Minor Reaction to Senate Compromise
The Principle-Agent problem is fun!
We all can figure out pretty quickly that Democratic Senators != Democratic activists and they have different interests. But rarely do they differ so much as today. And whose interests are better, for the party and for the country?
The Democratic deterrent to the nuclear option was to stop all Senate procedures by ignoring deference to the majority, and constantly proposing any bills it liked for the remainder of the term. This was just as wonderful sounding to Democratic activists and pundits, as Justice Sunday was to the right. And make no mistake, this would be just as big an overhaul of everything the Senate stands for as anything the GOP was doing (but the Senate has “crossed a line no one has crossed before” many times in its history anyway).
But the idea of nothing happening in the Senate was so drool-worthy (even to me). No Social Security reform, no vote on John Bolton, no tax cuts, no other misadventures for Bush, and instead a huge black eye for the Republicans and utter failure for their ability to funnel money to corporate interests. Of course it’s only the Republican party that wants to satisfy interest groups with everyday legislation, not our own honorable minority. And of course while we keep the Senate dead for 2 years we’ll win the political fight before the public, by trumpeting what a bad judge Priscilla Owen is!
Get real. The Senate Democrats had mouths to feed too. Not everything that goes through Congress now (and wouldn’t if things were stalled) was going to be utterly inimical to them and their backers. You can call this corruption, or maybe just taking care of their home states with pork, or maybe you’re a part of one of those interest groups (a farmer, or a corporate world researcher, or… well almost anything really). But the fact is that any Senator has their interests in mind, and not just partisan liberalism – otherwise the Senate would have stalled centuries ago. Activists and pundits can only see the world in absolutes, so they didn’t see what a huge loss this would be for the various parties involved.
Sometimes we value non-partisaness in our representatives. No, not just from the other party *smile*. Clearly there are things that need to be accomplished on behalf of the people, new ideas entering the world that aren’t solely about one party’s established mindset. And the degree to which anything is stopped for political symbolism at the expense of practical results is usually pretty bad. On the other hand, “bipartisan” indeed can just be another word for corruption. Jack Abramoff worked with Democrats and Republicans alike, and any good urban liberal has to admit that Democrats have been some of the worst offenders when it comes to farm subsidies.
Dem activists today aren’t feeling as betrayed as Republican activists. They feel they expected nothing, and are glad to get something. And they feel positive momentum, even if it’s fueled by the public’s boredom with economic discussions and regular atrocities out of