levels of government asking us to entrust them to make decisions at our behest, in our best interest.

Don’t be fooled. Don’t be gullible. Don’t be taken with the self-serving slants and slogans. We must look carefully at those who currently hold these highly important offices as well as those who seek to replace them.

Much too much is riding on our vote — every one of them. Just as we decide how to invest our money, how we choose in whom to invest our vote is going to make a great difference in the future we can expect.

At a minimum, we should expect a return to civility — a return to putting the interest of the people above all other personal and partisan agendas.

It is not too early to pay very close attention to see who can deliver the greatest return on the people’s business...