As Georgetown University’s Matt Glassman put it last week in an instructive Twitter thread on congressional retirements “the fun and interesting things are becoming a much smaller part of the job, while the tedious and soul-crushing aspects are increasingly occupying members’ time.” In earlier eras, Glassman wrote, “most members participated substantively in the policy process via the committee system. But the process is now tightly controlled by leadership, reducing opportunities for members to influence legislation.”
Glassman wasn’t talking only about Republican retirements, but it seems to be a particularly acute problem for the GOP. Certainly, it’s a complaint I have heard frequently when talking privately to lawmakers and their staffers. And sometimes, as in the case of rabble-rousers like Rep. Thomas Massie (R–Ky.) or Justin Amash (I–Mich.), they even say it in public.
The point isn’t that being a member of Congress is supposed to be fun or entertaining; sometimes serving the public is frustrating and involves hard work. But it should be productive, and the combination of Trump, who seems to go out of his way to transform every political discussion into a forum on his dubious personal merits, and the centralization of legislative power by Republican leadership, means that GOP elected officials have little to do except raise money and defend a man that many of them despise.