If the White House and congressional Democrats are looking forward to the prospect of Tea Party-inspired senators and congressmen with fear and loathing, the Republican Senate leadership seems only a little less nervous.
According to The Daily Caller:
“As it stands, many consider the right flank in the Senate to consist of Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and David Vitter of Louisiana. But if Republicans have a great day on Nov. 2, they could be adding Nevada’s Sharron Angle, Alaska’s Joe Miller, Kentucky’s Rand Paul, Colorado’s Ken Buck, Utah’s Mike Lee, Florida’s Marco Rubio, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey to their ranks – and potentially others.
“Many of the conservative firebrands in the group are affiliated with the Tea Party. They’re all outsiders, many of whom defeated the GOP establishment candidate in their primary elections. Let’s just say it won’t be sleepy in the Senate come 2011.”
The United States Senate has a culture of collegiality, of compromise and give-and-take. Sometimes that culture is honored more in the breach than in the observance, particularly during the current Congress, when the Democratic majority rammed though legislation, such as health care reform, with no Republican input. But the culture does remain the ideal.
The Senate is often seen as a moderating influence on the House, a more exalted body, with longer terms of office and thus not as responsive to public passions. There is a story told about a conversation between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson soon after the Constitution was ratified:
“A key goal of the framers was to create a Senate differently constituted from the House so it would be less subject to popular passions and impulses. ‘The use of the Senate,’ wrote James Madison in Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, ‘is to consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom, than the popular branch.’ An oft-quoted story about the ‘coolness’ of the Senate involves George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who was in France during the Constitutional Convention. Upon his return, Jefferson visited Washington and asked why the Convention delegates had created a Senate. ‘Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?’ asked Washington. ‘To cool it,’ said Jefferson. ‘Even so,’ responded Washington, ‘we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.'”
Of course in the 21st Century no one pours coffee into the saucer any longer, but drinks it straight up, cooling it by putting creamer in it or waiting a while.
The point, of course, is that the prospect of Tea Party zealots (as some would refer to them) suddenly invading the exalted halls of the Senate brings with it the further prospect of the Senate’s moderating influence being-well-moderated.
Moderation is an often overrated virtue in any case. Moderation is just an excuse, at times, to avoid doing the hard things that need doing. Whether it is reforming entitlements, rolling back health care reform, or any of the other things that are absolute necessities, cries for moderation are really demand not to do them.
And it is not as if the current Congress has displayed moderation when spending money and destroying the health care system. That kind of “moderation” has sparked in turn the potential of a Tea Party faction in Congress, both in the House and Senate, for whom “moderation” means ending what the American people are increasingly finding intolerable.
So, the Republican establishment had better get used to it. There is a new posse of lawmakers coming. And for some people, hell is coming with them.
Sources:Shake up: The Tea Partiers are coming to the staid Senate, Jonathon Strong, The Daily Caller, September 9th, 2010
Senate Legislative Process, United States Senate