Democrats sing, dance at ‘Congressional Idol’ contest on Capitol Hill

There are two kinds of votes that Americans take very seriously these days: their political votes, and their “American Idol” votes. On a recent Tuesday night, these two came together on Capitol Hill.

The first annual “Congressional Idol” contest was held Sept. 28 at the Jones Day Building, and more than a dozen members of Congress sang, played and danced, hoping to impress the judges, according to sources at the event.

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Billed as a fundraiser for Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), the evening’s acts helped Democrats to break up a long night of voting. 

Gone were Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. Instead, the judging was done by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), an equally formidable pair.

Some of the performers were well-known congressional musicians: Rep. Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) played his guitar and sang Buddy Holly’s classic “Oh Boy.” Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) jammed on his harmonica, and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) played and sang a rockin’ rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” 

But it was the newcomers to the congressional music scene who really brought down the house. 

Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) was joined by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) for a first-rate duet of “Empire State of Mind.” 

There was even a doo-woop ladies act featuring Reps. Richardson, Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Donna Edwards (D-Md.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.). Their number? The Supremes’ unforgettable “Stop in the Name of Love.”

And when Pelosi returned to the contest after a set of votes, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) serenaded her with “My Girl,” backed up by a karaoke machine.

As for the audience, there were more than 60 people in the crowd, according to attendees, most of whom were members of Congress, laughing and clapping for their colleagues.

Pelosi and Clyburn had official judges’ chairs and standing flipbooks with numbers from one to 10. But unlike the hugely popular TV version, there was no Simon Cowell-style barking at the contestants. 

As one observer noted, “Given that we’re voting together most of the time, I’d say the voting for the contest was pretty kind.” 

But in any competition, there can only be one winner, and this year’s Best Singing Democrat award belongs to Carson, who wowed the judges with solo numbers as well as duets. 

ITK congratulates all the brave participants, and Mr. Carson in particular. Hopefully next year, “Congressional Idol” will reach across the aisle and include a few courageous GOP singers.