Congress gridlocked? Been there, done that.

October 2, 2013
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

The public has soured big-time on Congress these days, with polls showing most people blaming Republicans for the gridlock and government shutdown.

“The Congress of the United States is in deep trouble,” one eminent columnist wrote, and “more than ever before, the public attitude toward Congress is a mixture of indifference, amusement, and contempt. … The reputation of Congress is … ‘lower than a snake’s belly.’” “Never before in history,” he wrote, “has Congress talked so long to accomplish so little. …”

That was Saturday Evening Post columnist Stewart Alsop, writing in a 1963 column which was unearthed last month by the bi-monthly magazine’s archivist, Jeff Nilsson.  A small group of Southern Democratic senators dominated Congress, Alsop wrote, and could block bills from even coming to a vote.

The main cause of the gridlock 50 years ago was, of course, over President Kennedy’s proposed civil rights legislation to desegregate schools and businesses and to end suppression of black voters, Alsop observed.

Alsop quoted liberal Minnesota Democratic Sen. Hubert Humphrey as blaming follow liberals for allowing that state of affairs. “After all politics is just the way you spell power, but liberals think power is sinful.”

Alsop also cited another liberal lawmaker as agreeing with Humphrey:”Power is like sex,” the unidentified lawmaker said, “If you think it’s sinful, you don’t enjoy it and you’re not much good at it.”

On a more somber note, Alsop opined that “When the citizens of a democracy begin to hold their legislature in contempt, democracy is itself in danger.”

Well, we’ve been hanging in there for a long time. Remember Harry Truman’s “Do Nothing Congress?”

 

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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