They ask some version of the same question: What can we do to pull ourselves out of this dark period? For Americans who respect representative democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law, there's reason to be concerned. But are we in a downward spiral as a nation?
I don't just mean going to a town hall meeting and yelling, or shooting off a letter or email. I mean making an appointment to sit down with your representative — in his or her office, at a cafe in the district, or wherever else you can meet — and holding a real conversation.
We haven't followed it since the middle of the 1990s. Instead, we've been forced to live with high-stakes fiscal brinksmanship. The current budget deal, negotiated between Republicans and Democrats, has the virtue of having included both parties at the table with give and take on both sides. But let's not mistake it for good process. Congress is still putting the budget together with no accountability, no transparency, and scanty debate.