People talk a lot about customer service or the lack thereof. Customer service can make or break a business — all other things being equal, customers will gravitate to the businesses that give them the best service, service that is prompt, courteous, friendly and thorough.
The same idea should also apply to elected officials. In a representative government, such as the one we supposedly live in, we should be able to exchange the word “constituent” for “customer.”
First, let’s define our terms. According to Dictionary.com, a representative is “a person who represents a constituency or community in a legislative body, especially a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or a lower house in certain state legislatures.” Fair warning: I’m including senators.
A constituent is “a resident of a constituency,” which is itself defined as “the voters or residents in a district represented by an elective officer.”
Notice these definitions says “constituency or community” and “voters or residents.” That’s you and me, folks — we’re constituents. These are definitions that our representatives (I use this term loosely) seem to forget, especially when they’re running for re-election, which is pretty much all the time.
I haven’t included local representatives because they still live close enough to their communities that most of them haven’t forgotten who they work for.
A lot of our representatives act as if they represent only themselves or maybe the people who voted for them, when in fact, their job is to represent everyone who lives in their constituency, even the people who (gasp!) voted for the other party or didn’t or couldn’t vote at all.
These non-voters might include babies and children who are too young to vote, Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes, the mentally disabled and even the people in our prisons and jails. That’s what representation is all about — “standing or acting for another or others.”
If I were a business owner, how long would I be able to keep my doors open if only 10 percent of my customers think I’m doing a decent job? Can you hear the hollow sound of my doors banging shut?
Well, according to an early February Gallup Poll, Congress’s approval rating hit a new low of 10 percent. Sounds like constituents of all parties — Democrats, Republicans and independents — think Congress (and the Senate) should be under new management.
Representatives in both houses are spending so much time and effort on keeping their counterparts in the other party from getting what they want that “we the people” are getting nothing. They’re forgetting that their job is to work together for the benefit of all Americans, for all their constituents. Since when is “bipartisan” a four-letter word?
As one woman wrote to the Dallas Morning News in November: “How is it serving us when our elected officials only serve themselves?”
I like to think of our representatives as our proxies in government. We won’t all fit in the capitol buildings so we designate them to stand in for us. One definition of a proxy is: “an ally or confederate who can be relied upon to speak or act in one’s behalf.”
When I think of a proxy, I think of the person I’ve listed on my medical durable power of attorney. This is the person I’ve chosen to speak for me in medical situations if I become incapacitated. To speak for me, my proxy must understand my wishes. That takes communications.
Do you think your representatives in Congress understand your wishes? Have you told them what you think or what your wishes are? Did they listen?
If their words tell you they’re listening but their actions are telling you otherwise, maybe it’s time to use that famous baseball phrase and “throw da bums out.”
Just a thought.