« Friedman on Dubai | The RCP Blog Home Page | Make The Glass Half Full »

Feingold's Backseat Driving

A party's Senate caucus is like a car. In the case of the Democrats, right now that car has 44 passengers. They've chosen to put Harry Reid behind the wheel, and Dick Durbin is riding shotgun. But the rest of the Democrats are sitting in the backseat where it's crowded and uncomfortable. Worse, many of these folks are insufferable backseat drivers: they bitch and moan and carp, constantly offering advice about which route to take or whether to speed up or slow down. Others just sit in the back like impatient pre-teens asking over and over again, "Are we there yet, daddy?"

Theoretically, the people in the car have arrived at some general consensus as to where they're going and, despite their differences, do their best to work to find a way for all of them to get to that location together and in one piece. But, as we saw in the case of Russ Feingold this week, every now and then one of those backseat drivers gets either so impatient, so arrogant, or so ambitious they just reach right up into the front seat, grab the wheel of the car and start tugging.

Feingold's maneuver Monday was a bit of a Thelma & Louise moment in politics: he slammed the gas pedal to the floor and set Senate Democrats heading straight for the edge of the Grand Canyon. Liberals stood on one side cheering it as an act of heroism, Republicans stood on the other cheering it as a stunt of monumental stupidity and hoping the car would actually catch air. And poor Senate Democrats were left strapped in the vehicle, with eyes bulging and mouths wide open, as they scrambled to find the brake.