Gongol.com Archives: September 2023

Brian Gongol

September 19, 2023

News Known for all the wrong reasons

Plenty of United States Senators are famous: Lots of people know which one has been in physical fights with his neighbors, which one routinely dresses like he's taking out the garbage, and which one is obsessed with podcast popularity. Ask ordinary voters to name three who are long overdue to retire or three more who will say anything to get a TV hit, and you probably won't have trouble collecting names. ■ But in Federalist Paper No. 62, James Madison made a case for the Senate that had nothing to do with popularity or notoriety. In fact, quite the opposite: He envisioned the Senate as a center of knowledge. ■ "A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained", wrote Madison. "Some governments are deficient in both these qualities; most governments are deficient in the first. I scruple not to assert, that in American governments too little attention has been paid to the last." ■ Who is the Senate's expert on education reform? Or cybersecurity? Or blue-water naval strategy? Or renewable energy? Who is there to do the work to apply real knowledge to the big, long-term, national-scale issues that will trouble us 6 or 9 months from now, not to mention 15 or 20 years from today? ■ That it's much easier to name Senators for all the wrong reasons than to identify which ones are really beacons of wisdom ought to be a shame on American voters. We're the ones who choose them, after all. ■ And it's a further shame that we gobble up so much horse-race coverage about elections to the Senate without demanding more journalism that highlights independent judgment and creativity of thought among those actually in office. The good news, of course, is that voters have the option to completely clean house every six years, should we so choose. But it requires initiative to do so.

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