Mean U.S. Congressmen Explained?

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Chairman of Side 7


Anyone who watches the news and its reports on politics has probably seen this: politicians talking about political opponents as enemies, speeches and votes that split along partisan lines, and overall no progress being made on across-the-aisle olive branches. Until recently it had been quite an unusual issue of why these politicians would hold up important bills or push for partisan bills without allowing leeway to accommodate the other side's views. However, recently NPR had an interview with Todd Purdum, a writer from Vanity Fair, which included the topic of the state of the U.S. Congress in which he presented his explanation using historical trends.

Here is a link (which includes the sound file to download for free):

Specifically it is this quote which sums up the explanation:

"Several things are strikingly different. Fifty years ago or so, Congress met for six to nine months a year, and when it was in session, it met mostly five days a week. Most members brought their families to live in the Washington area, and their kids went to school here and they knew each other and socialized with each other on the weekends. Quite frequently members drove home to their districts together at the end of the session to save money in a carpool. There was also no air conditioning, so people weren't holed up in their individual offices the way they are now. That really began to change in the 1970s and then accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s. And when Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in 1995, he urged members to keep their families back so they would have to go home every weekend if possible. That's a necessity for campaigning and fundraising. But it has the effect of meaning members don't really know each other. They haven't spoken to each other in human ways. So it's a lot easier to be nasty and say nasty things about someone you don't know than to say nasty things about someone who you go to church with or see in the supermarket."

  • Aug 11, 2010

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