A recent, anonymous article titled Confessions of a Congressman has been making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter; its author claims to be a current member of Congress.
Most of the “confessions” are anything but surprising. The influence of money and gerrymandering are obvious to pretty much any sentient being. But the author does flesh out the critique:
It is more lucrative to pander to big donors than to regular citizens. Campaigns are so expensive that the average member needs a million-dollar war chest every two years and spends 50 percent to 75 percent of their term in office raising money. Think about that. You’re paying us to do a job, and we’re spending that time you’re paying us asking rich people and corporations to give us money so we can run ads convincing you to keep paying us to do this job. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech and corporations are people, the mega-rich have been handed free loudspeakers. Their voices, even out-of-state voices, are drowning out the desperate whispers of ordinary Americans.
Without crooked districts, most members of Congress probably would not have been elected. According to the Cook Political Report, only about 90 of the 435 seats in Congress are “swing” seats that can be won by either political party. In other words, 345 seats are safe Republican or Democratic seats. Both parties like it that way. So that’s what elections are like today: rather than the voters choosing us, we choose the voters. The only threat a lot of us incumbents face is in the primaries, where someone even more extreme than we are can turn out the vote among an even smaller, more self-selected group of partisans.
The author faults a dramatic increase in party loyalty for much of what is wrong with the legislature; he says partisanship has turned Congress into a parliament, and–among other negative consequences–made service on congressional committees or other efforts to develop real expertise in an area of governance irrelevant (you have to vote with your party even if your knowledge of the issue suggests that other options are better).
That revolving door? The one that leads to K street and a lobbying career? It’s the highly desired pot of gold at the end of the public service rainbow.
The author ends by telling us two things we already know: the best and brightest don’t want anything to do with running for Congress; and we desperately need them there.
As he says, Congress has never been more than a sausage factory. The point is not to make it something it’s not: the point is to get it to make sausage again.