Before she opted not to run for the Senate in Kentucky, actress Ashley Judd was criticized for living in Tennessee and being born in California. Even though she has a residence in Kentucky, the locale of her upbringing and her connections to various locations around the country caused many to question her ability to adequately serve and meet the needs of those in Kentucky. The more I think about how congressmen, congresswomen, and senators do their jobs, I cannot help but think that the way we elect them could be improved.
My proposal is the following: if an individual wishes to serve in Congress or the Senate, he/she would have to prove at least completing education through high school within the given state of desired representation. For example, I was born in Arlington, Virginia, but I do not remember my time there at all. I was raised, grew up, and attended high school in Cleveland, Ohio. I did not move away until I entered college. Through my upbringing, I believe that I would be much better suited to run for office within Ohio than anywhere else — because I spent my formative years there.
We give the reigns to a select few individuals to make decisions for the rest of us. Most of the time, we are at their mercy when the big-ticket items are up for discussion. It only makes sense that these individuals should have intimate and at-length knowledge about the area they wish to represent when they head to Washington.
As I consider stories from my childhood, the writing is on the wall. In Star Wars, each Senator came from his/her own planet. You would not have a Wookie representing Naboo no more than you would have a Gungan representing Kashyyk. The same is true of Lord of the Rings: a person from Gondor would not travel to Rohan and act in an authoritarian capacity for the best interests of the people. In the HBO series Game of Thrones, a Dothraki warlord cannot rule Westeros from across the Narrow Sea.
In medieval times, a person of royalty could only rule in the nation where he/she resided. You did not have strangers traveling to places and acting on behalf of the best interests of the people already there. How could an outsider possibly understand the needs of the people and take actions to meet those needs? In Congress, we allow this to happen and are accustomed to it. We require lawyers to typically choose one state to obtain license to practice law within. If you wish to practice in a certain state, you have to learn the laws of that state and prove through an examination that you can adequately use them in your practice. The same sort of requirement should be asked of those in Congress, especially when representation is carried out from a remote location.
A requirement for education, automatically combined with upbringing, through high school would be a simple way to ensure that each representative is exposed to the area and constituents he/she would later serve. We have all had the familiar feeling of traveling to a foreign place and knowing that no matter how long we stay, we will never innately understand the community because it was not the first place that we ever knew.
Over the last several years, Congress has really shown us that they are far more interested in securing personal gain and stingy closed circles than addressing the problems of the nation. The president and Congress are still working out this sequester nonsense while the rest of us have to wait for a resolution. I cannot help but wonder if things would be the same under my model, where individuals who represent various parts of the nation were educated and spent significant time in the areas they represent before entering office.
The bottom-line is simple: it does not make much sense for an individual who has lived and experienced a community during his/her formative years, to travel to a completely unfamiliar area and ask for the power to serve as its representative. Instead, it makes much more sense for a native educated son/daughter of the area to serve as its representative.