I was at a meeting over near the Hill yesterday and had a chance to wander past the throngs of people storming the halls of Congress. I had an opportunity to chat with some of them, and to listen to many others. There were several things I picked up on, and I thought I’d share them.
First, let me say that in the 10 years I have been in DC I have never seen a crowd like that trying to get access to their elected representatives. The lines to get into the House office buildings literally wrapped around the buildings like a nightclub rope line. Several of the buildings stopped letting people in, so people familiar with the HOB system were telling those turned away to go to another building, then enter the basement tunnel system to get to their representatives.
On some level it appalled me that the US Capitol was telling people they were not allowed to go inside and see their members, but the sheer volume made me understand it simply from a security perspective. I would say, however, that I did not get the sense from anyone that they would have turned violent. In fact, everyone I saw or talked to had a very sunny disposition. Given their agitation that was remarkable to me. There was no “mob rule” that escalated the anger at all.
I would not, however, say that there was no anger. There was, in fact, plenty. What really struck me about the anger, however, was its direction.
This was not a Republican crowd. This was an American crowd. The people I talked to were just as angry with the right as they were at the left. They were just as happy to disrupt the normal cycle of business in Congress for both sides. When men and women in well tailored suits walked past the crowd of people in jeans, dockers, polo shirts, and jackets, they were subject to mocking and derision without regard to what party they may belong to.
The suits, for their part, looked none to pleased. They were scowling at the crowds as they walked by, and seemed disdainful of the effort by the crowd to make their voice heard. That seemed true universally among what were clearly the DC class.
It became very clear to me that this crowd wasn’t anti-Democrat, anti-Obama, or in any way pro-Republican. It was simply anti-Washington. It was a crowd incensed at what it perceived to be the arrogance of DC. I heard time and again as people passed by, or chattered in line, the refrain that these were people happy to come remind Washington that the rest of the country is watching and demanding respect.
When I returned to my office, I saw a reference to Ramseh Ponnuru’s column in Time magazine titled “The Rebirth of the Republican Middle“. In it, Ponnuru argues that the results on Tuesday were less about party than they were about people clamoring for ideas and results. Deeds in VA clearly had no ideas. Corzine in NJ clearly had not delivered results. Hoffman in NY seemed ill-prepared for the local issues. Ponnuru argues that the lesson for Republicans is to run campaigns based on a message of specific achievable fixes for what ails us.
I assume that the upper case “R” in the title is due to a style requirement at Time magazine. I assume that because Ponnuru’s column specifically goes on to state the question of whether the GOP is too conservative or not conservative enough is really secondary. Ponnuru’s focus on ideas and solutions has no partisan stripe.
However, based on what I saw yesterday, I do believe that there is a republican wave in the sense that people feel government has gotten too big, and ignores them freely. Democrats didn’t get elected because people felt Washington was too small. They got elected because people felt that Washington, under the GOP, was unresponsive to “we the people”. The Democrats have proven that they’re no better. Now is the time for candidates to run on making government work, not simply adjusting its size.