The Oklahoma sage Will Rogers was one of America’s best-loved humorists. An aviation pioneer, he died in a 1935 plane crash, but his barbed wit lives on, appropriate for our time.
Rogers claimed when he needed some new jokes for his vaudeville act, he would read what the U.S. Congress had done that day, and his audience would “die laughing.”
Few Americans these days are laughing about government, and we certainly are not amused by Congress, the governing branch the Founders intended to be the most responsive to popular sentiment.
During the eight years of President Barack Obama’s constant war with Congress, low ratings for legislators of both parties set all-time records. The latest Gallup Poll (May 1-10, 2018) asked: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?” Approve: 17%; Disapprove: 79%; No opinion: 4%.
Congress traditionally has been the least popular of the three federal branches, often earning deserved public scorn. Elected Washington politicians have been anything but the “representatives” of we 327 million Americans.
An early example: In 1816, members of the 14th Congress voted to more than double their pay to a princely $1,500 annually (about $25,000 in 2018 dollars), a sum then much larger than the earnings of almost every voter in the country. Massive public anger exploded; in the fall 1816 elections, two-thirds of the 187 members of the House either wisely retired or were defeated for re-election.
Keep that in mind when you vote on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, U.S. national election day.
I first came to the House of Representatives as a 15-year-old page boy on January 21, 1953, the day after President Dwight Eisenhower’s first inauguration. For the next 17 years, I was part of the Republican legislative House floor staff. In 1973, I returned as an elected member, representing Maryland’s First (Chesapeake Bay) District.
In those days, I think most of my colleagues were dedicated to do their best for the people they represented. These days, it’s constant congressional warfare between (and within) both parties. Needed goodwill is rare on Capitol Hill.
Sessions of the House of Representatives were first televised on C-Span in 1979. I was very active during House floor business, acquiring a few fans of my conservative parliamentary guerilla warfare against the Democrat majority.
A dear lady sent me a framed, hand-sewn sampler with my quotation from an 1866 ruling by a New York judge: “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the House is in session.”
During eight years of House roll call votes, Congressional Quarterly listed my friend, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and me as the most conservative members out of all 435. My principles have not changed, but congressional Republicans seem to have abandoned conservatism.
They also have abandoned the rules and “regular order” of the House.
In 2015, under Obama, Congress again proved unwilling to do the job assigned to it by the U.S. Constitution. Instead, it passed a multitrillion-dollar omnibus appropriation bill that my son, Ted Bauman, exposed as a scam. Under President Donald Trump, this farce was repeated earlier this year for the current $1.3 trillion budget, which Trump denounced, then signed.
Even though the Republicans have the majority, it seems Capitol Hill legislation now is governed by the “Pelosi Rule” — the famous 2010 statement by the House Democrat leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, about the 2,300-page Obamacare bill: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
There Is Still Hope
The truth is that most senators and congressmen cast votes based on advice from trusted others, or from party leaders. Thousand-page bills are rammed through loaded with tricks aimed at we, the powerless many, and with treats for the chosen few, the interlocking interests of the military, corporations and organized political groups, left and right, that contribute to campaigns.
Dissatisfaction and a demand for change run through our political history. Country music singer Ray Stevens reflects this in his song “Throw the Bums Out.”
But there is hope, according to professor David Kennedy of Stanford.
2018 Election Advice
He notes our current political instability pales compared to the late 19th century. The Gilded Age saw a “howling sea of electoral turbulence” with decades of “divided government.”
In only 12 of the 30 years after 1870 did the same party control the House, the Senate and the White House. The House majority party shifted six times in the era’s 15 congressional elections.
Will Rogers, on NBC radio in 1932, was speaking to us: “Every time we elect some fellow, we think he’s terrible, and then when we get another one in, he’s worse.”
My advice for election 2018 is throw the bums out.
Yours for liberty,
Bob Bauman, JD
Legal Counsel, Banyan Hill Publishing
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