Monday, May 12, 2014

Blog CLXIV (164): History in Congress

A few days ago the National Coalition for History, which is a lobbyist organization in Washington, D.C. funded by a number of scholarly organizations, announced that its efforts to create a Congressional History Caucus had finally resulted in the creation of that organization. Two Republicans and two Democrats in the House of Representatives agreed to serve as the leadership of this organization. The purpose of the new caucus is to celebrate the past of the United States and use historical knowledge to make better legislation. The four congressmen state that a passion for history should cross partisan and ideological divides.

Sounds really good, right.?

Yes, of course, it does, but I am not sure it really matters.

A caucus is a group of members in the United States Congress that share common interests of one sort or another. Sometimes they are divided along partisan lines, sometimes they are bipartisan. Some are limited to members of only one branch of the Congress, some include members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congressional History Caucus is currently limited to members of the House of Representatives. There is talk of creating another one in the Senate.

I do not have a problem with this new caucus. I am just not sure it will matter. There are currently 312 caucuses that members of the House can join. Some of them are serious and powerful. For examples, see the Congressional Black Caucus or the Republican Study Committee. Others make you wonder. These are the likes of Congressional Friends of Scotland Caucus or the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. Some seem like social organizations. The Congressional Baseball Caucus and the Congressional Boating Caucus come immediately to mind. Oddball organizations are not particularly new. In 1949 House Republicans formed the Chowder and Marching Society, which was part political and part social. The two most famous members were Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Here is the current list of caucuses in the House.

Now historians have their own caucus. Do not be surprised if it has little direct or indirect impact on your career.

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