01 November 2016

“Dad Used to Call Me Kaddish, So I Wouldn’t Forget”

Prior to his passing away just after my first year of high school, on June 13, 2012, my brothers, aunt, and I begged my dad to record his elongated, story-based answers to a series of questions from the book, To Our Children’s Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come, written by Bob Greene and D. G. Fulford. Just over four years later, I finally began to listen to it all, and in my search for memories, I discovered old text messages, interviews, photographs and more.

The following is the fruition of my own experience in listening, reading, reflecting, and believing:

The Birds and the Bees of Congress: The Real Story of Congressional Action and the Forces Behind Its Success

Introduction

Aside from the original shock of nearly omnipresent WiFi, women and people of color who may not necessarily own land, and cell phones, a detailed look at the modern state of Capitol Hill would leave the founders of our nation utterly bewildered. Scampering along its grounds, dodging groups of tourists on their ways to and from meetings, are lawyers, lobbyists, union representatives, and congressional staffers, among other unelected citizens who, perhaps even more than those chosen by the American populace, play a grandiose role in advancing nearly every bill, personal or ideological statement, and vote on the floors of Congress. Given that the first article of the Constitution fails to enumerate any roles or powers for these unelected political figures, their integral role within the American legislative branch merits the following questions: What underlying forces, outside of our elected representatives, are at work in fostering congressional success, whatever success may be? And, what are the practical and ideological repercussions of both their persistence as outside figures within our legislative process and their increasingly extensive impact on the laws and the beginnings of national political conversations that emerge from Capitol Hill?

In this paper, I attempt to divine the ultimate sources of congressional success, analyzing the forces behind every Congress member, as well as what a successful Congress might look like, when considering its progress via a non-ideologically based lens. This includes, especially relevant for the contemporary Congress, a discussion of the functionality and even the potential wisdom of a Congress that fails to pass much of any legislation. After defining congressional success and studying the factors in its formulation, I discuss the grand implications of a Congress distinctively run by people other than those elected by the American populace, in which our elected officials often only control the ideological direction of their influence in the House of Representatives and the Senate—what many overconfident elected officials dub the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body,” <1> lexically escaping its reputation as the worst of its kind.