One of the more interesting themes to come out of last week’s discussion of possible amendments to the Constitution was the idea that the Senate is a crummy institution and ought to be done away with. I can certainly understand that these days, what with Max Baucus holding health care reform hostage to his monumental ego.
I know the Senate has always gotten a bad rap–it’s hard to overcome the idea that it was designed to keep the hoi polloi like you and me from screwing up the government. But given some of the wacky things that have made it to the floor of the House of Representatives over the years, I have to say I don’t mind the stodgy old Senate too much. To put it in perspective, I offer the ultimate wacky thing that made it to the House:
So, is it wise to have a branch of the legislature that by its nature acts as a brake to slow down a rush to bad legislation? Or is the Senate an inherently conservative body that prevents good legislation from getting passed? (I know, I know–the world isn’t black and white. But for the sake of argument, it’s much easier to pose the question in that way, and allow the middle ground to come out in the discussion.)
For my part, I will say this: an institution is only as good as the people running it. My feeling is there isn’t a problem in the Senate that couldn’t be solved by electing better Senators. Whether that is possible, however, is an entirely different question. But it does lead to another question: is there a way to improve either the electoral process or the structure of the Senate that might help overcome some of the biggest problems in that body?
And more important, is there anything we as citizens can do to help fix it?