Observations from the Majority and the Minority
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Congressman Brown (D-Ohio) offers an informative and well written account of how the House of Representatives works, as well as an insider’s view of the rise, fall, and resurrection of the Democratic party during the years 1992 to 1996. Too many books by politicians are self-advertisements filled with vague policy proposals and inoffensive political philosophy. There is little of either here, as Brown wisely focuses for the most part on what congressional representatives do and how they do it. One of 110 new members elected in 1992, Brown takes us through the minutiae that make up a new representatives’s early weeks. Each new member is given a handbook on how to behave in the House. Specific rules govern how large a staff a new member may have (one for every 35,000 people in his or her district, up to a staff of 18). Brown describes in detail—and makes interesting—the utterly confusing process through which new members get assigned to committees and subcommittees; he shows how things get done, or don’t get done, in these committees. He highlights the necessity of regularly visiting one’s district. On one Saturday, he goes from an Eagle Scout presentation to a spaghetti dinner at a local high school. Such detail is set against the larger story of the conservative Republican triumph in Congress in 1994, led by Newt Gingrich, and the sudden loss of power by the Democrats. He traces the subsequent self-destruction of Gingrich and his followers as they try to push the country too far too fast to the right, and Clinton is easily reelected. Brown finds that Gingrich’s legacy is wide public distrust of Congress. Having demonized Congress for years, both Democrats and Republicans now must repair the damage that, in Brown’s view, Gingrich has done. While the larger story is well handled, it’s the details that make this so readable. Not for political junkies alone, but for anyone who enjoys good writing and a good story. (16 b&w photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-87338-630-2
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2000


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