In a few weeks I will celebrate my 67th birthday. I like to think that after 35 years of economics and economics journalist I still have some knowledge, experience and wisdom to offer to the readers of the Washington Post. But I also know that I have lost a few steps and my younger colleagues in the newsroom are no longer able to keep up. It would not prevent me, or more importantly, that someone in the marketing department of The Post would consider me the face & # 39; from the brand of the newspaper.
I watched this Wednesday when I went through the list of Democrats who will lead the US House of Representatives when the new Congress arrives in January.
There are three top leaders, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn, who are either 78 or 79. And then there are the members of the ranking committee who, under the strict seniority regime of the Democrats, will take over the presidency. The youngest, Ted Deutch, is 52. The eldest, Nina Lowey on Rules, is 81. The average age is 74. Regarding their grip on the policy details, their communication and leadership skills and their ability to relate to the average voter, it is fair to say that – with a few exceptions – most have lost a step or two. Neither, in this anti-establishment era, it would be the case for anyone with a political or marketing sense to put them forward as the "face" of the Democratic brand.
And yet they are determined to hold on and do exactly that. After waiting for years in turn to wait for their time and endure the humiliations they have been overloaded by a disrespectful and filthy Republican majority over the past six years, they are determined to take revenge, to reward their allies and the agenda to conclude that they had in mind 30 years ago when they first arrived in the Capitol. They say to themselves that it is not necessary to change personnel or policy because the political momentum is with them: this year the House will, in two years time the Senate and the White House, and then the Democrats will be able to sit down again just like they did in 2009-10.
The first task of the class of democratic members is to disparage the leaders of their wardrobe fantasy. When they are called to a caucus within a few weeks to select leadership candidates for the new Congress, the newcomers must stay together and refuse to participate. When they are encouraged to start jockeying for orders from the plum committee or to reduce their campaign debts, they must stay together and refuse to be co-opted. Their first task must be to eradicate the old and decayed political plumbing of the Capitol – the seniority system, the three-day working weeks, the leadership-oriented agenda, the hyper-partnership and the incessant fundraising – and replace it with something fresh and modern that works for them and for a deeply divided country.
What does a new political sanitary look like?
The best idea comes from the twofold Problem Solvers Caucus, who proposed that the President of the House would be elected by no less than 60 percent of its members, so that it was almost certain that future Speakers would need support from both Democratic and Republican members. . This would be a Speaker of the whole House and leave it to the majority leader to be the leader of the party. Unfortunately, it was such a good idea, and it drew so much ado from the leadership of both parties that problem solvers eventually abandoned themselves.
My variation on this idea would also give the Speaker the power to appoint all the members of the Regulatory Commission who determine which bills come before the House, how long they are discussed and what amendments can be made. Only in this way would the legislative process be freed from the stranglehold now exercised by party leaders and, through them, partisan extremists.
The second bit of plumbing that needs to be repaired is seniority. One of the few constructive things that Newt Gingrich did when he became a Speaker in 1994 was to set a three-term deadline for Republican committee chairmen. Democrats should do the same and also expand it to party leadership positions. The geriatric line-up that democrats bring into the government task and the absence of a credible bench show what happens when a caucus does not rejuvenate itself regularly with young young talent.
Of course to insist that places the Democratic freshman student in an uncomfortable place. That is why they have to agree that the current leaders and committee chairs take their place in January, provided that new rules are adopted and that new elections will take place at the end of the year. In this way, the party can present a new slate to voters in time for the 2020 elections.
This is not to say that Pelosi & Co. had a bad job – they did not – or even that they had to show the door. Instead, they must be shown the respect they deserve and be asked to hang around for a few more years and share their wisdom and experience. A new speaker would be smart to find other important assignments for them, including places in the control committee.
Before his death earlier this year, John McCain urged his colleagues from Congress to return to the "regular order", by which he intended to base himself on commissions to secure the legislative agenda and the compromise agreement for the craft. to set. As my colleague Paul Kane and Derek Willis of Pro Publica have written earlier this week, the committee process has been dropped because power has migrated to party leaders who prefer to lobby with lobbyists behind closed doors and put pressure on colleagues to give it up. floor without the possibility of meaningful debate or amendment. A number of small changes in the house rules could help the committee chairmen to bring bills to the floor and committee members in selecting committee chairmen who would shape accounts in committee.
Finally, the new Democrats in Congress must insist that their job as legislators is full-time. The current congress schedule is a joke – a bad joke – where members devote most of their waking hours to insuring their own re-election by picking up campaign cash and standing up at every bean meal in their districts. Democrats were able to show their seriousness about the board by announcing that the working week would start on Monday afternoon with a quorum call, and extending until noon on Friday, with savings planned for just four holiday weeks and what remains of the summer as soon as the budget from next year has been issued. Members must receive a generous rent allowance to make it financially possible for them and their families to live in Washington, with restrictions on the amount of taxpayers or political money they can spend on their district.
The idea that members of Congress would have to sleep in their offices to prevent them from being contaminated by the swampy culture in Washington was more than just a Republican canard – it was a political cancer that cut through in deranged legislation. The only way Americans will take the conference seriously is that members will take their work more seriously. Moving themselves and their families to Washington is a necessary first step.
With an even larger Republican majority in the Senate and Donald Trump in the White House, there is little chance for Democrats to legislate in the next two years. However, there is a golden opportunity to refresh their brand and restore political plumbing work. Only then will our democracy be able to reach a consensus on taxes, deficits, immigration, infrastructure, healthcare, climate change and the economic prospects of people and regions that have been left behind.
Pearlstein is a columnist in the postal business and in the economy. He is also Robinson Professor of Public Affairs at George Mason University. His book "Can American Capitalism Survive?" Was published this fall by St. Martin & # 39; s Press.