MOLINE, Ill. — Bobby Schilling has spent the last decade perfecting his pizza crust. (The secret? A hint of whole wheat flour in the dough.) But this year, like dozens of other previously apolitical Americans, the cheerful father of 10 looked at the Congressional candidate arena and got to thinking, “Hey, why not me?”Why not, indeed. By the Times' count, Schilling is one of 35 new Representatives/Senators who come to Congress unburdened of any prior experience in elective office. To get numbers like that, you have to go back to 1948. There were only 30 such in the last Republican revolution in 1994.
The triumph of the amateur? P.J. O'Rourke says au contraire
I think we lost the election on November 2. Every race was won by a politician.
By "politician," O'Rourke makes clear that he means "someone who wants to be there," instead of, e.g., Cincinnatus, who reluctantly leaves his plow to serve his people and then eagerly returns to his plow. "[W]e may have elected a few reluctant politicians. But not reluctant enough."
Wait a minute, can these both be right? Sure they can. Recall the iron law of politics (updated for the 21st Century): there is more difference between two TPs, one of whom is a Congressman and the other of whom is not, than there is between two Congressmen, one of whom is a TP and the other of whom is not. These guys are no longer the outsiders; Congress is now them.
Corollary: he sad irony is that a Congress full of amateurs is at least vulnerable to the corrupting verities of legislative life as a Congress full of old pros, The reason is that there will always be old pros on hand to greet the amateurs--to spin them around, to turn them upside down, to leave them bewildered and gullible and ready for any kind of leadership. Recall the truth of the courthouse: the prosecutor says "I can get the grand jury to indict a ham sandwich." He can do it because the newcomers always need to follow somebody's lead, and he is there to lead.
Granted, I don't think we can say who in particular will spin around the latest crop of newcomers. And in fact, it probably won't be the conventional leadership. But just because they won't listen to Boehner and McConnell doesn't mean they won't listen to somebody. The town is absolutely boiling with lobbyists and related technocrats who stand ready to offer a guiding hand.
One person who understands this is one Jean Beth Martin, hitherto unknown to me, writing for Iron Mill News as the voice of "Tea Party Patriots.". "Don't Let Them Steal OUR New Members of Congress," she trumpets, adding "DC Insiders Indoctrinating OUR Freshmen."
Evidently the "Patriots" have been building up for an "orientation session" for new members of Congress; but it turns out that the Claremont Institute was working on plans for an orientation session of their own, same time, same day. It's hard to imagine anybody with more impeccably conservative credentials than Claremont: per Ms. Martin, their orientation keynote speaker is Bill Bennett.
But look at the TPP program: they've got John Shadegg, retiring from Congress to start his own 501(c)(3); they say they're "supported by" Sens. Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn. And their keynote speaker will be that outsider of all outsiders, Ed Meese--although you might have to be over 45 to remember him as the Attorney General and ideological purity enforcer under Ronald Reagan.
I can't really blame the newbies; they have to take their marching orders from somebody. But the TPP evidence is pretty good evidence that the Times is right, and O'Rourke is right, too.
Afterthought: O'Rourke (surprise!) does get credit for the line of the day: "Politics," he says, "is like vivisection--disturbing as a career, alarming as a hobby."