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Another Way to Take on Washington

Yesterday, I listed seven ways President Obama could pressure the Washington establishment to support the course change he is calling for. Several readers posted their own ideas in comments, and I'd like to call attention to one suggestion I found particularly original and intriguing.

Reader scottm2 wrote: "The entrenched two-party dynamic in Congress is the biggest obstacle to change, so go around it. Instead of meeting with the House and Senate party leadership, meet with entire state delegations. Include governors if possible. Congressmen and Senators are more likely to get down to the actual needs of their states -- and less likely to wage culture wars or otherwise pursue a useless national party agenda -- if they are in mixed company and must focus on practical considerations.

"Follow-up on these meetings in DC with speeches at statehouses around the country. Tell state legislatures what the stimulus package and other new policies will mean for them. Show state residents that you have listened to and are working with their elected representatives. Demonstrate that you're on the job for their state whether it voted for you or not. Show the reddest states in America that you are not a bogeyman, and that your policies are rational and will help them.

"Start using the language of states rather than parties. 'The Oklahoma delegation had some good ideas about agriculture subsidies' ... 'The California delegation has issues on environmental policy that we should consider' ... 'The Utah delegation's suggestion may not work nationally, but could be great at the state level -- let's try it.'

"So yes, get out there and sell your policies. But by taking Congress out of its usual way of doing business, you can get these people actually doing their jobs -- representing their constituents -- rather than spending all of their time raising money and being party hacks. There are actually some very talented and experienced people in Congress; leveraging that talent to improve the country has rarely been as necessary as it is now."

By Dan Froomkin  |  March 4, 2009; 11:59 AM ET
Categories:  Obama v. D.C.  
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I LOVE this suggestion. Read it last night and thought, "Aha, Dan's going to feature that one tomorrow morning!" What a refreshingly sensible way to think and act. I hope Obama's people pick up on it. I'm guessing they will; wouldn't be surprised if we hear some plans along those lines in a week or two!

Posted by: herzliebster | March 4, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, good idea. Recombine the participants in a way that de-emphasizes party affiliation. I wonder how often state delegations with deeply divided affiliations ever meet. Presumably they would have some important issues in common.

Posted by: ath28 | March 4, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Great idea. But don't just include governors. Include mayors too. Get all these competing interests in one room and they can't wage this partisan crapola.

Look at what's happening with the mortgage/bankruptcy change legislation. Tauscher is trying to sell out struggling homeowners as a likely favor to the big banks who don't want to write down any mortgages cuz it would reveal that the whole industry is basically insolvent.

This change is bad for everyone BUT the banks and they have all this fresh, new TAXPAYER money to lobby Congress with.

Posted by: you-dont | March 4, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Great idea. In fact, I think scott has outlined exactly the direction in which Obama is already going. Including as many people in the process as possible with disregard for party lines. Only the Republicans are still carrying the old energy of rule-by-force and take-what-you-can-from-the-common-pot, but as Obama put it, they are on the wrong side of history. They will be phased out as the nation's pendulum swings farther and farther to the left.

Posted by: shaman7214 | March 4, 2009 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Yes, good idea — but, good luck.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine had the practice of meeting with Virginia's Senators and Congressmen at the beginning of each session. But this year, he was snubbed by all Republican members. Not one attended the meeting. I guess they were practicing before saying "No" to Obama's stimulus bill.

Posted by: tperry1 | March 4, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

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