The inadequacy of political reporters’ fantasies

THE INADEQUACY OF POLITICAL REPORTERS’ FANTASIES…. Politico‘s Mike Allen chatted with far-right media personality Hugh Hewitt this week, and the two speculated about the midterm elections. It led to an exchange I can’t quite wrap my head around. (via Atrios)

Hewitt: Yes, I’m saying that Michael Bennet’s going to get wiped out by Ken Buck. What do you think?

Allen: (laughing) I don’t know, but I can tell you the press loves the fact that Ken Buck, he’ll definitely be covered. Very colorful, he definitely will be good copy. It’s just like the dream of every reporter is that the Republicans will pick up nine seats, and that Marco Rubio wins in Florida, because Hugh, you know what that means?

Hewitt: Impeachment! No. (laughing)

Allen: That’s a 50-50 Senate. That’s power sharing. Ben Nelson suddenly is huge.

Now, it’s certainly possible that Republicans will pick up nine seats in November. That seems like a pretty ambitious goal, but I suppose it’s doable if the cards fall just right for the GOP.

What I don’t know is why that’s “the dream of every reporter.” We had a 50-50 Senate early in 2001, and it wasn’t especially exciting. Indeed, as Republicans moved even further to the right in the ensuing decade, an evenly-divided Senate wouldn’t be more interesting, it’d be considerably less so — the entire institution, which is often paralyzed in a 59-41 chamber, would grind to a halt. Nothing could pass the committee process; nothing could reach the floor; nothing could overcome a filibuster, and nothing could pass.

That’s not the stuff of fantasy; it’s the stuff of nightmare. It wouldn’t be exciting; it’d be boring. (“The Senate today failed once again to act on _______. It is the ____ consecutive bill the Senate has killed this year.”)

As for Allen welcoming the day in which Ben Nelson is “huge,” I can’t help but notice that Ben Nelson already has enormous influence. In a 60-40 Senate late last year, Nelson was the single most important lawmaker in Washington. On every key vote, the Senate leadership has to make sure the center-right Nebraskan is happy — a dynamic the senator is happy to exploit — if Democrats have any hopes at all of overcoming GOP obstructionism.

It’s possible Allen’s envisioning a scenario in which Republicans are suddenly able to start legislating by adding Nelson’s vote to their unanimous caucus, but under those circumstances, the bills would (a) be vetoed by the White House; or (b) would be blocked by Democratic filibusters.

Besides, what’s so great about making Ben Nelson “huge”? What makes this the stuff of Mike Allen’s dreams?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.