It’s hard to read the Education of Henry Adams without suffering from the shock of recognition. After a Cabinet Secretary tells the young reporter Adams that members of the House are hogs, he thinks to himself:
He had but to ask:—“If a Congressman is a hog, what is a Senator?” This innocent question, put in a candid spirit, petrified any executive officer that ever sat a week in his office. Even Adams admitted that Senators passed belief. The comic side of their egotism partly disguised its extravagance, but faction had gone so far under Andrew Johnson that at times the whole Senate seemed to catch hysterics of nervous bucking without apparent reason. Great leaders, like Sumner and Conkling, could not be burlesqued; they were more grotesque than ridicule could make them. . . . but their egotism and factiousness were no laughing matter. They did permanent and terrible mischief. . . . The most troublesome task of a reform President was that of bringing the Senate back to decency.
Ezra notes (from Jon Chait) that in the Illinois Senate primary, Republican turnout was up 11% from 2004, and Democratic turnout was down 29%: “That’s what elections looks like in a world where 59 Senate Democrats give up on health-care reform. The base gives up and stays home.”