From the Editors: May/June 2011
May 1, 2011
1 Min read time
Most Americans are pretty unhappy with Congress: disapproval ratings are consistently running at about 80 percent. And while Republicans and Democrats do not agree on much, they take the same very dim view about congressional performance.
With so many people so deeply dissatisfied with such an important democratic institution, we think it is time to take a close look at what has gone wrong and at the prospects for repair. What might get Congress back to its real work—serving constituents and crafting desperately needed policies that address serious national problems (jobs, education, health, energy, infrastructure, security)? How can Congress help renew our confidence in the proposition that democracy is indeed government for the people?
Tennessee Democrat Jim Cooper leads this effort with his essay “Fixing Congress.” In a spirit of constructive engagement, Representative Cooper offers a crisply argued and deeply informed analysis of the roots of congressional dysfunction, invites colleagues and congressional observers to debate that analysis, and encourages us all to join a common search for solutions. In a series of wide-ranging responses, commentators offer alternative explanations of the problems—deep ideological differences, fundraising pressures, partisan divisions, and the shift in congressional power away from committees—and propose competing solutions.
Representative Cooper has arranged to get this issue into all his colleagues’ hands, so the debate that begins here promises to grow into a wider public discussion. BR is in the business of encouraging reasoned debate—factually informed, closely argued—on fundamental issues of public concern. The exchange between Cooper and the commentators exemplifies these qualities.
Congress is not unique in being badly broken. Also in this issue, Junot Díaz, BR’s fiction editor and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, revisits the Haitian earthquake and urges us to look into the ruins and see what is revealed: a social calculus extended over generations that permitted the vast devastation. The disastrous results of the earthquake—like other apocalyptic catastrophes, on Díaz’s telling—were largely a product of human choices. The message is grim, but Díaz delivers this painful truth as an act of hope: the hope that the wakeful action of decent people will forestall future calamities.
May 01, 2011
1 Min read time