Congressman John Yarmuth’s Democratic Antidote for Congress’ Republican Virus
Wildany Guerrero | 4/4/16 4:42pm
| Updated 4/4/16 4:44pm
American Word Magazine
“I switched parties in 1985. It was a great catharsis for me. I felt better immediately. I felt like I had been decontaminated,” said Congressman John Yarmuth.
At an event hosted by the AU Democrats in coalition with the Kennedy Political Union on February 25th, Congressman Yarmuth (KY-3) emphasized the importance of the Democratic Party holding power in the federal government. This importance comes from the main difference in ideology between the Democratic and Republican parties. Admittedly a former Republican himself, Congressman Yarmuth reflected that “Over the last 40 years conservative interests have done their best to demonize government. [Conservatives] create cynicism about government and never talk about the good things that government does”. Whereas Republicans tend to encourage individual liberty, Democrats tend to encourage regulation by the federal government. In an interview with American Word, Yarmuth voiced his perspectives on the current state of the Democratic Party and detailed his recent policy initiatives on education and political campaign finance reform.
Yarmuth highlighted the role millennials have in the political process. With an election season upon us, millennials are now at the forefront of deciding the most important issues facing the nation. At a point in American history in which Congress has a 14 percent approval rating, the disconnect between representatives and their constituencies plays a large role in the federal government’s lack of efficiency. Yarmuth expressed, “[Democrats] resist, generally speaking, any changes in our regulatory framework.” Democrats consider the federal government’s ability to use agencies and legislation to regulate the lives of citizens as the best way to make the lives of Americans better. In Yarmuth’s analysis, it is questions of education that creates such friction between the people and the government. Two bills drafted and introduced by Yarmuth and his staff, the LEARN Act and Ready to Learn Act, were meant to address this issue.
The LEARN Act, he said, is meant “to consolidate the energy behind literacy to try to create government incentives for people to develop their own literacy programs at the local level.” He described the importance of allowing communities to customize literacy programs for students, which is the main focus of the newly passed law.
The Ready to Learn Act is an effort to incentivize the online and on-air broadcasting of educational material by providing government rewards to companies that abide by certain regulatory standards. Congressman Yarmuth called this increased used of technology in education a “bridge in the resource gap.” As technology continues to replace conventional education tools, Yarmuth assured, “You’re going to see more and more of that… That’s going to become an increasingly important part of our educational structure.”
Yarmuth also mentioned campaign finance reform. Amidst an election season dominated by media coverage, Congressman Yarmuth made a bold, yet sound, prediction on the transitional future of the political campaign system that millennials are currently a part of. Yarmuth cited social media as the solution to the immense amount of dark money that exists in politics. He stated that the virus of spending big money on political campaigns will kill itself as “ultimately the market will take care of this.” He expressed that political candidates will come to realize the futility in spending millions of dollars on political television advertisements during campaign seasons. He explained that “time after time, you see the very wealthy people spending tens of millions of dollars and losing. Carly Fiorina did it, and Linda McMahon did it. It was what, $46 million spent for (Jeb) Bush in New Hampshire?” The ability to access voters online as opposed to on-air is proving to be more effective in translating political outreach to tangible results.
“Their success is significantly attributable to their use of social media,” said Congressman Yarmuth of Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump and Democratic nominee hopeful Bernie Sanders. The new ability to directly reach and interact with voters via social media is set to replace the abundance of television ads funded by PACs and Super PACs. Taking into consideration that online media is rapidly replacing its on-air counterpart, “most of the ads (on television) aren’t being seen. The ones that are being seen people don’t like and don’t believe,” said Yarmuth.
Once fittingly educated, millennials and generations beyond will be able to maintain a working trust and faith in the United States government. Once honest and interactive, political campaigns will seek to adhere to the interests of the people, not those of hidden contributors and save plenty of taxpayer money in the process.
Both in our private discussion and at the podium, Congressman Yarmuth accentuated the point that regardless of party affiliation, citizens must hold their government accountable. While he and his Democratic allies in the House believe that a large central government is key to ensuring a better quality of life, they should be held to an equal standard as their Republican counterparts. “Make politicians pay a price when they don’t perform” was Congressman Yarmuth’s message to millennials regarding their power to decide how well the government works for them.