Watching this week’s collapse of the U. S. House of Representatives was devastating. It started me thinking about how it was 48 years ago when I worked there. How it was and what brought on today’s environment.
Politics, like everything else, is built on relationships. Back in those days Members got to know each other starting with freshman orientation. Most House Members moved their families to Washington, the children went to school there, families were active in their church and lifelong relationships were formed.
After Watergate and congressional reform in the 70’s everything seems to change. Families stay back in their home district, Members started sleeping in their office and departed Washington at the close of business – likely on Thursday. So much for relationships between families. And Members no longer played golf together on Saturday.
Committee work offered an opportunity for Members to work together and develop common ground. Committee deliberations took on less importance as “leadership legislating” increased.
I feel one of the significant impacts on relationships between colleagues came about when electronic voting was started in the House of Representatives. Before when the bells rang calling Members to the floor, they would visit waiting for their name to be called. With electronic voting they arrive, insert their voting card into the machine and leave. No visiting thus no relationship building.
Things weren’t as political back in those days. Then along came televising the chamber. Members would use the period called “one-minute speeches” to make their political point. This allowed both parties to use this venue to make their political arguments to a broader audience.
Maybe it’s time to go back to the “Good Olde Days” working on friendships and relationships …and focus on saving the U. S. House of Representatives, and thus…the country.