Shining a brighter light on the Senate

SHINING A BRIGHTER LIGHT ON THE SENATE…. Paul Krugman offers readers a brief history lesson.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish legislature, the Sejm, operated on the unanimity principle: any member could nullify legislation by shouting “I do not allow!” This made the nation largely ungovernable, and neighboring regimes began hacking off pieces of its territory. By 1795 Poland had disappeared, not to re-emerge for more than a century.

Today, the U.S. Senate seems determined to make the Sejm look good by comparison. […]

Rules that used to be workable have become crippling now that one of the nation’s major political parties has descended into nihilism, seeing no harm — in fact, political dividends — in making the nation ungovernable…. The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government.

The thrust of this argument will no doubt be familiar to those who follow such matters closely, but columns like these are important in shaping the perceptions of the larger political world. Krugman is, by some measures, the most influential commentator in the country, so his efforts in shining a light on the dangerous dysfunction of the Senate carry weight.

The key is to get folks to appreciate the seriousness of the situation, because even many political reporters think the status quo is somehow routine. It’s not.

Some societies can’t recognize when they have a problem, while some societies recognize their problems but can’t identify solutions. Ours is a society that can recognize problems and craft effective solutions, but can’t act — on health care, on energy, on education, on the judiciary, etc. — because a discredited Republican Senate minority opposes the ability of the majority to govern.

The more people realize that a functioning government is dependent on either a) reforming the Senate; or b) an even larger Democratic majority, the better.