Now the REAL Elections Can Begin

By which I mean the mad scramble for Congressional leadership positions after the general election. This is the dirty little secret that no one outside of the Beltway really knows, and the fact that most voters don’t know seriously undermines the democratic process.

Take, for example, the brouhaha over Henry Waxman’s challenging John Dingell for the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee. Why does this matter: it matters because committees are the crucibles of legislation. Legislation lives and dies in committee, and whoever controls the committee has a large say over what legislation gets to the floor and in what form it appears.

Therefore, leadership elections internal to Congress are of huge importance to public policy. Yet this process is largely opaque to the public, and the wheeling and dealing happen behind closed doors. Sure, Beltway insiders probably know what’s going on, but I would argue that most Americans don’t.

This is to their detriment and to the detriment of the entire democratic process. Internal Congressional elections are characterized much more by pure, naked political struggle than the general election, in part because actors are dealing with a much smaller set of constituents, i.e., their colleagues. And since this stuff isn’t being covered all that much in the media, and the people back home don’t know the significance of these elections, actors can get away with the secrecy.

Yet if leadership positions have a lot of influence over the eventual outcome of public policy, then how come we, the electorate, don’t get a say in who are in leadership positions? Where is the accountability?

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