In a valedictory to a long-serving member of the House who has announced his retirement, Albert Hunt includes this interesting quote in his piece at The Hill:
I interviewed Price the day after his retirement announcement. He recalled, with fondness, those salad days when he first arrived in the late 1980s.
Since then, the House, he says, “has changed in major ways: some positive, others not so much.”
The positive is that it’s a much more inclusive, diverse place, especially the Democrats: “We have become small d in that sense.”
The “not so much” is the deep polarization and emphasis on grandstanding rhetoric over legislative achievement. “When I arrived, members came to get something done; now many see the House as a platform for their own pursuits, a stepping stone.”
Price doesn’t exempt some in his own party but believes there’s “asymmetrical polarization.” When Newt Gingrich, in 1995, became the first Republican Speaker in more than 40 years, he adapted the same political guerrilla tactics that were so successful on the campaign trail to the House leadership.
It has gotten worse, Price says, with the Tea Party and Trump takeover of the GOP: “The politics of the Republican base are driving it further to the right; this no longer is a center-right party. They drove away two Speakers, and we have a much more divided chamber.”
I agree with his marking of the point of inflection in American politics as Newt Gingrich’s term as House Speaker. I also agree that there is more diversity of opinion among Democrats than among Republicans.
I disagree with any notion that this is a recent phenomenon. After all it was a century ago that, when asked if were a member of an organized political party, Will Rogers responded in the negative that he was a Democrat. And Bill Clinton’s remark about Republicans wanting to fall in line while Democrats wanted to fall in love?
I also disagree strongly with his admiration of Speaker Pelosi. If you don’t like Trump, you should not like Pelosi: one of the factors that led to Trump was Speaker Pelosi’s rejection of compromise and narrow majoritarian approach to the House.