11/21/2013 03:11 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Home Alone at the U.S. Senate: A Farce and a Sham

There were an estimated 26,000 unwanted sexual contacts and sexual assaults in the military in FY2012 -- a 37 percent increase from FY2011. Yet when Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri introduced their rival plans to end it, they spoke to a Senate of largely empty chairs. Was this too small an issue for our senators to show up?

When did our elected leaders start thinking they only need to be present when cameras are pointed at them? It's absurd! How often do you see members of the UK Parliament talking with no one to listen?

While some senators are crossing partisan lines to address the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, this is too serious and important an issue to be treated with indifference. And there are a host of such issues.

Governing from afar is a key reason why the two sides of the aisle can't come together and stick. It's partially why the Senate "nuclear option" was needed. As Senator Harry Reid said today, the Senate is "broken."

What kind of leader doesn't even show up, let alone fail to listen and respond on important issues? This isn't government by the people and for the people; it's a farce and a sham. If you are a senator or congressperson you literally don't have to come to work.

There is no such thing as an effective government in absentia, yet that's what we have. Sure, many wear lapel pins and claim a corner on patriotism, but where are they when it counts?

Remember the photos we've seen of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson strong-arming his colleagues? That may have been power exercised in excess at times, but at least the people involved were looking each other in the eye.

Imagine where we'd be today as a nation if George Washington had left for coffee when John Adams or Thomas Jefferson rose to speak. Are we not throwing away what they struggled to achieve?

If you can't be present, don't run for office. If you are present, thank you. If you must be absent, leave a large note on your seat because we want to know if you just can't be bothered.

Kathleen also blogs about negotiation, persuasion and politics here and is the author of ten books, including academic politics mystery-thriller Shadow Campus.