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COLUMN: It's time for serious congressional reform



Public trust in the government remains at or near an all-time low — especially among millennials, according to a Pew Research study

Not only do young people distrust the government, but they’re also unenthused by it. In fact, only 26 percent of millennials list the government and politics as topics they are most interested in. 

This is no recent effect of the Trump administration. There has been a steady decline in trust for decades. There is a general distaste for D.C.'s actions because Congress is too divided and stagnant to commit to any progress.

Our goal should be to reform Congress to give the American people hope and a reason to trust our government again. 

The first step is bipartisan redistricting. We need to rid the system of gerrymandering and end the trend of political parties and lobbyists choosing their voters. We are already starting to see cooperation from both sides on this front between Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin. 

Additionally, the formation of the new, bipartisan Congressional Future Caucus is promising. The CFC was created to appeal to the interests of millennials by forging nonpartisan common ground on issues facing our generation. 

However, we as the constituents — and, more specifically, the young voters at IU — need to make it clear that cooperation across the board in Congress is completely necessary to put to rout these years of gridlock and allow the next generation to start trusting its government again.

A second critical step in congressional reform is to put an end to the lucrative “revolving door” practice by implementing a lifetime ban on all congressmen from ever working as lobbyists after leaving the Senate or House of Representatives. 

There are currently shorter, more lenient laws regarding former members of Congress becoming lobbyists. 

Allowing former congressmen to become lobbyists only creates a class of professional influencers that work unaccountably in the shadows, which could essentially allow unelected bodies to write legislation and ultimately lead to more scandals like that of Jack Abramoff in 2005. 

Complete and utter transparency from our representatives should be absolutely compulsory. 

Finally, complementing both gerrymandering and lobbying restrictions is the dire need for term limits in Congress. 

This has been brought up on the floor of both the House and Senate every couple of years, but this is the time. Term limits would not only force senators and representatives to work on passing quality legislation, but it would prevent them from spending their time in office working on their next campaign for reelection — if only for one term. 

We need to stop reelecting the same lethargic aristocracy into Capitol Hill and start giving lawmakers a purpose for being in office that is different from making money. Representation is not a career. It is a necessary deployment into a field of trust and respect. 

This is why congressional reform is more important than ever. We need to raise the public’s all-time low trust in our government. If we do not act now, millennials and subsequent generations will continue to lose interest and trust in the works of Congress, only burrowing deeper into more prevalent, unsolvable dilemmas.

With little to lose and much to gain, it is crucial that we “drain the swamp” and show the importance of congressional reform, especially for the next generation.

smitheta@indiana.edu

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