Political involvement is the key to political achievement of any kind. It’s true for both Democrats and Republicans. That’s why this week, I’m headed up to Sacramento to join the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics for the John Cerrell Sacramento Seminar in Political Leadership, a bipartisan involvement and networking program at the state capital.
As an Unruh associate, I’ve heard many young people bemoan the current state of our partisan political affairs, especially since November. Often, the qualms of polarization, ineffectuality and stagnation are valid and true. However, if you want to speak on Congress, it might benefit you to explore Congress — or any other governing body. How our legislature functions and politicians interact is certainly a more beneficial lesson to learn than how to complain about your perception of their conflict. Understanding the mechanics will work wonders when trying to understand the result.
Last week, a plethora of self-righteous conservatives and a few misguided liberals began sharing around the internet a video of Sen. Marco Rubio trashing what he considered to be the unsportsmanlike, impolite nature of senatorial relations within the chamber. He added, ignorantly, that there are some governing bodies, like those in the United Kingdom, that scream and yell at one another, and that the U.S. Senate was quickly headed to that same uncouth Armageddon of — gasp! — shouting. However, Rubio was missing something– in addition, of course, to a fantastical Republican National Convention nomination. He failed to understand how those foreign governing bodies really relate to each other and what those relations actually mean for the brunt of their national politics. While parliaments do certainly scream and yell, they also churn out twice the meaningful and productive legislation that the U.S. Congress does, and they lack the type of vitriolic partisan politics that characterizes this country. Sometimes, they even do their jobs as prescribed by national law; perhaps they would have even considered Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. They may get loud, but what Rubio didn’t realize was that their shouting was actually a more effective means of parliamentary debate than our joyous brand of not showing up to vote, and/or freezing the government when we don’t get our way. Rubio didn’t understand the U.K. and Scottish Parliaments. How many Americans truly understand our own Congress?
And as with anything, it begins locally. I still believe that anyone with a political consciousness should intern in politics at least once in their lives, be it with a politician, a lobbyist or a single-issue organization. The opportunity to embark on a program like Cerrell is meaningful in several ways — not only to open doors to a future in politics, but also to understand what that political system really entails. This might be the land of opportunity and American dreams, but high politics is often a closed-shop industry. Most constituents are on the outside looking in — and can we really know if what we see is all that accurate to what it’s like to legislate? How are these men and women thinking, what must they consider and what are the real relations between them and the other side — sans the hype of partisan media and the popular American addiction to conflict? After all, multiple national lawmakers have said that House of Cards comes closer to representing their daily toil than the reporting that is done on the results, which, to be clear, is also important. American politics might be a bit easier to affect, and to change, if most Americans and young, educated people especially sought to understand the business of lawmaking.
It’s a simple idea, but I think it could take us far. That being said, I encourage anyone interested to pursue an exploration of the bodies that govern them — what you find might surprise you.
Lily Vaughan is a sophomore majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.