Over the past two weeks, people across the country have been working online and learning to deal with social distancing and living in this COVID-19 pandemic.
Still Congress continues working in such a way that several representatives have been at the capitol and tested positive. In a time of crisis the highest levels of government need to practice what they preach.
Some are attending digital town halls, and now doctors are doing “telemedicine” video conferences while our kids are attending school online.
Democracy dies in isolation. The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging many aspects of our society as well as our government. The work of the republic as well as any state government must not be quarantined into oblivion.
There is no excuse for our representatives to not be at work, since they are essential employees. If grocery store workers, pharmacists, amazon workers, doctors, and nurses need to be at their post, so must our representatives.
In New York, there are still two months of legislative session. While our representatives can be self-quarantined like many of their constituents, they can work from home too. They only need to pass a the law to do this.
Technology that even a 5-year-old can use is available to anyone with access to a smart phone, laptop, or tablet with an internet connection.
Teleconferencing isn’t as novel as COVID-19, with many people using services like FreeConferenceCall or Zoom for years now. Activists and businesses have been using teleconferencing to facilitate state, national and international meetings so individuals don’t have to travel and waste time, gas, or money to participate. The number of users on a platform like Zoom has been increasing recently, even though there have been concerns about security.
The American people have embraced this technology, so why is our Congress so full of luddites?
Pandemics require leadership not dictators.
U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) don’t need to leave their homes to do the people’s work. Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Queens) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can stay home and not have to travel to Washington to do what needs to be done. If Congress passes the MOBILE Resolution this will be the new norm during this crisis and perhaps beyond.
MOBILE (HR287) or “Members Operating to Be Innovative and Link Everyone Resolution” would bring Congress into the 21st Century.
The Founders wanted elected officials to live among the people they represent. In the year 2020, we now have the technology to enable that to happen.
This bi-partisan resolution has many more benefits besides just keeping our Representatives and their staff safe during the pandemic. After this crisis, it would allow Representatives to govern from within the district with greater ease.
The most obvious benefit is cutting down on traveling. Which in turn is a savings in time, money, and lowering the carbon footprint of Representatives and their staff.
More time gives our Representatives more opportunity to address the needs of their constituents directly, staying connected to the people. This would hopefully have the added effect of them becoming less infected by the corporatist K Street culture of Washington D.C. and more apt to do the people’s work.
So, when the next pandemic arises, we can be more prepared.
Joe Sackman is a Candidate for New York State Assembly and advisor to Takeback.org