Consider this karma avoidance by the soon-to-be-ex-Senate Majority Leader, but Harry Reid’s new act won’t fool anyone, least of all Mitch McConnell. Reid has run the US Senate for the past eight years like a dictatorship, steadily eroding minority privileges to the point where Republicans couldn’t offer amendments or put up any significant resistance to Barack Obama’s radical appointments, unless Democrats forced Reid’s hand on either score. After watching his party lay a historic egg in the midterms — the size of which is still not yet fully known — Reid tried spinning the results as a mandate for the kind of compromise that he’s blocked ever since winning control of the upper chamber in 2006:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reached out to his presumed successor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying that he hoped they could work together “to get things done” in Washington.
In a statement, according to Mediaite, Reid said, “I’d like to congratulate Senator McConnell, who will be the new Senate Majority Leader. The message from voters is clear: They want us to work together. I look forward to working with Senator McConnell to get things done for the middle class.”
Er … sure it was. The actual message was entirely a repudiation of the shove-it-down-your-throat approach and demagoguery exemplified by Reid’s leadership and Barack Obama’s attitude. The 2010 midterms sent that same signal, but Reid ignored it and amplified his dictatorial approach in the aftermath of a narrow 2012 win. He’s still not getting the message — or more likely, is willfully ignoring it in order to benefit himself.
Evidence of that has already been provided by Reid and his team. Despite coughing up the worst midterm results in a generation, Reid wants to continue at the helm of Senate Democrats:
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) does not have any second thoughts about staying on as the Senate Democratic leader after the drubbing his party took on election night.
Spokesman Adam Jentleson vowed that Reid will lead his party’s remaining members in the chamber next year.
“Senator Reid will run for minority leader,” he said Tuesday.
Not so fast, said Chuck Todd last night. While his colleagues in the Senate have been either quiet or publicly supportive, the extent of this collapse will almost certainly mean that Reid will be gone from caucus leadership in January:
“I don’t think — I will be surprised if Democrats keep Harry Reid,” Todd, the moderator of NBC’s “Meet The Press,” said late Tuesday night. “I think this is going to be an open question inside the Senate Democratic Caucus.”
Todd’s remark, made during a late night NBC News livestream, was among the boldest calls made by a member of the media on Tuesday, and certainly the most dire for the current Majority Leader. It’s not an unfair projection, either. As Nevada’s Jon Ralson recently reported, Reid’s “vaunted political machine” failed to drive Democrats to the polls this year, and Reid’s poor Senate stewardship has “induced senators and candidates he has helped to muse openly about not voting for him as leader.”
Dylan Byers notes that the other three leaders in the Senate Democratic caucus had pledged their support before the election, but that was then … and this is now. Now includes the very real possibility that two members of Reid’s caucus already have reasons to switch sides, and keeping Reid around will almost guarantee that Republicans will pressure Mitch McConnell to make the Democratic wilderness as miserable as Reid made the Republican wilderness. If that happens, both Angus King and Joe Manchin will certainly bolt, and Democrats may face another round of key retirements in the next two years, which will eat into their ability to regain the majority in 2016.
McConnell doesn’t have any incentive to make that situation on Reid any easier, and plenty of incentive to force Reid out. McConnell may want to return to normal order, but not with Reid across the table from him. If McConnell wants to play hardball, all he needs to do is insist that Democrats shun Reid entirely — no leadership position, no ranking-member position on committees — for the next two years, in exchange for returning to the pre-Reid Senate environment. If not, McConnell can promise that Republicans will follow the Reid precedent in suppressing minority participation, all the while reminding Senate Democrats that they enthusiastically supported those rules when they enjoyed the majority. Democrats may grumble, but in the end they’ll cave.
And they should, because not only did Reid put them in this position, but he’s easily the most despicable member of their caucus. He’s revived McCarthyism on top of ruining the comity and effectiveness of the Senate, and more. David Bernstein recounts how history should remember the Reid Era in today’s Washington Post:
For one thing, I’ve made a mental note of the seemingly racist comments Reid has made, starting in 2004, when he asserted that Justice Scalia is “one smart guy” whose reasoning is “hard to dispute” while claiming that Justice Thomas “has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” (One can certain argue about Thomas’s ideology, temperament, and lack of respect for precedent, but his opinions emphatically are not “poorly written,” and for some time he seems to have had at least as much influence on Scalia as vice versa).
For another, his recent vilification campaign against the Koch Brothers was, to turn his own words against him, “unAmerican.” Beginning in early 2014, he launched almost daily (and often factually inaccurate) verbal assaults on the Kochs from the Senate floor, and also established a website,www.kochaddiction.com, dedicated to the Kochs’ purported misdeeds. To get an idea of the tenor of the site, a page headlined “meet the Kochs” introduces them as “producers of toxic chemicals, harmful pollutants, carcinogens, greenhouse gases.”
Among other insults, Reid called the brothers “unAmerican” and “power-hungry tycoons.” UnAmerican? Really? Didn’t that sort of thing go out with McCarthy? And, ironically, if we’re talking “unAmerican,” how about trying to squelch political speech you don’t like? …
Reid and his allies wanted to warn other potential Republican donors that they would face a public smearing if they also gave to GOP candidates. For someone as powerful as Reid to threaten private citizens in this way for pure political gain to my mind makes someone unfit to be a Senator, much less majority leader.
Reid has been a blight on American politics for long enough. If Democrats won’t clean up their mess on their own, then McConnell should force them to do it, for their own good. Reid is the last person in the US Senate to suddenly discover his sheet music for “Kumbaya.”