Back in July, I moved across the country to find a job in DC. Though still searching, I have spent my days in the classroom of life: learning how Congress runs, learning to get around DC, learning how much I still have to learn.
Here a few things I didn’t know before coming here–
1) The world is full of one-issue activists, and by definition they are not seeing the full picture.
There are many in Washington, and even more on the internet, who see politics only through the lens of one thing — be it world poverty, gun rights, abortion or another hot-button issue. What’s usually missing among these activists (and the organizations that feed them) is any serious consideration of the other side.
For example, The ONE Campaign regularly sends its members e-mails telling them to petition (insert government entity here) to increase foreign aid dollars. When a report is released about the effectiveness of our foreign aid spent, ONE members are not notified. Which leads us to…
2) Americans’ good desire to “make a difference” politically is being misused by all sorts of organizations.
Recently, Congressional offices across Capitol Hill received large boxes filled with about 4,000 sheets of pink paper – each containing the same pre-printed message along with a person’s name and address. After a bit of searching I found out this was a campaign from a conservative website, charging people $29.95 to send a “pink slip” to every member of Congress. Cute idea, Congress is fired, I get it.
One problem: after sorting through those 4,000+ pink slips, only three were people in our Congressional district. Legitimately, this office serves only the people within its district, who voted the Representative into Congress. Maybe it’s not intentional, but this website is using a bogus “campaign” to profit from conservative activists. This is no isolated incident either.
3) Being the minority party under a liberal supermajority is a daunting, thankless challenge.
The Ring of Power... currently worn by Democrats in Congress
As a marketer in a sea of political science and government majors, I am at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding political systems and procedures. But one thing I quickly picked up: the Rules Committee is vitally important in the House of Representatives. Republicans could write all sorts of great bills… but if they can’t get it past the Democrat-controlled Rules Committee, it will just sit there.
House and Senate Republicans are in such a minority that the party has become one big PR effort. It’s all they can do, considering the vast power Democrats in Congress hold. When most legislation hitting the House floor reflects only different shades of liberal ideals, Republicans either become The Party of No or they compromise their core beliefs. One-party rule does not produce good results.
4) The post office really is poorly run.
So I got a PO Box. After all the bad press the USPS has gotten, you’d think the National Post Office — just one block from the Capitol Building — would try to reflect some sort of best practices, right?
I wish. Never before have I seen such wait lines and mis- management. And never have I gone in to check mail when the line wasn’t there. When I have to pick up a package, I usually have long talks with others in line. And yes, the observation “Imagine health care like this” always makes it into our conversation.
So there you have it, four lessons. Thoughts?