Politics with Amy Walter: "The World's Most Exclusive Club"

May 10, 2019

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In his 1957 book, Citadel, journalist William White refers to the Senate as “the world’s most exclusive club.” But for many high-profile Democrats, it's a club that seems to have gone out of style. In April, Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who narrowly lost the race for governor of Georgia in 2018, announced that she is not running for Senate. Joaquin Castro in Texas, Ambassador Susan Rice in Maine, Congresswoman Cindy Axne and former Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa have all made the same decision. Then, there's the Democrats who have decided to run for president instead: John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, and Beto O’Rourke who rose to prominence in 2018 when he challenged Texas Senator Ted Cruz.  What's going on here? 

Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst covering US Senate and Governor's races for the Cook Political Report, explains why for some Democrats the Senate seems to have lost its allure.

Frances Lee, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, tells us how we got a Senate in the first place. 

Osita Nwanevu, a staff writer at the New Yorker covering politics and policy in Washington, D.C., and Logan Dobson, a Republican strategist and the former director of Data and Analytics for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, debate equal state representation in the U.S Senate.

Alan Frumin, the Senate Parliamentarian from 1987 to 1995 and again from 2001 to 2012, answers questions from our listeners about Senate rules and procedures. 

Amy's Final Take:

The debate about how the Senate works - or doesn’t - is part of a bigger debate and a bigger issue that I’ve talked about a lot on this show; the breakdown of trust and faith in institutions. The whole deal in politics is that winners treat the losers fairly because they know that someday they will be on the losing side and want to be treated with respect and fairness. But, that’s not where we are now. Americans are more distrustful of the other party than ever before. But, changing the underlying structures of the system creates all kinds of unintended consequences that may only exacerbate the problems they are trying to fix.  Blowing up or reconstructing institutions like the Senate may solve a short-term problem, but in the long term our bigger problem that needs fixing is to find faith and trust in one another.