The longer one works in DC, the more one gets used to things that make that city unique. Getting stuck in a car because of a protest march or a presidential motorcade is less an exciting curiosity, and more of an ire-inducing annoyance, for instance. On the personality side, one gets used to the cycle of broken promises, and outcomes that don’t match the fiery rhetoric of political leaders. But every so often, something so extraordinary happens that it gives someone a renewed sense of hope. This past week, I was privileged enough to witness a piece of history unfold right before my eyes—and I am writing because this is something I implore each of you to experience for yourselves.
On August 1, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi adjourned the US House of Representatives for its annual summer break, a five-week long vacation in which House members can go back to their districts, raise money, and do what they can to hold onto their jobs. She did this despite the fact that the House had yet to move on a host of legislative initiatives dealing with energy, the most important issue facing the American people she was elected to represent. If you’re like me, you were outraged by this possibility, but you also knew that given the record of Republican leadership in recent years, there was little that was going to be done about it.
So it was with great surprise that I found myself getting bombarded by e-mails that afternoon. “Have you heard?” they asked, “Some Republicans are snubbing Pelosi’s adjournment. They’re standing in the House chamber, talking with the lights out and the microphones silenced!” But I hadn’t heard. And why? Because the mainstream media had blacked itself out, and Speaker Pelosi had ordered C-SPAN’s cameras turned off.
I got more information from people who were going up to see this “revolt” firsthand. These members were promising to keep talking in the chamber until Pelosi reconvened Congress and moved some package of legislation that would offer meaningful and immediate help to the American people. What’s more, their numbers were growing.
This is the way a movement works. Someone makes a decision to take a stand on something—in this case, not simply leaving the chamber when the Speaker decided to ignore the needs of the citizens who elected them. To essentially defy the petty decisions of a despot, regardless of the consequences, and act. That’s the definition of leadership—and when one leads, others follow. At first there were three, four, five members. But more came. Some turned around on their way to the airport and came back, some recognized how important this is and returned here from their districts.