Welcome to DOMEocracy Blog by John Lawrence

by John Lawrence

Welcome to DOMEocracy, a new blog on American politics with a strong focus on Capitol Hill.

February 4, 2013: For the first time in 38 years, I am not an employee of the United States House of Representatives.  Last Friday, I concluded nearly 8 years serving as chief of staff to Speaker (and Democratic Leader) Nancy Pelosi; for 30 preceding years, my employer was Congressman George Miller (D-CA), whom I served as chief of staff, and as staff director of the two House Committees he led — the Committee on Natural Resources, and the Committee on Education and Labor.

Throughout my long career in the Congress (I was, upon retirement, the longest current serving House staff person), I was deeply involved in a broad variety of public policy and political issues, helping to write legislation in such varied areas as child and family policy, budget reform, energy, natural resources, labor safety and worker compensation, health care, and education.  I helped lead investigations into abuses in the foster care system, mistreatment of children in group homes, underpayment of oil and gas royalties to federal taxpayers, evasion of federal water laws, exposure of thousands of workers to asbestos hazards, misuse of federal agricultural marketing orders, and Dickensian exploitation of garment workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S territory.

In the Speaker/Leader’s office, I was deeply involved in developing the message and strategy that won back control of the House for Democrats in 2006 and then produced two of the most legislatively significant Congresses of the modern era — one under a Republican President, and one under a Democratic President.  In this Leadership role, my responsibilities included close coordination with Senate colleagues and the top staff at the White House as we passed House Democrats’ “Six for ’06” reform agenda, addressed the 2008-2009 fiscal crisis, enacted historic health care reform in 2010, and faced innumerable other challenges during the New Direction Congress of 2009-2011.

To these experiences, I brought not only decades of congressional experience, but the perspective of a trained historian who earned a Ph.D. in American history at the University of California at Berkeley.  The training in historical background and analysis often proved invaluable as I engaged in, and observed, history-changing moments in our recent national experience.

These perspectives will serve as the background for this new blog — DOMEocracy — which will review and assess national politics with a special focus on the Congress, our national history, and most important, the realism born of nearly 40 years in the world of pragmatic, hard-nosed politics.  This is not a blog for those who are preoccupied with the ideal or who are contemptuous of the political system.  It is designed to discuss frankly the practical challenges facing those who come to politics with strong beliefs and values, and who are prepared to work within a convoluted, inefficient, partisan and combative process to achieve their goals.  I welcome readers as I begin this new phase of my career, and initiative the DOMEocracy blog, and I look forward to your comments.  Don’t hesitate to tell me what you think: after 38 years on Capitol Hill, I have thick skin, and I enjoy nothing so much as a good discussion!


For additional background on my career and views, see: