Heck is a member of the House Intelligence Committee and was part of both the closed-door testimony and the public impeachment hearings. Which means he had a front-row seat at the first phase of the impeachment proceedings. And what he saw depressed him. Deeply.
And his diagnosis of what’s wrong with Congress — and politics more generally — is dead on.
Heck is right that Trump didn’t create our current polarized country and our increasingly heightened rhetoric. (Trump did, however, lean into our polarization for his own political benefit.) And he’s really right — if that’s a thing — about how social media, not to mention book sales, TV ratings, page views and virtually everything else, rewards outlandish, extreme statements rather than attempts to find common or middle ground.
And voters have reacted in kind. While they often say they want leaders in their parties to work with the other side, the practical reality is that compromise is understood as capitulation by the bases of both parties. There is not only no political incentive to work together, there is a disincentive to do so — it’s likely to draw you a primary opponent who casts you as insufficiently loyal to the principles of the party.
Politicians, being reactive creatures by nature, do what they believe gives them the ability to get reelected: Stay in a pack and avoid taking literally any risks — like working with someone who believes differently.
What Heck is saying in his powerful retirement announcement is that getting reelected by strictly adhering to the demands of increasingly partisan party bases just isn’t worth it. That for people who came to Washington to try and get things done, it’s a miserable place to be.
The Point: Heck’s point isn’t a partisan one. Which is the whole point.