Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hate The Senate, Love The Senate Majority Leader

I think this Jamelle Bouie-Ryan McNeely consensus conflates two different things:

The Netroots Nation straw poll, conducted during the conference by Revolution Messaging, shows President Obama with an approval rating of 84 percent among the attending activists, journalists, and bloggers... By contrast, I'm sure that if you were to ask Netroots Nation attendees to give their opinion on the Senate, you would get abysmally low numbers. Nearly every complaint I heard was directed at the filibuster and Senate Democrats' inability to pass legislation without significant concessions to centrists and conservatives.
The institution of the Senate deserves all the hatred it gets. It's a chamber with ludicrous rules that prevents us from dealing with major national challenges. It systematically disadvantages progressive interests and helps conservatives. While the realistic path forward merely involves reforms like eliminating the filibuster and anonymous holds, I was nodding along when Dylan Matthews proposed abolishing the Senate altogether. The fact that we could get health care reform through it doesn't change this. The stuff that makes the Senate distinctive as a parliamentary body almost universally operated to make the legislation worse.

On the other hand, I'm quite happy with a bunch of individual Senate actors. I've been an off-and-on defender of Harry Reid for many years, and he justified my faith by really coming through for us on health care reform. He's trying to get legislation through a chamber with ridiculous rules, Ben Nelson, and Joe Lieberman. The more you hate the Senate as an institution, the more you should love the Senate Democratic leadership for somehow squeezing huge legislation through it.

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