Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

What are your hopes for the next Congress, given the outcome of this week's elections?

Carl Zylstra, Michael O'Brien, Brett Swearingen, Melissa Silvers


November 5, 2010

Perhaps the new congress will finally engage in a meaningful discussion about the proper scope and responsibility of government.  During the campaign there was a lot of talk about what government should or should not be undertaking and the role that government should play in social development.  

Over the past three years of economic panic, those questions seem to have been brushed aside in a headlong rush to “at least do something.”  This week’s election sets the stage for a robust debate about the nature of “public justice” during the next two years.  Tough decisions will have to be made about war (Afghanistan and Yemen), taxes (fair tax, estate tax, social security, etc.), governmental regulation of society (definition of marriage), and direct governmental intervention in social relationships (health care).  May the discussion of the nature and role of government that pervaded the campaign also inform the decisions that lie ahead.    

Carl Zylstra is the President of Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa.

"We've got real work to do... This is not a time to celebrate."  John Boehner's sedate comments remind me that the outcomes we desire for our country are not measured in the color of CNN maps.  The vote has determined the set of representatives for our decision making process—now we need decisions to be made.  I hope this Congress will be productive and pragmatic.  I'm not interested in ambiguous "change;" I want improvement.  I hope this Congress will have the wisdom and creativity to be the Ambassadors of Better in these challenging times.

Michael O’Brien is a Principal of Strategy and Customer Value at SAP in Wayne, PA.

Elections, to some extent, are mirror images of ourselves.  Unfortunately, the images are not entirely pleasant: In many places today we see a culture of entitlement rather than responsibility; people too eager to follow the media’s destructive rather than constructive, tendencies; and partisanship triumphing over civility.
But we also see a country convinced that something is deeply wrong, with many therefore driven to deeper civic engagement.  The government is failing, but even more troubling, perhaps we’re failing, too—failing to live by the values, such as self-sacrifice, thrift, and hard work, that have made our country strong.
This is a serious, and I believe accurate, judgment.  In the next Congress, I hope to see leaders who honor this moment by their own seriousness of purpose, and so further inspire our country to rise above its unhealthy (but oh-so-human) habits to soberly and seriously seek the common good.

Brett Swearingen is the VP for Policy at The Renewal Forum in Washington, D.C.

The outcome of Tuesday’s elections demonstrates more than a frustration with Democratic policies; it also reveals a growing dissatisfaction, more and more deeply felt, about our method of government and political discourse.  Whether evaluating the vacillating votes of Independents, the motivation of the Tea Partiers, or the consistently low reviews of both major parties, there is an ever-growing push towards “change”– a word the Obama campaign used to almost magical effect two years ago.

Yet what politician can afford the immediate political repercussions of cutting the deficit? Speaking beyond sound bites? Pursuing justice in immigration reform? The weaknesses of self-interested democracy itself are coming to a head. For there to be real change, Americans must stop punishing anyone brave enough to tackle these difficult issues and become ourselves the serious-minded, long-term thinkers we desire in our representatives.

Melissa Silvers is a graduate student at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., studying Religion and Society in the Late Medieval and Early Modern World.

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”