The current Democratic frontrunner — I can’t believe this is true — remains utterly deluded about what he’s dealing with:
Joe Biden, touring Iowa, told reporters, in so many words, that his plan is to have an ineffectual, failed presidency. Or, as Biden put it more pithily, “Ending the filibuster is a very dangerous move.”
Biden is expressing one of his most deeply held beliefs, which is his boundless faith in the goodness of the Senate. This is the point Biden was attempting to make in his controversial nostalgic riff about his history of working with segregationists. The Senate brings people together, even people as different as Joe Biden and the segregationists. (Biden failed to anticipate that some Democrats would interpret this to mean that Biden and the segregationists were not so different after all.)
Biden has clung to this conviction in the face of overwhelming evidence, including eight years in an administration in which opposing party senators followed a strategy of scorched-earth opposition and were rewarded for it.
The prospective concern with Biden is not that he would somehow revive the old Dixiecrat coalition, but that he is nostalgically trapped in the bygone world of his youth, unable to grasp the tectonic changes that have reshaped American politics. Biden’s nostalgia for the villains of his political youth, and his belief that the institution can be restored to its bygone manners, is a symptom of a more profound disorder that you might call “Senatitis.”
Senatitis is an irrational reverence for the folkways and culture of the upper legislative chamber. Those afflicted believe that the Senate gathers together 100 of the finest statesmen in American life, or at least transforms ordinary politicians into such giants through its mystical traditions. To the extent they see any problems with the operations of their beloved chamber, it can only be ascribed to the corrupting effects of non-senatorial politics, and the solution is always to make American politics more senatorial. If you hear somebody unironically use the phrase “world’s greatest deliberative body,” you have located an acute sufferer.
Other recent examples of “Senatitis” include Pat Leahy restoring the blue slip rule so that Republicans could once again abandon it while almost literally laughing in his face, and Senate Dems allowing Alito on the Supreme Court without forcing Republicans to blow up the filibuster in exchange for..nothing.
The idea that Dems should just give up any hope of passing legislation even if by some miracle they capture the Senate along with the presidency is insane, but reverence for even the most obviously bad of the institutions created by Our Omniscient Founders can be a hell of a drug. Anyway, there are multiple reasons it would be crazy to nominate Biden and this is one of them.