This week America is mourning the loss of former U.S. House Republican leader Bob Michel, who passed away at the age of 93.
Michel was first elected to represent Illinois in 1956 and went on to spent nearly four decades in Congress. More than half that time was spent in his party’s leadership—a record that remains to this day.
When the leadership transferred to Newt Gingrich in 1994, House Republicans felt the impact. That was around the time that the fabric of civility in Congress began to wither and political parties became significantly more polarized.
“It’s day and night,” Thomas Mann, a political scientist said. “I see that transition—the shift from Michel to Gingrich—as the beginning of our really dreadfully dysfunctional Congress and a politics that became so personal and negative and anti-institutional that it really changed the whole character of public life in this country.”
Michel was known for being graceful and humorous and demonstrating immense courage when it was needed.
“As a mentor to many of us, what we learned was, respecting people’s point of view even when you don’t agree with it,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who worked for Michel as a House staffer before joining Congress in 1995, said. “Really is an important lesson in life.”
Please pray for Michel’s family and friends during this difficult time.