Opinion & Analysis

A Naive Letter From Fledging House Democrats
Politicians play their linguistic shell games — and the public loses

Walter Shapiro writes that linguistic sleight of hand is a popular trick on the Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — An enduring Washington truth: When a politician uses multiple clauses in a sentence, the opening words are camouflage soon to be contradicted by what comes later.

Here are a few typical examples of this rhetorical shell game:

A House Race in North Carolina Gets Curiouser and Curiouser
Who knew the background checks for political work were so lax?

For a while it looked like Republican Mark Harris had squeaked out a win in the 9th District. But there’s something rotten in the state of North Carolina, Curtis writes. (John D. Simmons/AP file photo)

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Perhaps North Carolina’s 9th District will have a congressman by January; but maybe not.

You see, there seems to have been a mix-up in the count, distribution and collection of absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties, which make up part of the district — what the state elections board (made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and one independent) called “unfortunate activities” when it first refused to certify the results.

Washington Can’t Seem to Agree on Anything — Except Kids
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum still see early childhood education as critically important

Sen. Tim Kaine speaks during a National Head Start Association rally in 2015. Support for the program is still going strong, even as partisan rancor overtakes other policy issues, the authors write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Cal file photo)

OPINION — The intensity of this fall’s midterm election campaigns could make it easy to forget that there is one priority both political parties have consistently come together to support: early childhood education.

Despite the growing partisan divide, which seems to be worsening by the day and has left Washington unable to reach consensus on even routine items, lawmakers from across the political spectrum in Congress and the 50 states still view advancing early childhood education as a critical objective.

Capitol Ink | Poison Pills

2018 Midterms: A Missed Opportunity for Republicans
They should have been touting good economic news. Instead they drowned it out

In the final days of the campaign, Republicans kept their focus on curbing immigration, popular with the base but also controversial and divisive. That was a mistake, Winston writes. Above, members of a migrant caravan clash with Mexican riot police at the border between Mexico and Guatemala on Oct. 19. (John Moore/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — We’ve assessed the 2018 campaign that began and ended with the fight for the election narrative. Our conclusion: This was not a base election. Independents decided the outcome, breaking for Democrats by 12 points.

It was a missed opportunity.

Capitol Ink | Hurricane Mueller

George H.W. Bush Never Forgot the People’s House
From handball to coalition-building, his bipartisanship is sorely missed along Pennsylvania Avenue today

Members of the military salute as the casket of the late George H.W. Bush is carried into the Capitol to lie in state in the Rotunda on Dec. 3. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — As the tributes to President George H.W. Bush pour in, certain key words keep reappearing: Bipartisan. Gracious. Gentleman. We saw him build that legacy, one small or large act at a time.

Now we’re the president and vice-president of the Former Members of Congress (FMC). But three decades ago, Martin was a House member from Texas the entire time president Bush served first as vice president and then as president. Charles was elected to Congress from Louisiana after Bush’s political career ended; however, he has followed him closely over the years.

From Bush’s Lips to Our Ears: To Heck With Campaign Promises
His fateful tax deal should inspire us to do what’s right, not what’s re-electable

George H.W. Bush went from “no new taxes” to just the opposite. But his willingness to change course was proof of his unwavering strength, Murphy writes. (Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — There are two kinds of politicians in Washington when it’s all said and done — the kind who do what they have to do to get re-elected, and the kind who do what they believe they should do because it’s the right thing.

For all of the speeches and sound bites, the campaign ads and polling, it’s really not more complicated than that. Every decision in the capital comes back to that fundamental choice.

Capitol Ink | George H.W. Bush

Governing ‘Mandates’ Are Usually Phony. This One Is Real
By opting for a divided Congress, voters were sending a clear message

With voters embracing divided government in last month’s elections, congressional leaders have an obligation to work toward a meaningful and realistic policy agenda next Congress, Grumet writes. Above, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in October 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Over the past several election cycles, political parties, pundits and activists have proclaimed governing “mandates” based on the support of only a slim majority of voters who represent just a small fraction of the actual population. The mandate hyperbole has fueled careening and brittle policy agendas that have undermined economic progress and national cohesion.

In the recent midterms, our divided country has forcefully deprived both parties of the fantasy that they can govern without compromise. The question now is whether congressional leaders can develop a pragmatic agenda to lead a divided nation.

The Youngest Victims of the Opioid Crisis Deserve Better
Policymakers must extend services for infants beyond the first weeks of life

A new law that improves care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome is a step in the right direction, Smith writes. Above, Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, who introduced the bill, and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., a co-sponsor, put their heads together in 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — The opioid epidemic has hollowed out communities across the country and touched the lives of Americans of all ages. But we know disturbingly little about the youngest victims of this crisis: babies born with a type of opioid withdrawal called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS.

One in five pregnant women fills a prescription for opioids, and while not all their babies will be born with the syndrome, all are at an increased risk. Just how prevalent is NAS? One government fact sheet noted that more than 21,000 babies were born with it in 2012 alone, and a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the incidence of the condition spiked dramatically between 2000 and 2012. But from there the trail seems to go cold.

Representing Is Hard. Online Town Halls Can Help
We invited citizens to connect with their lawmakers. Our findings were both startling and heartening

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., conducts a town hall meeting in 2017. Lawmakers can’t possibly meet with every constituent in person — but they can turn to some of the same communication tools already in use in the private sector, the authors write. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — At the end of the movie “The Candidate,” Robert Redford’s character wins a Senate seat, and then immediately pulls aside his most trusted adviser and asks, “What do we now?” After the divisive election of 2018, we imagine that many newly elected members of Congress are pondering the same question.

Our suggestion, based on over a decade of research: Go beyond business as usual. Make special efforts to connect with your constituents, not just interest groups and your most vocal supporters. These interactions can’t simply be infomercials, but must offer genuine, two-way engagement.

Not Even Lame Duckery Can Break the Lockstep of the GOP
It is hard to find evidence that congressional Republicans feel chastened by the midterm verdict

Defeat left Rep. Mia Love feeling “unleashed.” If only other lame-duck Republicans felt the same, Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — In theory (and the emphasis here is on the word “theory”), the lame-duck session of Congress after a cataclysmic midterm election should be a fruitful time for bipartisanship.

With nearly 90 members of the House and eight senators not returning for the 116th Congress, old rigidities might give way to last-gasp attempts at legislating. The nothing-left-to-lose freedom of the defeated was best expressed by Mia Love, who said at her concession news conference, “Now, I am unleashed, I am untethered and I am unshackled, and I can say exactly what’s on my mind.”

Capitol Ink | I Have Returned

After This Election, the NRA Is No Longer Calling All the Shots
The politics of guns may be changing — slowly

With her victory in a suburban Atlanta district once represented by Newt Gingrich, Georgia Democrat Lucy McBath shows us a nuanced position on guns is no longer a deal breaker, Curtis writes. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images file photo)

OPINION — The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It’s the mantra of the National Rifle Association, and a certainty for those who would brook no incursion into Second Amendment rights and definitely no gun control measures, no matter how small or “sensible,” as they are often described by those who propose them.

When children were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, and federal legislation that would strengthen background checks went nowhere, gun control advocates despaired. If the murder of children failed to crack the gun lobby, what would?