Tuesday, September 07, 2010

When Did the Senate Turn into Pre-school?

When Did the Senate Turn into Pre-school? Jim Taylor; SeattlePI.com

I've become quite an authority on pre-schoolers these days. My eldest daughter just finished pre-school and my youngest daughter is in her second year. Plus, I'm writing my third parenting book tentatively titled, Parenting on Message: The 9 Essential Messages to Give Your Child a Great Start to Life (The Experiment Publishing, Spring, 2011), which is about the messages we send our young children that shape who they become and how they behave. So, both personally and professionally, I know a thing or two about the behavior of pre-schoolers.

But I didn't see the parallels until I read George Packer's typically incisive and disturbing portrayal of the functioning (or should I say dysfunctioning) of the U.S. Senate in recent years. His description of the appalling behavior of our Senators brought the connection home in a big way: the Senate has turned into a pre-school. And how the mighty have fallen. As far back as 1832, as noted in Packer's article, Alexis de Tocqueville spoke of the Senate, "They present only the lofty thoughts [of the nation] and the generous instincts animating it, not the petty passions." And, as recently as the 1970s, mutual respect, civility, cooperation, and, dare I say, collaboration were the rules rather than the exceptions (though, admittedly, prior to then, the Senate had its share of pathology).

How this devolution has occurred is eloquently described by Packer, though, in my view, to call what has happened in the Senate a devolution is an insult to all the good and decent apes from which humankind has evolved. Perhaps a better descriptor would be regression, as grown men and a few women who sit under the august mantle of the Senate have morphed from what has historically been referred to as "the world's greatest deliberative body" into 100 small children (Freud would have a field day with this bunch). Behaviors that might be considered childlike (and developmentally expected) in pre-schoolers are decidedly childish (and entirely developmentally inappropriate) in these so-called adults.

The litany of pre-school behaviors that we all see in our Senators is a veritable laundry list of everything that makes pre-schoolers annoying, frustrating, and downright infuriating, even to their parents: egocentric, stubborn, whiny, tantrum-prone, uncooperative, rude, petty, disrespectful, and uncompromising. And, unfortunately, we don't see in our Senators the cute, sweet, and endearing behavior that balances out pre-schoolers' bad behavior and encourages parents to want to continue to love and care for them (no desire here to cuddle Reid or McConnell).

It's not supposed to be that way. The Senate was created to balance out the more histrionic, bipolar, and less forgiving lower House. You expect our Representatives to act like pre-schoolers; they must cater to a smaller, more homogenous, and generally more ideological constituency. The Senate, by contrast, is supposed to be the voice of reason and compromise on the Hill. Longer terms and the need to represent a larger and more diverse constituency has, historically, created less ideology and more collegiality and pragmatism in the Senate. But no longer. ...

Read the rest here.

Comment: While the post was interesting, the author might have looked a little further back in US History beyond Alexis de Tocqueville to the writings of the founders such as James Madison for a precise explanation concerning the creation of the US Senate. While certainly the author is correct, the US Senate of the past did have a number of noteworthy statesmen who were intelligent in speech and prose, however the senate was meant to be the voice of the states, not a place of compromise!

That belief unfortunately is the legacy of statist influence in our education system. Just as the belief that the Senate was meant to be the "upper" chamber, like the House of Lords and the House of Representatives of the "lower" like the House of Commons in England. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Senate was created to be a representative body for the states and check and balance against the Federal and National Government.

The dread consequence the author observes and writes about is the effect of the 17th Amendment, which created a club for 100 narcissistic men and women. Rather than having the daily task to represent their respective state within the Federal Government, since 1913 they only represent their personal views and agendas, and this is why they behave much like pre-schoolers rather than mature adults and statesmen.

Repeal the 17th Amendment and we'll see less of the bad behavior the author observes.

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