Monday, November 29, 2010

House-ification of the Senate

Many observers have noted the increased polarization and partisanship in the Senate in recent years. In 1995, then Republican Whip Alan Simpson of Wyoming said that "the galley slaves have taken over the ship." What he meant, and what is still evident, is that many newly elected Senators who previously served in the House of Representatives, bring their majoritarian instincts to the other chamber. In fact, there are more former House members in the Senate today than ever in US history.

As I looked for a way to explain to my class the cultural difference between the Senate and House, I offered  this metaphor: in the House, they play tackle football -- rough, physical, only winning counts; in the Senate, they were used to touch football -- where playing may be more important than winning all the time, and nobody wants to inflict or suffer a major injury. When the tackle players move onto the touch field, they play by their old rules and everything gets nastier.

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