Brian Bengs is a nice guy who wanted to talk to his U.S. Senator at the State Fair. But since he’d also like to be our next U.S. Senator, Brian Bengs didn’t get to talk to the man he’d like to replace, Senator John Thune:
Senator Thune made time to talk and be photographed with a guy who beat him in a foot race 43 years ago. But Senator Thune did not have time to talk to the guy who is competing with him now in a race of far greater importance to the public. We’re not talking about a public debate—alas, we seem to have completely abandoned that great tradition of candidates facing each other and discussing important issues in front of a live audience at the State Fair or anywhere else in South Dakota. We’re just talking about an elected official taking a moment to talk one on one with a person who disagrees with him.
But no—Senator Thune is too big for that conversation, too big to even personally decline to meet with his challenger, Brian Bengs.
Related Reading: Ralph Nader says our Congress critters’ inaccessibility is Congress’s biggest problem:
…[Nader’s} primary criticism of Congress is in fact quite simple: that it’s exceedingly difficult for an average citizen to speak directly with their elected representative.
“[Members of Congress] will respond to birthdays and grandchildren and graduations give RSVP on invitations — they’re very good at that — but when it comes to serious letters … it’s reserved for people who are donors” — a word that Nader pronounces, somewhat confoundingly, with the emphasis on the second syllable (“do-NOR”). “Major lobbyists connected to major donors” — again, with the syncopated pronunciation — “they would get through.”
…As Nader pointed out, the firewall that representatives have erected between themselves and their constituents poses a real threat to the basic principles of representative democracy — and yet it remains practically invisible to the mainstream reporters who spend a significant portion of their professional lives rubbing elbows with elected representatives on Capitol Hill.
“We have a First Amendment right to petition our government, right? Well, how much is that right worth if our government never responds?” Nader says. “It’s basically a dead letter in the First Amendment — it’s done. You can’t do it” [Ian Ward, “Ralph Nader Thinks People Aren’t Paying Attention to His Progressive Agenda,” Politico, 2022.09.04].