Posted: Aug. 25, 2016


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Chris Coons has had six years to think about what he was going to say.

It has been that long since Coons, then the New Castle County executive, was yearning to be free of burglar alarm registrations and sewer bills in pursuit of a higher political calling. For that he went to Yale law school?

What came next was one of the biggest breaks in the history of state politics.

Beau Biden did not run for the U.S. Senate, but Christine "I'm Not a Witch" O'Donnell did, and ding, dong, Mike Castle's political plans were dead.

Instead, Coons found himself improbably elected the Democratic junior senator from Delaware with the seat that once belonged to Joe Biden.

It was not rational. It was also the reason Coons had plenty of credibility when he spoke on Wednesday afternoon at The Queen as part of TEDxWilmington, a community offshoot of the worldwide TED (Technology Entertainment & Design) Talks.

His subject: "Why Would Any Rational Person Run for Congress?"

Not just run, either, but actually want to be there.

"Who would volunteer to work tirelessly to join this dysfunctional and disrespected body that is the United States Congress?" Coons asked.

"In poll after poll, survey after survey, the current Congress is the most unpopular it's been at 13 percent. The United States Congress has an approval rating that is lower than cockroaches, root canals, colonoscopies and the Canadian band Nickelback."

Well, somebody has to do it. Particularly when the alternative is explaining to county residents how to get a dog license.

Not that there is much of a chance there is an American alive who could be persuaded there are 535 rational beings in the United States Congress.

Never mind. From Coons' perspective, there is a reason for a rational person to run, and it is not that the office comes with power, prestige and even a pension, although that does sound rather rational, come to think of it.

It is to get things done, and Coons declared it was actually possible, mostly by building alliances.

Right. Even if that is not a fantasy, it probably would not hurt if people also thought happy thoughts and kept careful track of their shadow.

Coons has examples of getting things done. For one, he figured out he could stand up for Sussex County, the biggest chicken-growing county in the country, by joining forces with Johnny Isakson, a Republican senator from Georgia, the biggest chicken-growing state in the country.

Together they formed a congressional "Chicken Caucus," and what a lot of courage it must take to set up something with a name like that.

Constituent work is another good thing. There was a time a Delawarean named Doris, who was in her nineties, discovered Social Security had cut off her benefits because she was dead, except she was not, and she really needed the benefits.

"It took us a couple of days to figure it out, but we were able to get Social Security to recognize Doris was very much alive," Coons said.

"These are some of the basic reasons, by running for Congress or running for any public office, why it can be a rational and even a wise choice. Why do it? To fight for the institutions of democracy that matter," Coons concluded.

So it could be rational. Either that, or rationalization.