Direct access to members of Congress is a good thing. And when controversial pieces of legislation are under consideration, there is no doubt going to be high passions. Back in 2010, conservative Tea Partiers protested vociferously when Obamacare was passed. That is all well and good, and insofar as progressives were behaving likewise, there is nothing objectionable. But look at how protesters confronted senators like Jeff Flake, Orrin Hatch, and Susan Collins on Capitol Hill, or how they got in Mitch McConnell and Sonny Perdue’s face at the airport. That is something different than 2010.
In a country of more than 330 million people, only a relative handful of us have the ability to assemble around the Congress and engage directly with members of the legislature as they go about their days. That unique privilege is reserved mainly for those who live in the metropolitan Washington area. The rest of us must rely on our duly elected representatives from afar, allowing them to serve as our agents in public affairs.
When protesters interfere with the legislative process in the reckless fashion they did this week, they are thus harassing not just members of Congress but all of us, for our interests in government cannot be realized if our members are being harried and bullied. This is the line between the benevolent rule of the majority, which the Founders thought was essential for republican government, and the clamors of the mob, which they knew was a threat to it.
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