Let There Be Light

Happy Thanksgiving.

I’m cooking for 16 people tomorrow, so I’m setting up my blog with plenty of posts and taking a blog break.

My interlibrary loan for Woodrow Wilson’s book The New Freedom is due on December 1st. I’m highlighting the essential parts in this blog because I want to show how little politics has changed since 100 years ago, and how we need to make large structural changes if we want Washington to be responsive to the people. We need changes that Woodrow Wilson could never have predicted because there was no Internet in his day.

As we join our loved ones over all the blessings we can muster, let us vow to help one another in the coming year and to fix our sights on a cooperative effort to scour the halls of our once hallowed Capitol. We have to fight the good fight, to reclaim our freedom and to become true citizens of our country. Engaged. Political. Strong.

“This discovery on their part of what ought to have been obvious all along points out the way of reform; for undoubtedly publicity comes very near being the cure-all for political and economic maladies of this sort. But publicity will continue to be very difficult so long as our methods of legislation are so obscure and devious and private. I think it will become more and more obvious that the way to purify our politics is to simplify them, and that the way to simplify them is to establish responsible leadership. We now have no leadership at all inside our legislative bodies,—at any rate, no leadership which is definite enough to attract the attention and watchfulness of the country. Our only leadership being that of irresponsible persons outside the legislatures who constitute the political machines, it is extremely difficult for even the most watchful public opinion to keep track of the circuitous methods pursued. This undoubtedly lies at the root of the growing demand on the part of American communities everywhere for responsible leadership, for putting in authority and keeping in authority those whom they know and whom they can watch and whom they can constantly hold to account. The business of the country ought to be served by thoughtful and progressive legislation, but it ought to be served openly, candidly, advantageously, with a careful regard to letting everybody be heard and every interest be considered, the interest which is not backed by money as well as the interest which is; and this can be accomplished only by some simplification of our methods which will centre the public trust in small groups of men who will lead, not by reason of legal authority, but by reason of their contact with and amenability to public opinion.

“I am striving to indicate my belief that our legislative methods may well be reformed in the direction of giving more open publicity to every act, in the direction of setting up some form of responsible leadership on the floor of our legislative halls so that the people may know who is back of every bill and back of the opposition to it, and so that it may be dealt with in the open chamber rather than in the committee room. The light must be let in on all processes of law-making.”

Wilson, Woodrow. “Chapter 6/Let There Be Light.” The New Freedom; a Call for the Emancipation of the Generous Energies of a People. New York and Garden City: Doubleday, Page, 1913. 123-125. Print.

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