Democracy is a huge catch-word in the United States. We are willing to enter foreign wars to ensure it for other countries, and it is one of the major ideals America was founded on. Yet over 200 years later how many people actually take advantage of this concept that our founding fathers fought to ensure? Barely half of eligible voters turn out for presidential elections, the number is lower for others. Most of my friends probably don't know their local representative- and I'm sure a portion don't even know their senators. And for a lot of people their idea of being informed of Congress is knowledge about the Anthony Weiner scandal.
Before this internship I can't say that I was much better. I knew my local representatives and a few of the "big names" but that was it. I glanced at the headlines each day as I checked my email but for the most part that was it.
This summer is a different story. One of my jobs at work is to give a week report on Congress. My daily routine involves reading the National Journal Daily, the Washington Post and thumbing through Politico. It feels good to know what's going on in the world- especially while living in DC.
Also as I attend meetings with various congressional aides I am filling in some of the blanks. There are 535 representatives so there is still a lot to learn, but as I walk the halls at Rayburn, Canon, and Longworth(The 3 house buildings) I have begun to recognize more and more names. One thing I enjoy about these meetings is you really get to experience a taste of the district. All of the Georgia offices have peanuts and coke products for free. A meeting last week in a North Carolina office touted themselves as the hometown of American Idol winner Scotty Mcreery, and was adorned with several posters of the teenage crooner. It really is like experiencing a slice of Americana.
One of the other things I enjoy about walking through the halls of Congress is observing the families who have come for a tour, often with kids in tow. I think it's great that these parents are encouraging an interest in government at such a young age. I also love that anyone off the street can walk right into the Congressional buildings; into their representative's office or attend a hearing or even a vote. That transparency and ability to participate in government is really is what democracy is all about.