It never gets better and may in fact be getting worse: the translation of all of the news and of all of Washington’s responses into a ledger of electoral pluses and minuses, a graph of rising and falling political fortunes, a narrative of competition between not just the parties but the would-be potentates within a party. On issue after issue, the sideshow swallows the substance, as politicians and the seemingly infinite ranks of political handlers join us journalists in gaming everything out, ad infinitum.

To follow the debate over immigration reform is to lose sight at times of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in limbo and the challenge of finding the most economically fruitful and morally sound way to deal with them and their successors. No, the real stakes are United States Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential aspirations. Will he pay a high price with the Republican base for pushing a path to citizenship? Or will he earn necessary centrist credentials?

We can wonder: if Clinton decided not to run, would a door open for another woman, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of the New York? Just how well has Gillibrand positioned herself for such a turn? That story is already out there, and in it her record is framed largely in terms of her prospects for national office, as if one exists in the service of the other, as if the point of a Congressional seat is leveraging it into an even better, more regal throne.