Junior Lawmakers Master the Sound Bite

Who needs moderation? Spouting polarizing points of view is the newest strategy for junior members of Congress vying to exponentially increase their status and influence. Florida Democrat Alan Grayson infamously summed up the Republican health-care plan in two words: "Die quickly." Meanwhile, Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann invoked high drama when she urged supporters to "slit our wrists" to protest health care. In the age of new media, these sound bites can receive a disproportionate amount of play in the insatiable 24-hour cable-news cycle and on the Internet—outrage goes viral. Time magazine argues that the new atmosphere encourages ideologues who once would have been marginalized in Congress. They lay out a three-step plan for "making a name in the 111th Congress": Find Your Niche, Drop Some Bombs, Cash In. The third step observes how devoted followers donate oodles of cash to their beloved stars; both Grayson and Bachmann have seen a flurry of booking requests. "It's all theater," said one congressman. "People have learned to speak in sound bites and look to generate headlines."