I was struck by how much an institutionalist Kerry was. He defended the Senate while criticizing some of its members behaviors. He didn't support ending the filibuster but instead urged more effort to listen to others when they did speak. He lamented the loss of comity and the corrosive influence of the money chase to fund campaigns.
Frankly, the problems we livethrough today come from individualchoices of Senators themselves, not therules. When an individual Senator or acolluding caucus determines that thecomity essential to an institution suchas the Senate is a barrier to individualambition or party ambition, the countryloses. Those are the moments inwhich the Senate fulfills, not its responsibilityto the people but its reputation as a sanctuary of gridlock.So what effort do we need to put intoour reason and spirit in order to do it?I believe there are three most significantchallenges that have conspired tobring about a dangerous but reversibleerosion in the quality of our democracy:the decline of comity, the delugeof money, and the disregard for facts.First, I have witnessed what we allhave, a loss of simple comity, the respectthat we owe one another, and thesense of common cause that brings allof us here. The Senate as a body canchange its rules to make itself more efficient,sure. But only Senators, one byone in their own hearts, can change theapproach to legislating which HenryClay correctly defined as the art ofconsensus.
Our time here is notmeant to last forever. If we use thetime to posture politically in Washington,we weaken our position acrossthe world. If democracy deadlockshere, we raise doubts about democracyeverywhere. If we do not in our deedsprove our own ideals, we undermineour security and the sacred mission asthe best hope of Earth. But if we do ourjobs right, if we treat our colleagueswith respect and build the relationshipsrequired to form consensus andfind the courage to follow through on our
promises of compromise, the work we do here will long endure.