Upper house, lower house, by Pedro Arturo Aguirre

Poor Donald Trump! He hates the epithet “loser” to death and now they foist it on him even on Fox News and the New York Post. The megalomaniac expected a Republican wave of triumphs (there was even talk of a “tsunami”) in last Tuesday’s mid-term elections and to surf towards a new presidential candidacy in 2024, but the Republican gains were very limited and his most solid rival Potential for the primaries, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis swept his reelection and now almost everyone points to him as the new champion of conservatism. Donald has been pointed out by the media, even by some previously rabidly unconditional to him, as the main person responsible for the Republican disappointment. The former president is (still) scheduled to announce the start of his new presidential campaign on November 15, but if he does so it will be in an extremely anticlimactic environment. Many of the candidates he supported fared poorly at the polls. Republicans will regain control of the House of Representatives, but with a slim majority. Furthermore, the dominance of the Senate remains uncertain. It should have been extremely easy for Republicans to regain a majority in both chambers and to do so by a wide margin given the current plight of the United States on issues like inflation, immigration and crime, not to mention low rates. Biden’s approval rating, but it didn’t. Instead of a tsunami, this year’s midterms could be the beginning of the end for the Mar-a-Lago millionaire.

The main problem was the poor quality of the candidates endorsed by Trump. Poor quality of candidates, indeed, but this is not just Trump’s fault. The massive emergence of politicians affected by a frightening intellectual innocence is consolidated as a world trend. This fauna is particularly creepy among the legislators of any country. True, since time immemorial politics has been modus vivendi of infinity of mediocre, but in these dire times of populism this phenomenon is exacerbated. The devaluation of the quality of politicians has also become notorious in the once most important legislative assembly in the world: the United States Senate, and it is already a key symptom of the decline of North American democracy regardless of which party wins at the polls.

The Senate has never been perfect, but many of the most prominent, charismatic and intelligent politicians in American history have passed through it and, with notable ups and downs, for more than two hundred years it served as a bastion of constitutional republicanism. As a result of the growing polarization of politics, the Senate has gradually become a dysfunctional parody of the role of political equalizer for which it was conceived, and its members are, with increasing frequency, low-class characters. The most critical analysts call the Senate “the empty Chamber (the hollow chamber). For them the institution is bankrupt. The last great set of great senators emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Lawmakers like “Scoop” Jackson, Ed Muskie, Frank Church, Mike Mansfield, Ted Kennedy, Jacob Javits, Howard Baker, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Byrd, Tom Eagleton, Mac Mathias, George McGovern, Everett Dirksen, and Hugh Scott were able to overcome opposition from hardliners in the South to civil rights, passed Great Society legislation, took the lead in opposing the Vietnam War, and held Richard Nixon accountable for the Watergate abuses. Later, this Senate saved New York from bankruptcy, established relations with China, negotiated treaties to hand over the Panama Canal, debated the Camp David agreement between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and instituted a new and more effective system of government oversight. . Nominees for judicial and executive branch positions subject to senatorial ratification were (generally) judged on their merits and not merely on partisan interests. It was, in short, politicians focused on finding solutions. The exacerbated partisanship and ideological rigidity had not yet managed to impose their empire.

Today, the Senate is fractured, dysfunctional, ineffective, and increasingly irrelevant to the lives of ordinary Americans. The main reason for this lies in the overideologization, undoubtedly present in both parties, but especially in the Republican, obsessed with defeating their Democratic opponents, frustrating and obstructing the legislative process and the functioning of the government. Polarization has linked the electoral destiny of senators with national political forces and tendencies more than ever, diminishing their individual incentives to work with members of the opposing party. It is increasingly rare to see a state with a Senate election choose the candidate from the opposite party to the presidential candidate. Before this was not so common. Voters are not splitting their votes like they used to. As a result, senators have less incentive to try to build a more independent personality capable of working across party lines.

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Illustrating much of the Senate’s problems is the withdrawal of Maine Republican Olympia Snowe in announcing her retirement. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post she explained her reasons: “Some people were surprised by my decision, yet I have spoken in the Senate for years about the dysfunction and political polarization in the institution. Simply put, the Senate falls short of what the Founding Fathers envisioned.” Another disillusioned was Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh, who, explaining the reasons for his own retirement in the New York Times, said: “The fault lies not with the Senate but with the country itself: voter apathy, fake news, cultural and political partisanship, the increasing cost of campaigns, the exaggerated influence of image consultants, etc.”

Polarization largely explains the decline of the Senate in the United States, but it is also due to an increasingly palpable lack of intellectual and political training in those aspiring to occupy a seat in the Upper House. This mania for electing ever dumber politicians is universal and frames the debate about how we elect our leaders, govern ourselves, and resolve our differences.

Upper house, lower house, by Pedro Arturo Aguirre – Etcétera