Billy: "Do what you can, have fun with what you are doing for as long as you can, and don't let the place screw you up too bad."
These comments all read like people looking for a forum to bash the new congressman over a bunch of ignorant crap because they (the commentators) are probably out of step with the rest of the electorate in the district who sent Billy to DC because they felt he represented their views on the direction of government and what a congressman is supposed to be.Here is a link to the newspaper story on Long in yesterday's Springfield News-Leader: A year later Long still fed up
Admittedly, Congressman Long does not come off as a flaming intellect or a policy WONK, but if the voters wanted that, they would have voted for Gary Nodler; if they had wanted an establishment guy, they would have voted for Goodman; if they wanted a tea-partyin' fair taxin' true believer, they would have voted for Mike Moon or whatever; if they wanted a 21st century JFK/TR/Abe Lincoln type, they would have voted for Jeff Wisdom. If they wanted to vote against the establishment, they would have voted for Ekersly. If they wanted the Obama agenda, they would have voted for Monroe three years ago. They didn't.
I am not entirely thrilled with Billy Long as a congressman, frankly I think he is a little bit goofy and homey and makes the area look like Dogpatch, but I know enough about politics to realize that he is doing EXACTLY what the voters here in the Ozarks wanted him to do and be EXACTLY what they want him to be. This area likes a slightly dumb sounding, 'countrified', hick, rube, self-made millionaire as their congressman. Billy Long, Mel Hancock, Gene Taylor, Charlie Brown, Doc Hall--all were much brighter than any of their detractors ever gave them credit for, but they all fit that persona. (The only area congressman that didn't fit that profile was Roy Blunt, but what can I say, money, party backing, and connections can still trump conventional wisdom in politics.)
Before you dismiss my comment as an unabashed defense of Billy Long (it's not intended as such) let me state that I think there is another lesson or story in this article that deserves amplification.
I've read a couple of stories like these in other cities, one about a new congressman who is trying to be the next Abe Lincoln/JFK, but is making no headway and is just spinning his wheels. This seems to be a sort of 'formula story' about a town's freshman congressman's first year in DC. Billy isn't trying to set the capitol on fire with his political skills and erudite oratory, but the same story comes through: a picture of a freshman congressman who is basically irrelevant except as a seat warmer and safe vote for party upper classmen, regardless of what they hope to accomplish, but they are generally well liked by their party collegues and their state caucus. All of these articles paint the same picture: Freshmen congressmen are all but entirely irrelevant. The real policy is made by people that have been there a decade or two or three, and nothing of the message that the voters were trying to send in 2010 will probably have any real influence for ten years. In the mean time, the press reports puff pieces like this on your local congressman so you can have a warm spot in your heart for the Federal Government.
What I get out of this article is that Billy if 56. He won't have any significant influence until he's probably 70 or 75, say 2025, about the same timeframe that Social Security and Medicare are projected to go totally and irreversably T-U. The country voted in 86 new congressman, all individually irrelevant, and the Washington establishment has just yawned and gone on as business as usual. In a way, I feel like we voted, and Washington just gave us the finger.
Gene Taylor was sent to DC to be a good old boy and peddle Republican political influence in a democratic state, and he did that very well. By 1988, the voters around here were fed up with DC and sent Mel Hancock to say we were simply not going to participate anymore by voting no on everything and setting a self imposed term limit. He didn't actually accomplish anything, but he sent a message to DC that this area was dissatisfied with the direction government had taken at the time. He did that very well, and the direction of government, I think, has changed in some part because of Mel Hancock (despite the fact that you can't really cite any significant direct legislative accomplishment). By the time Roy Blunt rolled around, the voters were interested in having somebody in leadership, and Roy Blunt did that (possibly with questionable methods and unintended consequences). The voters that sent Billy Long to DC want him to continue the change in direction of government started by Mel Hancock, but they want some general business sense to begin to be applied to government.
What this article tells me is that that is not going to happen. He can go there and vote the party line, but he's probably not going t
o have any real influence, he's not going to make leadership, so it doesn't make sense for him to even try, and its probably only a matter of time before he gets sucked into the entire system.
All I want to say to Billy is "Do what you can, have fun with what you are doing for as long as you can, and don't let that place screw you up too bad."
Here is a link to the Busplunge post Billy's still fed up.