Serving in Congress is actually a sort of crummy life: You live in a small apartment, you spend most of your time missing your family, you're constantly in airports, and when you do get home you barely have time to see your kids because you're running to meet with constituents. It's a grind. And -- this is where kids and adults alike overestimate politicians -- you're not that important. No one cares about the speech you just gave or the amendments you just proposed. The media generally doesn't pay attention unless you become part of a controversy, or say something dumb. You have to do what your leadership tells you. You get yelled at a lot.He might have added: and a lot of people think that, because the Congresssperson is a Congressperson, the voter (or even the non-voter) can treat him like dirt: you can yell at him, lace him in an aura of withering contempt, make it clear you think he is a crook and a lackey, but also your lackey. Hard to keep up a good attitude under that kind of strain.
Ezra also says that Congresspeople are actually much nicer, more hard working, more public spirited than we give them credit for being. I suppose that almost has to be true because we start from such a low benchmark. Still, I wouldn't get too carried away with it. The fact is that for many Congresspeople, granted all that Ezra said above, this is still the best job they ever had or expect to have, their ticket out of something to something. In the nature of things, it is hardly surprising that we get a lot of fairly empty strivers.
[Just for the record, I'd say from what I read (I never heard of her until she got shot) I'd say that Gabby Giffords is about as far as you can get from "empty striver." She sounds like one Congressperson I'd actually like to get to know. What a waste. Even if she makes a perfect recovery, what a waste.]