Harry Potter and the Chambers of Congress
Hogwarts Offers Metaphors for Politics on Hill
Harry Potter has staked a claim on Capitol Hill.
As the eighth and final movie of the British wizarding series opens in theaters, the Hill has become increasingly crazy about Harry.
Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) plan to be first in line — or at least not far behind — to see the movie at the multiplex.
Countless 20-something staffers and many interns and pages are already fans, but given the older demographics of Congress, it has taken awhile for the series to catch on among Members.
For Gosar, the midnight showing of the final film would complete a long tradition of late-night Harry Potter parties.
“If I’m back home with my family, I can guarantee” to be at the midnight showing, Gosar said. “I think we’ve missed one just because there were sports things going on and couldn’t facilitate getting there at the right time.”
Before the movies, Gosar and his children prepared for the midnight book releases with ice cream and root beer floats at his parents’ house. He said that childlike feeling of anticipation and excitement brought about by the books is something he never wants to forget.
“That part of life is the thing that we really need to concentrate on,” he said. “If you lose the way children look through their eyes at the world, it really becomes kind of a doldrum.”
And that innocent excitement is one of the things that drew Connolly to the series as well. He remembers teaching his daughter to read with the early books, and he said the passion for reading that they instilled in her and her friends is special.
The series “really got kids reading and talking about what they were reading,” he said. “When’s the last time a book or series of books had that kind of impact on a whole generation of people?”
Connolly also had a long-standing tradition before the midnight release parties with his daughter: Her friends would come over before midnight and play homemade Potter trivia.
“It’s amazing how much the kids knew about these books,” he said.
But for Hannah Loy, Gosar’s staff assistant and a fellow fan, the Pottermania makes perfect sense.
Loy is a member of the generation that grew up with Potter, and for her, the love of the books is based on a feeling of affinity to the characters. She said she’s been to every midnight premiere, and like most young Potterheads, she used to dress up as a witch for them.
“I get really excited” for the midnight showings, she said. “It’s gonna be really hard to concentrate that Thursday, I’m sure.”
As any true Potterhead knows, Harry’s magical world can sometimes superimpose itself on real life, especially after watching a marathon of the films or rereading the books for the fifth time. After all, when fireplaces can act as magical forms of transportation, who wants to take the Metro?
This tendency has Gosar often explaining his politics to kids — and sometimes adults — through Potter metaphors.
“There are things that should be allocated to states’ rights — that’s Gryffindor — and certain things allocated to the federal government, which is Slytherin,” he said. “Being from Arizona, the federal government is kind of a Slytherin.”
His favorite character also aligns with his political beliefs. Dobby the elf inspires Gosar, he said, because the elf found it honorable to die free rather than to live in servitude. And he believes the federal government should be less like Slytherin and more like Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore — empowering the students, or states, to take charge on their own.
“One of the things that Dumbledore is always trying to do is to empower the kids to take ownership of issues and be creative and involved,” he said. “That’s what we see today. We need to empower America to be a creator of its solutions going forward in a new, very confusing world.”
Although Connolly doesn’t use Potter metaphors on the House floor, he says he does see how enemies at Hogwarts could align with political enemies in Congress.
“I suppose there are some Death Eaters in our politics these days we need to resist who would destroy Medicare and return the country to a more Darwinian kind of world,” he said.
Loy said she understands why the turbulent world of Harry Potter could offer such apt metaphors for political clashes on the Hill, regardless of political persuasion.
“Its about the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, standing up for what you believe in,” she said. “And that’s the same with anything on the Hill.”