As I spend my last few weeks in Washington, D.C., awaiting the results of yet another negotiation between the White House and congressional leadership, I can't help but reflect on how we arrived at this place as a nation.
We're delaying necessary decisions on fiscal issues that could cause grave damage within our nation's borders and to our standing on the world stage. America is still the greatest superpower on earth with a people and economic framework that can't be replicated, but our political system remains polarized and is in desperate need of reform.
We continue to send people to our nation's capital who, for the most part, are not interested in compromise. The system that elects these candidates needs to be restructured.
First, we have congressional districts that so advantage one political party over the other that the only real race is in the primary. Whoever wins has little incentive to reach out to those constituents and peers with differing views. Next, we have an out-of-control campaign finance system where one individual, whether they are liberal or conservative (see George Soros and Sheldon Adelson), can tip the balance in a congressional race. Money will always be a part of campaigns, but candidates should be able to get contributions only from those who can vote for them. As a member of Congress, I spent a great deal of time away from home raising money to continue my service. I would have much rather been at a chamber dinner in McAlester or a Rotary Club in Muskogee.
Despite these structural challenges, I remain an optimist. Recently, as I was cleaning out my office, I was introduced to newly re-elected U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and his wife, Mary. Rick was called to serve in Congress in the 1970s in response to the Watergate scandal. He left on his own terms after six years in office, feeling that he and his colleagues had made many necessary reforms to restore public faith in our government. He's coming back during this difficult time of hyper-partisanship with the same determination to help his fellow citizens of Minnesota. He was assigned my office in the Rayburn building.
That same week, I was reminded of how fortunate we are in Oklahoma to have statesmen like Tom Cole, who spoke out on the need for compromise to our fiscal crisis. In times like these, our leaders must work together to find real solutions to our nation's problems — not just be another politician taking policy positions based on partisan rhetoric.
I will be forever indebted to the people of my district and the great state of Oklahoma for allowing me to serve. Thank you for giving Andrea, Janna, Hunter and me this wonderful opportunity.
Boren, D-Muskogee, is wrapping up eight years as Oklahoma's 2nd District representative.