Preposterous Universe

Thursday, May 26, 2005
The culture of one-party rule

Mark Schmitt knows why the Senators were so happy to pound out a compromise on judicial nominees and the filibuster, and it's actually a heartening analysis. His take is that legislators really live for the kind of intense negotiating parley that it takes to pound out and agreement of this sort, as opposed to fundraising and campaigning and the other necessary evils of political life. Unfortunately, these days there are very few opportunities for this kind of legislative gruntwork, which has been abandoned in favor of a heavy-handed dominance of the ruling party.
My most vivid memories of working in the Senate are of witnessing such interactions. I remember that as the welfare reform bill of 1996 moved toward passage, seeing Senators Dodd and Hatch just off the floor madly negotiating how to add more money for child care, in a kind of intense duet -- and feeling sort of sad that my boss, in implacable opposition, couldn't really be a part of it. I remember watching the bipartisan group that tried to salvage something from the Clinton health care debacle throw themselves into ten-hour days of learning and bargaining, and I have a feeling, just as a distant observer, that the process was still gratifying and thrilling despite failing to produce a result.

And they have really been denied the opportunity to engage in this basic Senatorial need for a long time. It's a need that Frist doesn't share or recognize, and that the culture of one-party rule has aggressively denied them. To use a very crude and obvious metaphor, they're like people who been involuntary celibate for a long time and now they all have brand-new girlfriends and boyfriends. Of course they want to do it again and again!
The "boss" referred to above is Bill Bradley, so the guy knows what he's talking about.

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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