People are sick of being thought of as faraway annoyances who only get whatever policy scraps are left over after pols have finished servicing the donors they hang out with at Redskins games.
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone: Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie
Taibbi’s analysis is that what has corrupted the constituent-representative communications is the pummelling of staff accomplished through massive astroturfing.
“Have you ever called your congressman? No, because you have a job!” laughs Paul Thacker, a former Senate aide currently working on a book about life on the Hill. Thacker recounts tales of staffers rushing to turn on Fox News once the phones start ringing, because “the people” are usually only triggered to call Washington by some moronic TV news scare campaign.
In another case, Thacker remembers being in the office of the senator of a far-Northern state, watching an aide impatiently conduct half of a constituent phone call. “He was like, ‘Uh huh, yes, I understand.’ Then he’d pause and say, ‘Yes, sir,’ again. This went on for like five minutes,” recounts Thacker.
Finally, the aide firmly hung up the phone, reared back and pointed accusingly at the receiver. “And you are from fucking Missouri!” he shouted. “Why are you calling me?”
These stories are funny, but they also point to a problem. Since The People is an annoying beast, young pols quickly learn to be focused entirely on each other and on their careers. They get turned on by the narrative of Beltway politics as a cool power game, and before long are way too often reaching for Game of Thrones metaphors to describe their jobs. Eventually, the only action that matters is inside the palace.
And the problem is that there are some structural reasons that constituents in trying to be heard in Washington DC come off sounding a little bit nuts.
Take the Missouri story, for example. Why would a constituent think to call a “far northern” representative when they are from Missouri? The simplest reason is that feeling shut out by the partisanship in DC and seeing a representative who might be favorable and provide an ear to what they were saying, they called someone who might possibly listen to the details of what they had to say. Members of Congress (both houses) might represent a particular jurisdiction, but they pass legislation of consequence to the entire country. An imperious representative might be so ideologically blinded as to not represent their own district and so gerrymandered as to not be able to be removed. This is a peculiar form of “crashing the gates”.
Ironically, reforming non-profits trying to apply pressure by creating their own astroturf campaigns contribute to the problem and the cynicism by increasing the load “sound alike” callers.
And just how cynical has the Village become?
Years ago, over many beers in a D.C. bar, a congressional aide colorfully described the House of Representatives, where he worked.
It’s “435 heads up 435 asses,” he said.
Cynicism seems to be a perpetual condition in DC.