NY Times columnist Joe Nocera recounts the tale of whom he calls the last moderate in Congress. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) is an unabashed Blue-Dog Democrat with a sobering perspective on the dysfunction that exists under the Capitol Dome.
To Cooper, the true villain is not the Tea Party; it’s Newt Gingrich. In the 1980s, when Tip O’Neill was speaker of the House, “Congress was functional,” Cooper told me. “Committees worked. Tip saw his role as speaker of the whole House, not just the Democrats.”
Gingrich was a new kind of speaker: deeply partisan and startlingly power-hungry. “His first move was to get rid of the Democratic Study Group, which analyzed bills, and which was so trusted that Republicans as well as Democrats relied on it,” Cooper recalled. “This was his way of preventing us from knowing what we were voting on. Today,” he added, “the ignorance around here is staggering. Nobody has any idea what they’re voting on.”
“This is not a collegial body anymore,” he said. “It is more like gang behavior. Members walk into the chamber full of hatred. They believe the worst lies about the other side. Two senators stopped by my office just a few hours ago. Why? They had a plot to nail somebody on the other side. That’s what Congress has come to.”
I’d like to be shocked, but this is simply confirming the obvious truths we are loathe to accept… loathe because in principle the government is us. It is of, by, and for the people. Unfortunately, rather than the best in us, Congress has come to manifest the darkness in our souls most of us dare not show the world.
In many respects, it it simply another embodiment of Reality TV… an endless parade of backstabbing, bitch-slapping, and name calling. A performance we profess to hate, but in practice, won’t turn off. And as much as I’d like to fault all the Congressional Snooki wannabees out there, ultimately we are the ones responsible for the “success” of The Potomac Shore.
[thanks to MB for finding Nocera’s NY Times column]