John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who became the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history and who died at 92 on Thursday, shared in an op-ed in the Washington Post Friday his parting thoughts about his country.
Dingell, who also showed a facility for using Twitter that was rare among U.S. politicians, said in the op-ed that he was forgoing the social network because “some occasions merit more than 280 characters.” The Post noted that the reflections shared in the piece were dictated to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell at their home in Dearborn, Mich. on Thursday.
The comments interspersed bits of gallows humor with more sober reflections how how Washington’s culture has changed since he first served in the House of Representatives. “One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts,” he wrote.
The earlier era in Washington “was kinder, if not necessarily gentler,” Dingell wrote, indicating that while opposing parties fought each other in legislative battles, most people worked for the greater good of the country. “In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition,” he wrote, in a criticism of President Trump’s combative style.
Dingell expressed particular disdain for people who were willing to abuse the power of their political office. “In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They hold power—in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).”
The last tweet posted on the Twitter account Dingell maintained came on Wednesday.