The Unintended Consequences of the Loughner Rampage

tucson shootingVery few will argue that the Arizona shooting rampage that left six dead and 14 injured, including the critically wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was indeed a tragedy of epic proportions.  However tragic the shooting was, this is America and so let the Monday morning quarterbacking commence.

“Crazy” and “unstable” are just a few of the adjectives being used to describe 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner who has been formally accused of murder and attempted murder.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have already started pointing the finger of disapproval at Republicans claiming that it’s their vitriol that sets the stage for the Loughner’s of the world.

Okay, that may very well be true, but like with 9/11, which paved the way for airport body scanners and those uncomfortable pat downs, the unintended of consequence of Loughner’s rampage on the taxpayer is going to be the justification and legitimization of Members of Congress avoiding voters.

As a former Congressional staffer, I can tell you that prior to Loughner, it was no easy feat getting a face-to-face meeting with your Representative of Congress.  I barely saw my own boss—and I was the Press Secretary!

So after an attempted assassination of a member of Congress, I can almost guarantee you that it’s going to be next to impossible for the average citizen to meet with their representative. Because if they didn’t have good cause for blatantly avoiding you before—you can betcha bottom tax dollar they do now.

It wasn’t by accident that many lawmakers discreetly stopped holding town hall style meetings in their districts.  That was to avoid the mobs of angry, overheated, finger-waving crowds back home in their districts that inconveniently started appearing right around the peak of the foreclosure and unemployment crises.

Members, instead, opted for scripted question-and-answer sessions and controlled settings—further eliminating the opportunities for voters to reach their representatives.

And looking down the road, I’m not sure how it gets better from here.  2011 will make ten years since 9/11 and it’s gotten progressively worse for airport travelers with no hope for change or relief in sight.

But  with flying, there’s always going to be that chance that someone is going to try and take down a plane, but we still have to fly and we do.

There are always going to be disgruntled citizens—disgruntled but not necessarily armed.

If they’re that worried about another catastrophic event invest in a bulletproof vest and Popemobile and keep it moving.

jasmyne cannickCongressional members don’t have the luxury of hiding from the same people who put them into office. They are after all, public servants.  Sometimes serving the public isn’t pretty and sometimes the public is angry.  But most times, the public is not armed with a hit list aiming at their representative.

Loughner was the exception and the not the rule.  Saturday’s rampage while tragic should not open the door further for members of Congress to be MIA in their districts.  With unemployment still high and foreclosures still happening in unprecedented numbers, now is not the time to go into hiding only to remerge around Election Day with a “vote for me” sign.

If you think voters are upset now with their Members, imagine the hostility and resentment going into 2012 if the only time they’ve had access to their representative is at a fundraiser or heavily guarded campaign event.

Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne Cannick.com

Published by the LA Progressive on January 12, 2011
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About Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the intersection of pop culture, race, class, and politics as played out in the African-American community. An award-winning journalist who previously worked in the U.S. House of Representatives as a press secretary, Jasmyne was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “News and Notes.” She is currently working as a political consultant in California on local and state campaigns.