As we watch and listen and read about the avoidance of the fiscal cliff followed almost immediately by the impending debt ceiling crisis, I’m reminded of Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. We’ve seen all this before.
You remember the premise: A reporter goes to Pennsylvania to cover the annual emergence of groundhog Punxsutawney Phil from his winter hibernation and gets trapped in a time warp. He experiences the same day over and over.
Likewise, our esteemed representatives seem to be trapped in a similar time warp that seems to be centered within the boundaries of the nation’s capital. Outside those boundaries, life and time move along at regular clip.
Inside the warp, there is little or no comprehension that anything is amiss. Congress goes about its business putting in its 3-day work week and postponing virtually anything that might resemble the people’s business.
For those representatives in the warp this all appears normal and proper because for a long time now it has been normal and proper. The time warp has been in place so long, many of our representatives can’t remember it any other way.
During the election, when some of the candidates actually came out from the warp to follow the periodic nuisance required to ensure their return to it, they all voiced outrage at the warp and promised that when they return, things will be different. And, as we appear to also be in a sort of time warp ourselves when it comes to candidates, we believed them. Outside the warp they seem so rational and earnest about changing the way nothing gets done.
However, once back, it seems to me and many of my fellow citizens that the warp has won once again. The folks returning and those who are first timers simply glaze over and march lock-step to the rhythm of the time warp, totally unaware they are so out of step with the rest of us.
In the movie, after several days of experiencing the same day over and over, Bill Murray’s character begins slowly to realize what is happening. He starts to use his predicament to his own advantage, specifically to win over Andie MacDowell (can’t disagree with that). To win her over, the character begins doing dangerous things with the full realization that inside his time warp, nothing can happen to him.
Well, inside our Congress’ time warp, a similar realization is occurring. Ladies and gentlemen charged with conducting the people’s business and acting in the best interest of the country are instead willing to risk both in a perceived warp-protected bubble existing inside the D.C. beltway.
At the end of Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character is able to break out of his time warp and “get the girl.” I’m increasingly less confident our Congress will be able to deliver us such a happy ending, and it concerns me.
Those of us who live outside the warp have a right to expect the people we elect to do the job they promised to get our votes and as a result, the job we elected them to do. I think the only way we are going to be able to break the time warp is to return to a time when the people’s voice made a difference.
Many of you are active in local chapters of national associations, such as the PMPA, which collectively lend more volume to your voice, but more of us need to become involved. Our best tool to break the D.C. time warp is to make sure, when election time rolls around again, that we don’t retreat back into our own voter’s time warp and do the same thing over and over.
Along the theme of Groundhog Day, I’m reminded of a popular definition of insanity, unfortunately, one we see all too often within the halls of Congress. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. I’m not saying our Congress is insane, but it seems to me way too often they do fit the definition.