The United States House of Representatives is one of the most universally detested and despised body of lawmakers in existence. Their approval rating is generally only just in the double digits, and most citizens would sooner trust used car salesmen. A 2013 survey ranked congress south of head lice, root canals, and colonoscopies.
Much of this bad reputation is undeserved. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to remember why this is so.
Take this Russia thing, for example. A lot of Democrats were only too delighted to see Flynn resign over alleged ties to Moscow, and the target for today is A.G. Sessions. Which is fair enough; he’s an opposition politician, after all, and this is just politics as usual.
But attacking him is a dumb move, and pushing Russia and the election as a scandal is a dumber one.
Right now, I could give you a detailed explanation about how Jeff Sessions isn’t guilty of perjury. We could explore common misperceptions of the law and lying versus making an honest mistake or a misleading answer. But I’m not going to bother; the emptiness of the legal argument has nothing whatsoever to do with whether this is good political tactics. (If you’re curious, you can find an explanation in the opening paragraphs of the Wikipedia article on perjury.)
Instead, let’s consider: If there were compelling evidence that then-Candidate Donald Trump had actively colluded with a foreign government or even paid hackers personally for the phished Podesta emails, we’d know by now. We’d have seen an indictment months ago, and the Trump presidency would have ended before it began — rightly so. But, given that this did not happen during the closing days of the Obama administration, I think we can say with a fair amount of certainty that no such collusion existed — or, if it did, that there’s not enough evidence to convict anyone, and probably never will be. If you’re hoping to see Donald Trump imprisoned for treason, you’re going to be disappointed.
But Congress is going to make the attempt anyway, and if they can’t actually try Trump they’ll settle for investigating every vulnerable member of his cabinet and staff. After all, there’s only just so many days left in the Congressional schedule this year; every day taken up by investigations is one fewer that will be spent reviewing laws or passing bills. Plus it gives these vain old birds the chance to preen in the media spotlights, and it’s a rare congressman who’ll pass that up.
The trouble is, even if they succeed in their aims and can force cabinet members to resign, it won’t accomplish enough to be worthwhile. Oh, they’ll definitely clog up the legislative schedule, but all that will do is ensure that, for yet another year, we won’t have a budget debate or any new legislation. And that makes Congress look petty and ineffective — which of course is exactly what they will be. Talk about killing your own re-election chances.
The other aspect to remember here is that Donald Trump got elected in the first place. He’s an outsider, and that fact alone drew vast support. You may also recall the surprising campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who very nearly defeated the anointed Democratic champion in the primaries — because he too is an outsider. This tells me (as though there were any doubt) that a large number of Americans view career politicians with distrust, which will lead them to continue to support anti-establishment candidates.
Unless this changes, four years from now we’re going to see not the great hope for the future we’re dreaming about but instead yet another unqualified or inexperienced celebrity candidate in the White House. We won’t choose a brilliant lawmaker, a policy guru, or a Nobel Prize-winning economist; instead, we’ll elect yet another television actor or talk show host.
And then Congress can do this same obstruction dance all over again. Because no matter how unblemished the candidate, there’s always another Russia.