Democracy is not Pay-Per-View

Joel Payne, Communications Director

I’m a fan of pro-wrestling, and sometimes I pay a little extra to see the matches on Pay Per View. But that’s not how democracy should work.

During the August recess, at least four members of Congress are refusing to hold town halls to meet with constituents that are free and open to the public. Instead, they have chosen to appear only at events where attendees must pay admission.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) didn’t take questions from the people who elected him this August, but he did show up at a $30 per-plate “CEO to CEO” forum. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) isn’t concerned about her constituents who can’t pay the entrance fee at a federal employee gathering.

Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Ben Quayle (R-AZ), who both supported a budget that would end Medicare, sought to avoid angry, betrayed voters by only appearing at paid events.

American democracy is so powerful and so sacred because anyone, regardless of wealth or stature, can participate – and that includes engaging their representatives about the issues that affect their lives. Have these politicians forgotten the values that they were sent to Washington to uphold?

Unfortunately, the core tenets of democracy aren’t the only thing these representatives have forgotten. Working America talks to 20,000 people across the country every week, and let me tell you, the politicians and the pundits are living in a different world from the rest of us. While many in Washington are focused on ideological agendas and political games, the overwhelming message from folks on the ground is that we need jobs; we need to put Americans back to work and get the economy moving again. No wonder voters are feeling buyer’s remorse for who they elected in 2010.

Look, I know this last manufactured, immature debt ceiling debate in Congress felt more like pro-wrestling than civil debate. But the comparisons end there. Reps. Barletta, Ellmers, Ryan, and Quayle should stop running from the people – their bosses – and hold events that are free and open to the public.

If they don’t, the folks that pay their salaries – you and I – certainly won’t forget.