The spirit of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter has now infected House Democrats.
Sit on the floor.
Use the internet to complain when the speaker turns off C-SPAN cameras – as House rules require.
Never miss a local story.
Attract media attention.
Avoid lobbyists and constituents by remaining on the floor singing songs of defiance.
Bond with fellow Democrats (for some, the most unstructured time they have ever had together).
Bask in the acclaim as left-wing groups sing your praises.
Have your friends in the left-wing media spend hours solemnly taking you seriously.
And then … the Republican majority exercised its power, passed the Zika bill, turned out the lights and went home.
I spent 16 years in the minority working every day to create a majority. It led to a lot of creative tension with Democratic speakers of the House.
Dick and Lynne Cheney wrote a brilliant book, “Kings of the Hill,” about leaders who came to dominate the House. They showed that members of the minority party can creatively oppose, make noise and draw attention – as long as they remember that they are the minority.
Bob Michel of Illinois, the Republican leader while I was taking on the Democrats, often reminded me that, in the end, the majority can take away the minority’s options.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is a very smart man and a very serious planner. If Democrats come back from recess determined to create chaos, the speaker can rapidly use the power of the majority to make that a very expensive project. For instance, members can be personally fined for floor behavior that violates the rules.
Democrats should study the chapter in the Cheneys’ book on Thomas Reed, the first modern speaker. Reed, a Republican, once used the sergeant at arms to lock the members in the House chamber until he got what he wanted. He once told the Democrats that their only job was to try to become a majority. He did not want to give them any role at all in the House.
Ryan is a more reasonable and more conciliatory person than Reed was.
Still, I am sure that it will not take many days of chaos to persuade Ryan to impose order and decorum in the House chamber. Democrats need to remember that as they plan for their return in July.
Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House from 1995 to 1999. He wrote this for The Washington Post.