With all due respect to the people running for Congress from the Washington area, it must be said none of them could be elected dog-catcher anywhere else in the U.S.A. Not that they aren't fine folks, one and all. But they are going about it all wrong.
Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, men, women, liberal or conservative, everyone seeking office from this area has one thing in common. They love bureaucrats. Just can't get enough of them. Wish there were more, not less, and wish private enterprise wouldn't stick its nose in government business so often. Reason: What is lard in most places is the fact political bacon here. Remember there are 450,000 U.S. voters in the District of Columbia, nearby Maryland and Virginia. Tick them off and they have to go back to lawyering, teaching school, clipping coupons or whatever they do or did.
Because of the peculiar electoral makeup of greater Washington, our politics have an Alice-In-wonderland quality when viewed from the outside. What passes for good here is damn-near insanity, if not treason, in Sun City or Des Moines. What passes for reality here is fantastic and freaky in the real America, which begins beyond the Capital Beltway.
Can you imagine telling a crowd of unemployed auto workers in Detroit that $50,000 a year U.S. executives are underpaid? Or that a 9.1 percent raise is an insult?
Can you imagine escaping (without a tar and feather suit) from the Houston Kiwanis Club if you said that contracting out government work to the private sector is wasteful and a leading cause of unemployment?
Would you dare tell the Grange in Olaf, Kan., that civil service reform ought to be repealed because it makes it easier to fire federal workers, or that merit pay for government supervisors is dangerous? Try that and they would put you on, or under, the first stage leaving town.
Newly elected members of Congress from Iowa and Wisconsin have been known to weep, or threaten to jump from the Washington Monument when assigned to the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. Outside of Washington it lacks the prestige of the Judiciary Committee, the clout of Ways and Means, the political benefits of Education and Labor or the exotic ring of the Foreign Affairs committee. But for Washington area politicians, their entire career is spent getting on the committee or -- if they pick another -- explaining why they aren't on the dull-sounding unit that handles federal fringes and other U.S. personnel matters.
Some western politicians would rather have the open endorsement of the Mafia than the support of a government workers union. Yet here the latter is a must.
In Jackson, Tenn., you could pile the audience for a "debate" on government job classification standards in a telephone booth. But here that topic will draw a crowd. Local politicians will endure rubber chicken dinners, and ear-bending by disgruntled GS 8 constitutents for a chance to speak to the Society of Federal Widget Testers. Washington area legislators, no matter their personal charms, often are considered a trifle whacko by their colleagues from other states. Especially when the locals suggest banning VIP parking at National and Dulles airports. Or when they propose that congress forego its pay raise so undernourished nonelected federal officials can have their share.
If they value they good will of their peers in congress, it is a wonder anybody here runs for Congress. Going against the grain all the time can't be easy or fun.