It’s Christmas time, and I’m surrounded by family. Like with almost any large family gathering, the conversation eventually turns to polite questions about work.
The family knows I write about politics, so, over the course of several days, I tend to have a brief conversation about Congress and politics with each member of the family. A common question I have heard several times is, “Is Congress still in session?” And most of this week, the answer was “Yes.” This usually led to a follow-up question that required me to examine part of the reason for the long, late lame duck session: the weird Senate rules allowing delay tactics, cloture voters, and 30 hours of post-cloture ripping time. This was normally greeted with polite disinterest, confusion, or mild scorn for the ridiculousness.
While my family is not a bunch of political activists, they are professionals that pay attention to the news and vote regularly. People like teachers, local government employees, engineers, business managers, and the like.
It was a strong, personal reminder to me that the vast majority of Americans don’t know about or care about the motions to proceed, cloture votes, suspended rules votes, symbolic votes, or the grand tradition of arcane Senate rules. Beyond not paying attention to the ins and outs of the meaningless kabuki show that dominates the minds of people on the Hill, regular Americans often don’t even know whether Congress is in session.
This time with my family just reinforces my firm belief that pursuing good progressive policy meant to help people will become good politics. People don’t care about floor speeches, the silly rules that prevent bills for passing, CBO scores, or show votes for amendments that everyone in Washington knows aren’t going to pass. Most people vote for politicians hoping they will make good decisions that will result in improved lives and communities, not for someone they think will make a great floor speech on C-SPAN 2 before an empty chamber.
My advice to any political party is to focus the bulk of their energy on doing what ever possible, as quickly as possible, to deliver real improvements for the electorate. People pay attention to how the government is affecting their lives, not the show politicians put on for each other.
If Democrats had spent even half as much time on getting more people help with their health care as soon as possible as they did getting that “pretty” CBO score for their bill, I suspect they would have had a better showing last November.