Thought Experiment: Congressional Entropy
Congressional candidate (NC-2) Clay Aiken’s eyes popped wide open in epiphany. You could almost see the light bulb over his head, as the American Idol runner-up caught a drift of the counterintuitive and fanciful deftness of the idea we were discussing. More on his telling reaction later.
The idea is magic, in that it’s transformative and incredibly illustrative – and fanciful in that it’s never going to happen. So what is it?
Congressional entropy is a "reverse seniority" way of determining congressional leadership. In other words, once first elected to Congress, you start out in leadership – and you get less power each cycle that you return. You might call it a "juniority" system.
Entropy is the first law of thermodynamics, stating that the universe moves naturally from order to disorder. It is the constant state of Washington. People devolve in that burg, and as they decay, they get more power and more influence and more money. Bass. Ackwards.
The entropy idea is based on the self-evident maxim that people tend to get dumber the longer they stay hang out inside the Beltway. Certainly, at a minimum, they become less familiar with a country they deign to rule. Think John Boehner. The Ohioan went from being a co-author of the “Contract with America” in 1994 – when he was just two years removed from being a businessman – to co-authoring the big-government boondoggle “No Child Left Behind” in 2004. That’s quite a slippage in just ten years.
And he’s been slipping ever since. With time, he gets worse. They all do. Washington is an isolated bubble, and the players are concerned only with their part in the soap opera and power game that is Washington – as shown brilliantly by the Netflix series House of Cards. There is no concern in that series for whether or not a piece of legislation will actually work. There is no concern for whether it’s good for constituents, outside powerful well-funded groups. Without fear of contradiction, I posit that this is art imitating Washington.
As for Aiken, he and I were speakers, along with the chair of the NC GOP, at a conservative gathering organized by Frank Roche – the challenger who lost to establishment pawn Renee Ellmers in a heated primary that drew national attention in the spring. Aiken will face Ellmers in the fall. Give him credit for showing up at the enemy’s camp. Ellmers probably will not.
One of his talking points – which overall were philosophically incoherent – was that “people go to Washington and think they know it all. They don’t want to listen.” He said it twice, in fact. He was well-meaning, but dreadfully off base. In a chat afterwards, we discussed the reverse seniority idea – and I told him people were at their best when they first get to Washington, and it’s downhill from there.
He laughed and asked, “But…but…why would anyone want to stay there?”
In an instant, he got it. Oh, it will never happen – obviously – but it does drive home a powerful point. Once anyone thinks about it for just a second, he'll understand.
Washington is an industry, a career path, and an isolated island. It is everything it was designed not to become. It is upside-down, and the only way we rubes out here in the hinterlands can survive it is to somehow dramatically turn it right-side up. Totally.
To do so, we must message with boldness, humor, counter-intuitive big ideas, and instantly understandable analogies. Big ideas, not policy technicalities, are what animate. The notions of limited government and unlimited liberty are big ideas. ObamaCare is unlimited government and a lot of small ideas turned into strangling regulations. Dramatic contrast is our friend, a concept foreign to the feckless GOP consultant class.
Thankfully we have people like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul – who don’t feel the need to play Mitch McConnell’s parlor game for 20 years before they can make a difference.
In fact, their impact enhances my entropy notion. They came to town with a pretty darned good idea what was wrong. They have taken leadership instead of waiting for it to be bestowed upon them. They have defied McConnell, McCain, Graham – and the Republican wizard elites.
But the clock is ticking. They’re decaying as we speak. Congressional entropy: an idea where the magic is in the idea itself – and all that it speaks to – even without implementation.