Excitement and Lack Thereof in the Senate Chambers

by Zivah Solomon

 

The CPLA trip to Washington, D.C. in October was full of incredible meetings, discussions, selfies and oh so many Uber rides. But there was one moment that some (arguably, me) considered one of the most exciting moments of the entire trip.

Following the ten-hour overnight Amtrak ride from Boston to D.C., one of the excursions on the group’s first full day in the District was visiting both the House and Senate Galleries on Capitol Hill. After impromptu visits to obtain the gallery passes in the Longworth Building (where the most recent Benghazi hearing was taking place), we ventured into the rounds of security for the Senate Chambers. After becoming experts in efficiently passing through security clearance- I even considered requesting it as self directed academic minor- we made it to the doors of the Senate. Entering a Congressional Gallery as someone who is politically inclined is the equivalent of standing right in front of the Hollywood red carpet- expressly prohibited and without record (besides this article).

We sat ourselves quietly and proceeded to observe the less than a handful of senators chatting and sitting on the Senate floors. Some of us took out our helpful gallery maps and tried to see if any of our favorite senators were present while others sat quietly, whispering occasionally. There was discussion of how incredible it would be see senators from our respective home states, who we admired, and who we reviled.

One of the clerks was calling various names for a vote. Whenever she called a name we recognized our eyes would shoot toward the doors, but barely anyone walked in. C-SPAN and political publications do not lie about the emptiness of Congressional chambers on a daily basis. There were maybe twenty people in the Senate Chamber, including clerks and pages.

Suddenly, on the opposite side of the Chamber, two pages opened the doors and in walked Senator Bernie Sanders looking particularly rushed and harried. After about five minutes of quiet and patient observation, nearly everyone in the Senate Gallery was whispering excitedly. Not ten seconds following, in came Senator John McCain, former Republican presidential candidate and famous user of the word “maverick.” He proceeded to call out to Sanders, and then they fist bumped and hugged in the middle of the Senate Chamber. Is this what democracy looks like? I can only hope this what democracy looks like.