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Diagnosing “Washington-Entitlement Syndrome”

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein went viral on Twitter on Friday Feb. 22 because she was visited by a group of teenage and preteen students who had concerns about climate change and asked the senator to support the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal is a bill championed by Congressional freshman and democratic-socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who represents the 14th congressional district of New York. The bill pushes polarizing progressive policies including 100 percent clean and renewable energy nationwide within the next 10 years.

The Democratic party has had mixed reactions, as some are wary of siding with such a progressive bill. Even the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has not completely endorsed this bill. However, when approached, Feinstein had a rather dismissive and condescending tone when addressing the students. When the students practically begged her to support the initiative she boasted that she had been a Senator for over a quarter of a century. She said, “I’ve been doing this for thirty years. I know what I’m doing.”

Now, this is one of the bigger underlying issues within politics today. It is an attitude of complacency, entitlement and stubbornness. It is an old style of politics where seniority and status quo overrule the will and safety of the constituency. It is the attitude of “I deserve my spot here.” Politics should have no place for that. However, over the past eight months, I have noticed two more instances of political entitlement.

Starting off with a fairly popular example, in October of 2018, the Senate voted in the Supreme Court Justice Judge Brett Kavanaugh to take over for Former Justice Anthony Kennedy. However, Judge Kavanaugh was surrounded by three different cases of sexual assault, going down as the most disliked Supreme court nominee in nearly 30 years.

Now, whether you think the hearings were politically motivated or a genuine attempt to believe survivors is up to you. However, one theme I saw coming up in his defense is his time at Yale. He consistently addressed the facts that he “worked his butt off” in Yale, got into law school and became a circuit court judge. He inferred that he had earned his position on the Supreme Court, by working hard.

Another example happened last month. Scott Wong, a reporter from the Hill, wrote an article about some Democratic lawmakers who were upset that Ocasio-Cortez won her seat over the incumbent Joe Crowley. There has been murmurs of making her a one-term congresswoman by backing a different opponent in the 2020 Primary. An anonymous Democratic lawmaker even stated that “You’ve got numerous council people and state legislators who’ve been waiting 20 years for that seat.” This is another inference of political entitlement, where legislators believe that they’re waiting their turn to get that seat.

This is something I need to make sure that Kavanaugh, Feinstein and all the legacy members of Congress understand. We live in a democracy, a system where the people for their representation and in turn, the legislative create and negotiate policies that align with what their constituency may want, even if they personally disagree. You work for the people, and when your constituents say that they are worried about an issue, your job is not to condescend them or flex that you were “elected by almost a million-vote plurality.” Your job is to support the bills your constituents align with.

Now, I am not discounting the merit of hard work. But, in politics, longevity and experience is not the whole battle. You’re chosen by the citizens of your district, state, city or even country.  This is not a deli, where you take a number or wait in line for your turn at representing your base. This midterm election is a great instance. The 104 legislators that left Congress can testify that if you don’t appropriately represent your base, they will replace you.  

These aren’t common jobs. As senators, congresspeople or even Supreme Court justices, you will represent districts, states or even your entire nation. This is no place for bullheadedness or complacency. Your position is not given to you, it is an earned privilege to take the title and it is your responsibility to listen to the concerns of your constituents, to create policies that align to those concerns and to continue to pursue a career of integrity, honesty and justice.