In the early days of America, the White House was meant to be a place of accessibility. Fresh off British rule, our founding fathers wanted the people of our nation to be involved in government to the highest degree – a right they were not afforded under the reign of a monarch.
Indeed, during the days of Washington, Adams and Jefferson, people were literally allowed to stroll up to the White House and walk in. The president would even come and greet them.
What greater way is to participate in government than that?
After all, the entire premise of a republic relies on the participation of its electorate. We are expected to vote, to be vocal, and to immerse ourselves in the democratic process as much as possible. Our government, remember, is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” and our elected leaders are supposed to answer to us and nobody else.
Flash forward 200 years later. Nobody cares about government. No one writes to their congressional representatives. More than half of the country doesn’t vote. And because of it, our representatives don’t give a shit what we have to say.
Essentially, our own inertia weakens our influence.
Years of relative peace and the ubiquity of the Internet has resulted in a greater disengagement than ever in this country between the government and its people.
The mere idea of sitting down and penning a note for your U.S. Senator is archaic.
Attending a Town Hall meeting to discuss important issues? Lol-worthy.
Turning on CSPAN to watch a Senate hearing? Ludicrous.
If there is one unquestionable truth we can all agree on with the Trump administration, it’s that this contemporary conventional wisdom of government participation has been turned on its head.
People are absolutely flooding their congressional representatives with calls, letters and emails. People are donating to charitable causes that will fight on their behalf. People are taking to the streets to protest actions and policies they believe to be antithetical to American values.
Still not convinced?
The audio for Tuesday’s federal appeals court hearing for Trump’s proposed travel ban was streamed on the Internet, and more than 136,000 people tuned in. Tens of thousands more listened on TV.
Sure, 135,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the 324 million people living in this country, but, it’s still an interest level in government that would have been unheard of even a year ago.
And that is a very good thing. It’s sad that it took an event of this magnitude to get us there, but, the fact that people are vigilant and paying attention, while actively participating in day-to-day governmental affairs is extremely important, and fulfills the fundamental basis of our democratic process.
The hearing, meanwhile, continues, with early indications that the three-panel appeals court won’t overturn the initial ruling by a Seattle judge against the travel ban. Either way, it’s expected to wind up in Supreme Court, so we will not know the end result for quite some time.
And throughout the process, Trump continues to disparage our independent judiciary.
People keep worrying if there will be a sense of fatigue from those who are critical of this current administration.
But when 135,000 people listen to an audio stream of a court hearing in the middle of a Wednesday … I think we’re OK.
On that note, I’m walking up to the White House front doors right now.
We’ll see how this goes.