Security measures divided staffers into a hierarchy of belonging. By the end of the year, new rules were in place. ID cards were to be worn on a lanyard, visible at all times; green for 24-hour access to the building (committee members and top advisers) and red for access during normal working hours only. Lobbyists quickly recognized that those with green cards were the ones worth talking to, and reception invitations were doled out accordingly. Staffs became more self-contained, more status-conscious, a result of a change not in politics but in security design. Minor changes in symbols and spaces have lasting effects.
No longer obliged to find refuge from constituents, members of Congress spent less time with one another. Staying in the office became easier, and legislators and their staff could watch House proceedings on television. C-SPAN, which had begun cable distribution three years earlier, also became a way of speaking to the voters back home—the ones members saw less and less during the typical workweek. This was the context in which Newt Gingrich, the spiritual forebear of today’s Republican Party, began to craft a narrative of American society as polarized between isolated, corrupt insiders and angry, voiceless outsiders—an image he reinforced with “extensions of remarks” addressed directly to the camera from an empty House chamber.
If the new standard for security is that it must be ready to repel another attack by people as numerous and as determined as the January 6 rioters, Capitol Hill will be more a fortress than a forum.