[This review was published in the October 1992 issue of Conservative Review, p. 45.]
By M. Luisa Michael
: 1991 Portland, Oregon
††††††††††† One of the pressing issues before the country is the imperative need to reform our Congress, and particularly the House of Representatives.† There is by now a vast literature telling how the House, say, has long-since ceased being a body of representative citizens who come from the people and return to the people.† Instead, with a few notable exceptions such as Representative Phil Crane, it has become a nest of professional politicians serving self and the special interests.
††††††††††† Michaelís book is a timely and valuable contribution to that literature.† It seeks not to be a technical manual on proposals for reform, but to speak the language of the ordinary American in telling the story of the increasing venality in the House.† Halcyon House (
P.O. Box 8795, Portland, Oregon 97207-8795), a publisher primarily of books on the need to resurrect American education, is to be congratulated for adding this book to its list.
Cynicism Versus Constructive Concern
††††††††††† One of the cancers in the American body politic is the cynicism that most Americans feel toward their institutions.† We recall how in Mein Kampf Hitler gloated over the inanities of the Austrian parliament, commenting on many things that are similar to the behavior that is to be seen today in our Congress.† This lesson in history tells us how dangerous it is for a people to become thoroughly disillusioned with the institutions of a free society.† It would be arguable that Michaelís book, pointing to the venality that exists in one of them, adds to that cynicism.
††††††††††† This, however, would be a serious mistake.† There is a vast difference between the sort of cynicism that inspired Hitler and that the Left and our media have poured over American institutions since the advent of the New Left, on the one hand, and a wholesome concern about the degradation of those institutions when that concern is born out of a desire to make them what they should be, on the other.† Michaelís is not the voice of cynicism, but of one of those who seek a reaffirmation.
A World of Images
††††††††††† In a series of hard-hitting chapters that draw on her own extensive observations and from the accumulated literature, Michael tells about how the general publicís unawareness of what is going on sustains a Congressional way-of-life that makes a mockery of the Founding Fathersí intentions.† In the world of pork-barrel, it has become ďwho you know, who you can make a deal with.Ē† It is a world of images, of 30-second sound bites, where the idealistic burn out and fade away while most of those who remain allow themselves to become part of a system of crass power and slick self-service.† It is a world where the elected representative becomes a hollow man, for whom unelected staff members write the speeches, select the committee witnesses, author the legislation, and even suggest the questions that the Member of Congress asks at hearings.
††††††††††† No doubt the technical literature on Congressional reform goes farther than this book, exploring the many nuances of campaign finance reform, term-limitation, etc.† Michaelís book, written for the layman, is an ideal introduction to this literature.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Dwight D. Murphey†