John Dingell's decision to retire—citing his age and the "obnoxious" state of the House of Representatives—has elicited a flood of statistical factlets.
For example: Of the 434 current members of the House, nearly half—214 of them—weren't even born when Dingell was sworn into office in December 1955. Or that Dingell is the longest-serving member of either house in congressional history. Or that 2015 will mark the first time since 1933 that either John Dingell Sr. or Jr. was not in the House (though the congressman's wife, Debbie, is widely expected to run for the seat). Or that he was on the floor (as a page) on December 8, 1941, when Franklin Roosevelt delivered his "day that will live in infamy" speech.
But what's interesting about the 87-year-old Michigan Democrat isn't that he's superannuated, it's that his superannuation means he represents a kind of politics that doesn't really exist anymore, anywhere. It's a mix of New Deal-style social politics, support for muscular government regulation, affection for labor, respect for business, and attachment to conservative social values.
Universal healthcare has been a family cause since 1933, when Dingell Sr. first proposed it. The younger Dingell had a hand in passing Medicare and Medicaid; when Obamacare passed the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi used a gavel loaned to her by Dingell, who had used the same hammer in 1965 when he presided over the passage of Medicare. He helped write the Endangered Species Act and worked with Representative Henry Waxman to pass the Clean Air Act.