WATCH: Effective Lawmaking: A Cornerstone of Democracy
On Friday, October 20, 2023, the Center for Effective Lawmaking (CEL) held a presentation titled “Effective Lawmaking: A Cornerstone of Democracy” as part of our “Conversations with Effective Lawmakers” Series and the Karsh Institute’s “Democracy360” event, a three-day series that brought together thought leaders, journalists, policymakers, scholars, activists, artists, and students in Charlottesville, VA, to explore collectively how to shape a thriving democratic future. CEL co-directors, Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman, moderated a discussion panel featuring former U.S. House Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and former U.S. House Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), two highly effective lawmakers during their times in the U.S. Congress, for a conversation about lawmaking and its critical role in preserving American democracy.
During the conversation, Representatives Roskam and Pomeroy explained what factors contributed to their decisions to run for public office; they discussed their personal experiences in Congress, and they offered guidance on how best to become an effective lawmaker. Both former members agreed that many newly-elected members of Congress might find Congress, at first glance, to be an overwhelming place, and that it is quite easy for representatives to find themselves pulled in multiple and competing directions. Rep. Pomeroy identified two key factors that contributed to his success: being willing to work with anybody to achieve your shared goals, and maintaining focus on the issues that are most important to you and your constituents. Rep. Roskam echoed much of what Rep. Pomeroy said, and he emphasized the importance of learning to rely on others, appreciating the value of your words, and the necessity of acting with humility. Both representatives emphasized how being willing to work across the aisle is a key to lawmaking effectiveness; and that for American democracy to function, there must be lawmakers who provide for their constituents and earnestly attempt to collaborate with their peers.
Both panelists also tackled some of Congress’s current challenges, including the potential impending government shutdown, and the contentious race for the vacant House speakership. While they had different degrees of confidence regarding paths forward in resolving these matters, they both agreed that we are witnessing unprecedented times that require lawmakers and constituents alike to raise their voices in favor of democracy in order to combat current trends that might lead us towards authoritarianism. “These are real rapids [right now],” Roskam said, “but we’ll get to calmer waters…”
The Center is incredibly thankful to Rep. Roskam and Rep. Pomeroy for their time and thoughtful observations, and to all those who made this event possible.
To view the full discussion, see the video below:
CEL Fall Intern Wyatt Dayhoff contributed to this post.