Reelection and the Fear of Death in the U.S. Senate

DAVIES: You write that Romney called the Senate a club for old men, meaning what?

COPPINS: (Laughter) Well, this was a really interesting insight. He basically said, on some superficial level, you know, it’s a lot of old people. We have on-site barbers and doctors, and everybody wears orthopedic shoes. But, you know, on a more serious level, he told me he had not realized just how much psychic currency his Senate colleagues attached to their jobs. It almost was as if, you know, losing reelection was akin to death for them, right? There were – a lot of his colleagues were in their 60s, 70s, even some in their 80s. And to them, the relevance and power and importance associated with their position was essential to their lives. It was central to their identities. And what it meant was that every decision they made came back to, will this help me get reelected? In fact, he had a Senate colleague tell him explicitly, when you’re mulling a vote, the first question you should ask yourself is, will this help me get reelected? And then secondary, he said, was, will this help my state and my constituents? I mean, that one, to me, was kind of the shocking one because that is remarkable – right? – to think that his Senate colleagues are just saying out loud that reelection is the most important thing to consider. And it seems like that’s a fairly widespread sentiment in Washington in the Senate, even if they would never say it publicly.

Mitt Romney biographer offers a startling account of dysfunction in the Senate
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