Can This Generation of Hill Staff Change Congress?
Every few years, significant changes take place in Congress with Members and staff.
In 1974, in the first post-Watergate election, the Democrats swept-in a large, young group of members that fundamentally changed the future of the Democratic party.
Then, Reagan’s 1980 victory ushered in a new wave of conservative activists that changed the direction of the Republican party.
The 1994 Republican wave election brought the first Republican-led House and Senate in over 40 years. Working with President Clinton, significant legislation, including the Balanced Budget Agreement, was passed with bipartisan support.
In 2006-08, Nancy Pelosi and then Barack Obama brought the Democrats back into power and controlled the White House, the House, and the Senate for a brief period. During that time, they passed landmark legislation such as the Affordable Care Act.
Behind each of these dramatic change events, groups of congressional staffers played instrumental roles in bringing about both political and policy changes. While policy outcomes can be debated, the political culture continues to worsen.
Can this generation of Hill staff change things?
Whether you are left of center or right of center, you have to admit Washington is in uncharted waters. Congress is being remade, and congressional staff have the opportunity to step up and bring change. Whether this is your first job on the Hill or you’ve been on the Hill for 10 years, this is a new era.
The list of big issues is long - Artificial Intelligence, Economic Inequality, Health Care, Trade, Immigration, Infrastructure, Foreign Alliances, Addictions, and many others – but that gives great opportunity for those who are ambitious for the right reasons.
If you want to get Congress to tackle the big issues, it takes more than just ideas. It takes strong relationships and trust. As a staffer, you can play a big role. Here are a few thoughts:
Tear down the wall that’s built up between parties. Over the past 20 years, there has been a steady erosion of not only bipartisan legislation, but bipartisan friendship as well. Start listening to those staffers down the hall that have a different viewpoint. Set up a special dinner and invite those who might never expect to be invited by you. You will learn from them and they will learn from you.
Bring in new voices. Help your boss discover new ideas from unlikely sources. Partisans on both sides have their go-to think tanks and experts that have vested interests in continuing the partisan battles. Find experts outside DC, whether they work in academia, government, industry, or non-profit advocacy groups. Find those ideas that will provide practical solutions to big problems.
Change the tone. Find ways to engage in the battle of ideas while still respecting those who differ. Be the person in your circle of friends that brings this change of tone. Extend this approach to your social media.
Be a mentor or find a mentor. Rarely does great change happen overnight. Find someone you admire who will show you the ropes. Likewise, offer your insight to someone younger and newer to the Hill. Change attitudes one person at a time.
What kind of place will Congress be in 2030? What role will you play as a staffer to make sure Congress is a better and more effective institution?
At Dome, we want to help. On Dome, you can build relationships, share ideas, find new experts, and set a tone. Share with us any thought you may have about how this generation of staff can make a difference.