Campaigning takes different skills than governing. New Members of Congress have all fought grueling campaigns for more than a year. They know their constituents and campaign promises but may not necessarily know much about the federal government they now run.
To address this problem, the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University hosts a three-day workshop every two years. All the newly elected members of Congress are invited to get a crash course in economics, diplomacy, and the legislative process from some of the world’s experts. From the press release:
The new members of Congress will participate in a variety of sessions, led by academics, practitioners, and current and former members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Topics will include the economy and sessions on the federal budget, American power and competitiveness, Middle East policy, communications and navigating the legislative process.
Harvard also released the names of the attendees. Notably absent from the list: Steve Daines. It remains to be seen whether Daines will follow in Rehberg’s do-nothing footsteps, but he’s off to a good start.
Even though the presenters are bipartisan, the problem extends to other Republican Members-elect. Only 10 of 33 (30%) Republicans attended, while 37 of 48 (77%) Democrats attended. Republicans might think of Harvard as an out-of-touch, liberal institution, but once elected, they should stop being anti-knowledge and anti-science. They have a country to run, after all.
(Full disclosure: I’m a student there. If I was running for office in Montana, I’d probably disavow any connection, too. 5th Generation Montanan! I might have left the state for two years, but I’m back now!)