Wednesday, February 11, 2009

All Hail The Dean!

John Dingell, Dean of the House of Representatives, has achieved a remarkable feat: he is now the longest-serving member in the history of the House. He has represented Dearborn and other suburbs of Detroit for 53 years and two months, since December 1955, or 19,420 days. That's a long time. He's been in office since before my parents graduated from high school. Heck, the man has been in office since before my parents started high school.

Here's some historical perspective: Dingell has been in the House almost as long as rock and roll has been a genre of music. When Elvis released "Heartbreak Hotel," Dingell was in office. When Dingell entered the House, Paul McCartney was 13. Dingell took office before Sputnik launched. He has been in the House for the entirety of the Space Age.

As for the Information Age: He entered the House long before computers. How long? When Dingell swore his first oath of office, Bill Gates was less than two months old.

He remembers the days when General Motors had 50% of the US car market. It's not really surprising that he's such a fierce defender of the Big Three.

Some would argue that this kind of longevity is a symbol of what's wrong with Congress. Talk about entrenched! But I look at it as a positive sign. The people of his district have had many, many opportunities to vote for someone else, and they haven't. In just about every area of human relationships, we consider a very-long term relationship a good thing. My grandparents were married for 67 years; that's great. Dingell must be doing something right.

While I'm on the topic of John Dingell, however, and as much as I give him props for being a public servant for so long, I also have to tweak him a bit. I do strongly disagree with his positions on the environment, and I think his efforts to protect American car companies from higher fuel efficiency standards has backfired badly. The man is not popular with environmentalists. But when some members of Greenpeace came to Michigan, he welcomed them with open arms:

Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI15) today welcomed out-of-state Greenpeace staff, as well as his constituents to his Ypsilanti Office, and thanked them for the welcome home cake they graciously brought to the office. The Congressman also presented a Michigan welcome basket to those Greenpeace staff members that have temporarily relocated to the great State of Michigan.
John Dingell was nice to the Greenpeace folks. That's nice. Greenpeace, however, did not return the favor. Two months later they made a statement:

Greenpeace today converted U.S. Rep. John Dingell’s office parking lot into a car dealership that sells the “Dingell Destroyer,” a line of cars with features the powerful Democrat supports: poor fuel efficiency, dirty fuel sources like liquid coal, and exemptions from EPA pollution standards. The group says the vehicles represent both Dingell’s empty rhetoric that keeps the House of Representatives from enacting global warming solutions and his misplaced loyalty to auto executives at the expense of the climate.

I'm sure Dingell has seen quite a bit of protests over 53 years. Democracy in action!

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