You have heard about clout, haven’t you? Well, for the next few years you’ll have to be content just reading about it. You certainly aren’t going to experience many of its effects in the Hoosier state.
The state’s delegation to Capitol Hill will be its least experienced in many years, former longtime Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton said in a recent interview. In addition to the loss of Republican Richard Lugar after 36 years in Washington, last week’s election results means that seven of our nine House members will be in their first or second terms. The state in all has lost 78 years of congressional experience.
And that, Hamilton reminds us, means less seniority, which means less clout, which, alas, means fewer handouts from the federal goody bag.
If this were still a sane world, with Washington having its proper place on the power grid, clout wouldn’t matter. Our representatives and senators would do what’s right because they worked for the national interest, and voters would reward those who best looked out for the whole country. Our elected officials would not be rewarded merely by how well they handled “constituent services,” i.e. government programs to fit each and every need.
But sanity left the process a long time ago. The fact that clout matters so much that it gets major press attention is a sign of how monstrously Washington has grown. If Washington were to be diminished in importance, its favors would matter less, and clout would be a wasted commodity.
But how exactly can that be brought about? Which state is going to be the first to voluntarily and unilaterally give up its federal package in order to tame the nation’s capitol? That won’t mean less money is being spent – the 49 other states will just have more money to share. Which politician do we expect to propose such a boycott of the system when all he’s likely to get for it is unelected?
Hamilton in his interview tries to make the best of our lack of clout by noting that what we’ve lost in seniority, we will gain in “new energy, new people, new perspectives.” But all that newness won’t do our delegation any good as they vie for the good committee assignments they will never get. Seniority is the biggest factor in the pecking order for the choice assignments – you know, the ones that pass out the most goodies.
But don’t despair. All we have to do is keep sending the same people back, and pretty soon we’ll have our clout built back up.
Nothing to it. The national interest? Oh, who cares about that?