Boxer is meeting our low expectations

The rap on Senator Barbara Boxer has always been that she’s a do-nothing legislator, with few real accomplishments to her name and minimal prestige at the national level.  Her success in one campaign after another has been attributed to the power of her party combined with the ineptitude of the opposition.  Carly Fiorina lost to Boxer because she failed to differentiate between the hard-right mind-set of the national GOP and the more moderate thinking of California’s electorate.

Boxer has been back at work since the 112th Congress convened in January, and she is once again racking up an uninspiring record of support for liberal causes combined with a lack of innovative solutions to the national and state-wide crisis in employment, budget shortfalls and housing foreclosures.

Her record is best summed up by the content of her most recent series of news releases:

     She supported ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military

     She favored lowering gas prices by selling off parts of the strategic petroleum reserve

     She opposed Republican budget cuts

     She co-sponsored an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights

     She joined colleagues in calling for an independent human rights monitor on Iran

This series of either “me, too” statements or nice, but inconsequential legislative acts have had almost no impact on the national conversation, and have certainly reinforced the stereotypical view of Boxer as a lightweight legislator.  She suffers from what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of lowered expectations,” but that phenomenon also seems to have kept her in office.

California is well-known for setting a very low bar for its state legislators, so it should come as no surprise that we don’t demand any better perfromance from one of our U.S. Senators.  But, we should remember that only two Senators are allotted to each state, and as the largest state in the union, we are actually getting the lowest per capita representation in the nation.

Six years is a long time to wait to elect a better candidate, and re-calling legislators is both costly and (often) self-defeating.  It certainly did not appear to work very well in the case of the recall of Governor Gray Davis.  Demanding more of Senator Boxer seems like a rational, low-cost and potentially highly effective option.

More attention by the media is one obvious solution.  Better tracking of actions taken by our entire federal legislative team with a critical eye on its value to the state and the nation could help.  But the fact is, only the electorate can make a real difference.  People need to pay attention and make their dissatisfaction (or their approval) known.  In this age of a struggling state and national economy, it’s simply unacceptable to receive mediocre performance from senior level management of our government.  Making Barbara Boxer a better legislator is now our job.