What is the Purpose of a Senator

Dr. Oz is a bit weird, and I’m bothered by his apparent mixed loyalties.  Still, I’m pulling for him.   I assume a good heart surgeon learns, processes, acts.  And apparently he did very well.   Secondly, I only watched one of his shows but he listened closely to his guest (with a certain modesty, as in his response to Oprah).  I like patents – we need people who  analyze, define, and solve problems.  We are less sure of what he will be than we are of more conventional candidates.  Still, a life time of work done well make it less of a gamble.

Then there’s Fetterman – with remarkably few accomplishments, he would fight crime and increase energy with flailing, contradictory slogans.  His party praised his “performances”.  But senators reason, and it is the reasoning before the vote, the give and take with opponents, that defines a Senator’s value.   A Senator is, after all,  joining one of the great, if not the greatest, of deliberative bodies.  Some, we hear in their ads, still see that role.  But is that even a majority?  And how much do the parties differ?

His party wanted to own his vote.  Their job is to elect sufficient pawns to give a majority.  Then, they give up the power of their vote to the leaders who give up theirs to the swamp, leading to a populace more and more restless and less and less able to fight free of the octopus.  And so it matters little that Fetterman can not deliberate.  In his stabs at making an argument for his candidacy, he says he’ll be the 51st vote.  Of course.   Not as a representative of Pennsylvanians.  That vote and not that voice is what made him worth millions.   And so he is elected by the party, not the people.

We can’t possibly know what Oz will be like as senator; however, we all know what Fetterman will be.

And is his role as cipher all that different from Biden’s?  Or even the without-the-excuse of a stroke or senility, Kamala Harris?  How much applies to other members of Congress, some even more visibly impaired (Diane Feinstein, for instance).

15 thoughts on “What is the Purpose of a Senator”

  1. Some people are content that their politicians are nothing but a reliable partisan vote. Listening to many people, including in a number of right wing comment sections, I hear a preference for words, not deeds. A politician merely needs to say the right words, and vote the appropriate party line, and these voters are satisfied, especially for the legislative offices.

    Curiously, this also applies to executive offices such as Governor or President. What is the function of these jobs? More so than a senator, there are actions and decisions to be taken for executives, and judgment to be exercised. But far too many voters just hear the words they want to hear and decide their vote without considering real qualifications for the responsibilities of the office.

    Sad, but one more reason to not obsess over rates of voter turnout at election time. When this level of engagement with citizen responsibilities is the norm, high turnout is not necessarily an advantage to the republic.

  2. What is the purpose of the Senate?

    It was set up as part of the interlocking system of Federalism, and the duties of the body are clearly set out in the USC. They were selected by the state legislatures, not by popular vote, which was a Progressive Era reform. (Whenever I hear talk about abolishing the Electoral College, I wonder, why not the Senate too? Doesn’t it favor the small-pop states too, in just the same way?)

    Now it is treated, for some reason, as a reservoir of wisdom and the pool of potential presidents. In reality, Senators have no executive responsibility and usually no executive ability, and very few who have made the jump to the Oval Office have been worth a pinch of owl dung.

    The Fetterman thing reminds me of Caligula’s horse.

  3. John Robb talks about “networked pattern matching” as the means by which increasing numbers of people evaluate reality:

    Networked pattern matching is an amazingly powerful way to make sense of the world. It is also dangerous and rigid.
    [. . .]
    It is becoming harder to change someone’s mind, get them to soften their stance, or agree to compromise. It’s getting so bad that people seem unable to even agree on basic facts anymore, making coherent social dialogue impossible. This is because people increasingly rely on pattern-matching networks to process new information and make sense of the world.
    Pattern matching networks are an outgrowth of the pattern matching we do at the individual level. Since the networked world’s information flow and complexity are too much to handle as individuals, so we do it as a group. Over time, these networks have developed into massively co-curated patterns, where millions of people find new information, connect it to a pattern, and share the results online. Within hours, due to this group effort, the best connections to the pattern are unearthed (depending on the connection’s resonance with the network) and turned into “accepted” facts.

    Robb says much more on this topic. The gist is that more people than was formerly the case rely on what used to be called social proof, rather than some combination of logic, evidence, and historical precedent to make decisions. Your choice of network — CNN or Tucker, for example — determines your positions on public issues more than the facts do.

    Fetterman, though obviously incompetent, has a fighting chance to be elected because the Democratic/media network prefers him.

  4. If possible, I prefer to vote for people who have some history of real accomplishment in life before politics. Trump was an outstanding example in spite of his quirky personality. Mark Kelly, the Senator from Arizona might fit my preferences but, for two years, he has shown no interest in those problems that affect Arizona, especially the border. Blake Masters seems to have a good record although I don’t like his looks and did not vote for him in the primary. Oz has a history of accomplishment in a demanding field that I know well. I have never seen his TV show. Fetterman has a history of inherited wealth and zero accomplishments that is typical of many trust fund children who get into left wing politics.

    I am struck by the fact that the Democrats have been taken over by a radical group that seems bent on destruction. In 2000 I was indifferent to the winner as I did not like Bush and thought Gore was more adult than Clinton. Now, aside from Tulsi Gabbard, I cannot think of a sane Democrat. I suspect that some know their policies are nonsense but go along to get elected.

  5. As far as Fetterman is concerned, someone way back at the beginning should have publicly asked the question; “Would you fly on an airplane with Fetterman as the pilot?”. That should have been the end of it. I can think of any number of other names to substitute for Fetterman, not all of them Democrats.

    It is, of course, all about Power. I am sure that his backers among the movers and shakers in Pennsylvania were mightily discombobulated when the strings of their marionette became tangled so late in the process. It they had had another equally pliable patsy, they would have dropped him in a heartbeat, compassion be damned. The apparent fact that they have not in the intervening months manged to find someone else that combined the necessary compliance with the ability to speak in coherent, complete sentences would indicate that they must have something truly outrageous in the works.

    Oz is simply a media whore. At some point he realized that doctors that recommended that people eat their vegetables, exercise and not smoke were not invited on talk shows and that he, for some reason, very much wanted to be invited. Whether he is anything more is yet to be established. That his election would seem to short circuit the plans of Fetterman’s backers would be all the reason that I’d need to vote for him and given the craven media, all the reason I’m ever likely to have. He will, at worst, be simply one more political hack among 99 others. A willingness to countenance medical woo and all sorts of other BS in exchange for 20 minutes on a beige couch in front of TV cameras is not the best character reference I can imagine. We seem to have once again ended up with a choice of the least worst.

  6. Robb’s observations seem quite “right”. The world out there is full of data and some of us (certainly me) cope with it by sorting things as we see fit. The problem, of course, is how flexible we are and how much we are open to new evidence and how much we use logic. My children are constantly complaining about what they see as my tendency to generalize about ethnicities which in more critical and analytical groups would be called prejudices (ah, I say, of course Czechs find surrealism and a kind of irony that can be cynical attractive or of course, I say, Italian men tend to define themselves more often in terms of sex and their relations with women than Anglos do – then my daughters groan and say, you know a lot of these things – like religious beliefs – are not really determined by our genes. Still, the Presbyterians have a lot of Mc names and St. Anthony’s a lot that end in O.) I defend myself, saying well, yes, there are many many exceptions but still it helps order my experience. Then they groan.

    So, I listen to Tucker (though I’ll grant that he chases a good deal more rabbits down a good deal many holes than a sensible person might) and I’m prepared to want the Republican to win, in part because I’m a Texan and this whole cut off the oil and go green by 2030 is opposed to my best interests and I think the country’s.

    Eddie’s point – which would seem to mean that the founders wanted the senators to represent bodies that are political – is something I hadn’t thought of and would seem important. Of course, they also didn’t envision the party system as it has become.

    So, yes. Jonathan that is an excellent point – we all have submerged and not so submerged loyalties and we interpret reality by them. As Franklin said, it is good that man is such a reasonable creature because then we can find reasons for whatever we want to do. But, of course, as you conclude, Fetterman really is incompetent. And Mark may have it right about Oz, but at least he meets the rather minimal standard of coherence. I think the commentators are mostly right, but their conclusions are more tempered, but I think it is fair to say that anyone that thinks about it, accepts those reservations, and still goes with Oz – with whom others do not need to wait until the transcriber and the prompters are set up before they can ask questions and get answers..

  7. Oz’s media whoredom doesn’t erase his genuine accomplishments or preclude him from accomplishing worthwhile things in the future. It is essentially the same opinion I held concerning Trump when he first started to run for President and still hold to some extent.

    I shudder to contemplate a candidate so bad that I would consider voting for Hilary instead and I didn’t vote for Trump with much enthusiasm the first time or more than a forlorn hope that the Dowager Empress would be forestalled. His subsequent administration both gratified and infuriated me by turns, especially his sloppy, poor personnel selections and self possession. Still, you can only vote for the candidates that run.

  8. especially his sloppy, poor personnel selections and self possession.

    His personnel selections were probably because of his lack of DC experience and his reliance on GOPe advisors at first. Had I been he I might have relied on people to be patriots as they declared themselves to be. Instead, we were both fooled.

    As for “self possession”, does anyone know of a politician, let alone a president, who did not have it?

  9. Assuming a Republican President is inaugurated in 2025, whoever it is has to realize that not only can he expect zero cooperation in their transition from the incumbents, they had better have a bullet proof plan on how to deal with the outright obstruction they are sure to encounter. Oh, for the days when removing the w’s from the keyboards rated notice.

    Especially note that many of the appointments will require a security clearance to function. Guess just who is going to investigate those? If you said the FBI, you’re a winner and we’re all losers.

    Maybe we need tho move the inauguration back to March.

  10. not only can he expect zero cooperation in their transition from the incumbents, they had better have a bullet proof plan on how to deal with the outright obstruction they are sure to encounter.

    Oh, I agree. The Democrats held a Senate majority when Bush was elected and they blocked all his appointments until 9/11. Rumsfeld had one appointed and confirmed assistant secretary when the WTC fell. I am concerned, however, about a plan that is hatching to run DeSantis as the GOP donor’s candidate to block Trump.

    Folks, I don’t really care for whom you vote. But don’t delude yourselves into pretending it isn’t #NeverTrump behind the push for Ron DeSantis to fracture the party in a primary if and when Trump obviously runs.

    It most definitely is them to include McCarthy and McConnell.

    Paul Ryan is choosing who to vote for in the 2024 primaries.

  11. DeSantis is an excellent governor and politician. He has taken the right positions on the big issues and hasn’t made significant policy or political errors. He doesn’t hesitate to use hardball tactics against the Democrats/Left. He is young. Maybe he will run for president in 2024, maybe he will wait until 2028. (Kurt Schlichter’s column, arguing that DeSantis should run in ’24 because who know what the future holds, makes a lot of sense.) From my POV as a nobody and voter, intra-party fights about Trump might as well be quarrels among Greek gods. Almost all conservatives and libertarians will vote for a Trump or a DeSantis against any Democrat.

  12. We maybe don’t know if DeSantis wants to run in ’24, Trump is calling him names, so we know what he thinks. You could wish that the Trump could operate at a level above a spoiled five year old. Might be part of the reason he seems to have so much trouble finding help. You’d have to really want the job pretty badly to put up with all the BS, he can’t possibly spare any credit for anyone else. He’s proving that he’s his own worst enemy.

  13. this was why they did the 17th amendment, to neuter the effect that they had intended in Article one as part of the progressive era,

  14. You could also wish the gop establishment would grow up and learn to operate above the level of a junior community college hiring committee, but I won’t hold my breath.

    About DeSantis, I don’t think he had two hundred million dollars stuffed into his re-election campaign to await 2028. My take is that the establishment has him tagged to be the anti-Trump for 2024, because they’re just that clever. They’ll turn what should be an easy campaign for Trump into a bloody death match with DeSantis, leaving both candidates weakened and potentially creating swarms of GOP-leaning voters who won’t for the eventual winner.

    Or, alternatively, DeSantis will turn out to be the second coming of Jeb!!, only wasting two hundred million dollars instead of one hundred million. But, then again, inflation, etc.

    One of things that jumps out at me re DeSantis is that he gets to take strong culture war stands, unlike other gop governors. Kristi Noem famously damaged her potential presidential prospects when she vetoed a bill to prevent biological males from competing in female sports, as did the governor of Arkansas, whose name has been lost to history. I also note Ron!! has given nevertrump senator Ben Sasse a nice perch to await a potential cabinet post in a putative DeSantis administration and has also endorsed the anti-Trump Colorado gop senate candidate.

    If I wasn’t so cynical I’d think both Noem and DeSantis thought up their positions all by themselves- but I am that cynical.

    I think the gop establishment is back to its usual idiocy, more worried about challenges to the establishment’s control of the party than the fate of the country.

    This won’t end well, but it will end, to close with one of my favorite cliches.

  15. John Fetterman: the new neck of the Democrat Party. In the Senate, he’ll be able to vote :”Yea” or “Neigh.”

    No joke.

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