The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson is reprehensible and disturbing. For a congresswoman to be stuck down on a street corner in her district, just because of her political positions, cannot be tolerated. Yet as reprehensible and disturbing as the violent act in Arizona is, it is not shocking. That in itself may be the scariest fact of all.
Last spring I had the opportunity to speak to a member of congress soon after the Healthcare Reform bill had passed. I congratulated this congresswoman for having achieved such a victory which she had strongly supported. She spoke of the environment of fear in Washington during the weeks preceding the vote. She described how congressional security officers had discouraged members of congress or their staff from walking on the mall. She provided vivid detail of how frightening it was for members and staff to be entering and exiting the Capital as protestors screamed at and threatened them. It was an awakening for me that members of congress not only needed to be brave about their convictions, but by supporting or not supporting specific bills, they put their lives at risk. Such bravery is not on the congressional job description.
This is no political statement and I am in no way championing congress or endorsing their performance or any party over the other – this is a business issue. We at Osage invest in businesses in this country and as investors we rely on a rule of law, a culture of informed debate, and a stable and working government not cowed by fear. If those who govern fear, not reelection but their lives, by voting their conscience, then the structure and basis for many institutions run the risk of crumbling. Congress cannot perform its duties while operating in fear, and those entrusted to protect congress must ensure that congressional members can vote their conscience and not their security. Bottom line – there are many committed public servants in Congress who should not be voting out of fear of violence, only out of fear of losing the support of their electorate.