September 25th, 2021


A new kind of congressman --- bold, rash and ignorant

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published Nov. 20, 2018

A new kind of congressman --- bold, rash and ignorant
Nobody is as insignificant in the Washington pecking order as a freshman member of Congress just off the turnip truck and into a maelstrom of ignorance and uncertainty of the nation's capital. One member of a freshman class of not so long ago recalls arriving at Reagan National Airport, finding his way through the terminal maze to curbside, and hailing a taxi.

"I want to go to the Capitol," the new greenhorn told the cabbie.

"OK," the cabbie said, "if you know how to get there."

New congressmen have learned the way, and with familiar expectations. They've been in town two weeks already and there are still evil giants waiting to be slain, campaign crusades to be completed and racist customs encrusted with the grime of the decades to be eliminated, and not much time to do it. Everything promised in the campaign should have been delivered in a week, a fortnight at most.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the great Hispanic hope from the Bronx, got into town puzzled about where she should apply to collect the money to pay her rent. She hadn't expected to see rents like those on Capitol Hill and she needed the money in a hurry.

Mzz Ocasio-Cortez had more to learn than she imagined. She remembered hearing somewhere about "the three chambers of government," and, having just been elected to membership in one of them, wanted what she imagined was coming to her. "If we work our butts off to make sure we take back all three chambers of Congress — uh, rather, all three chambers of government, the presidency, the Senate and the House."

Mzz Ocasio-Cortez, like many of the newcomers, is a product of the salons of the like-minded, where never is heard a discouraging word from anyone who disagrees with them. She put out a call over the week end for reinforcements (winning the war might take a little longer than the shock troops counted on), telling some 700 "progressive activists" to run for office. If she succeeds, the movement will have more candidates than seats available, even if she farms out some of them to the Senate. But surely Congress can appoint someone to fix that.

"Long story short," she said, "I need you to run for office. We need to run at all levels of government, but I really hope that many of you will join me here in Congress."

Well, why not? "In politics," Napoleon said, "stupidity is not a handicap." He should have included ignorance, too. A lot of the new congresspersons don't know very much, and aren't much interested in learning. Indeed, Bernie Sanders, the beau ideal of the millennials, once depleted his insights when he observed that ISIS was attacking everybody in the Middle East because of global warming, and that white people (all of them, meaning all of them save Bernie himself) don't know what it's like to be poor.

Hillary Clinton has observed that women are the primary victims of war. Barack Obama once promised to campaign "in all 57 states," and Nancy Pelosi says the only way to find out what's in legislation is to enact it.

Many of the Democratic newcomers have an unusual understanding of how everything but their own wishes and dreams work. Anyone who questions the power of desire – if you want something bad enough, like a free college education or Medicare for all, just wishing can can get it for you. You're a heartless Grinch, and maybe a Republican besides, if you don't agree.

The leaders of the so-called Justice Movement, which worked for the election of some of the most radical of the newcomers, including Mzz Ocasio-Cortez, sound as if they're eager to terminate many Democratic old-timers. They're in the way of the millenials. The movement is driven by the conviction that most Democratic congressmen, despite the warm words that greeted the early success of Mzz Ocasio-Cortez in the Bronx and Rashida Tlaib, elected in Michigan as the first Muslim woman in Congress don't really want them to succeed.

The Justice Movement is focused on biography, identity (no more white guys and white ladies can be tolerated but they have to behave themselves). They have their eye on lots of free stuff — free college, free health care, after-school programs for children, proper eats for old folks.

Though new to federal machinery, Rashida Tlaib served three terms in the Michigan legislature and might have become a fixture but for term limits. She saw a crowded field in the race to succeed John Conyers, who had held a House seat for approximately forever, and leaped. She won the Democratic nomination over a dozen rivals with a comfortable margin.

Michigan has a Muslim population of considerable size, originally drawn to Detroit and automobiles, particularly to Dearborn, home of Ford and once notably unfriendly to minorities. The new Congress heralds a new day, and where the radicals take the new House to unexpected places, few of them good.


JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times. His column has appeared in JWR since March, 2000.