The longest-serving member of Congress recalls a time when government worked for the people.
In a feisty memoir, Michigan representative Dingell (b. 1926), a Democrat, looks back at nearly six decades of public service, recounting some of his proudest accomplishments, toughest fights, and the regrettable transformation of Congress from “largely a place of comity and mutual respect across the aisle” to a rancorous, partisan body reflecting the “cancer of cynicism eating away at our country” under a president unfit for office. Half of the memoir celebrates the career of the author’s father, a congressman who championed social justice and economic fairness. When John Dingell Sr. died in 1955, his son was persuaded to run for his seat; at the age of 29, he won a special election. Serving with 11 presidents and 10 Speakers of the House and casting more than 25,000 votes, Dingell saw Congress pass bipartisan clean-air amendments, the Affordable Care Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Endangered Species Act. He also witnessed the rise of the tea party, which populated the House of Representatives with Republicans who had run “against the very idea of the federal government.” Now retired, he watches in frustration as “Republi-cons work overtime to destroy all we’ve achieved and more,” apparently intent “on driving things backward, to return to an America that was less clean, less safe, less fair.” To counter the “rogue president” and his supporters who, “like lemmings, will follow him over any cliff,” Dingell advises “courage and constant vigilance.” Though it may take decades to restore civility, economic justice, and governmental integrity, he offers some concrete suggestions for achieving those goals: full participation in the electoral system, elimination of money in campaigns, the protection of an independent press, and, most drastically, “the end of minority rule in our legislative and executive branches.” With no prospect of eliminating the Electoral College, Dingell advocates a grass-roots movement aimed at abolishing the Senate by combining the two chambers into one.
A hard-hitting critique of a nation “in mortal peril.”