Today, Mark Kirk and Tom Carper became the latest senators to endorse same-sex marriage, as members of the chamber seem to be falling over themselves to do in recent weeks. Just in the past month, nine members, including Kirk and Carper, have reversed course on the issue. The changes followed both Rob Portman's announcement that he supports same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court arguments on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.
“The most important and alarming facet of Lugar’s defeat,” writes Jonathan Chait, is that one of Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s key arguments against Sen. Richard Lugar was that Lugar had voted to confirm Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. This is a step towards breaking one of the last, and perhaps most important, social norms of the Senate: That “in the absence of corruption, lack of qualifications, or unusual ideological extremism, Democratic presidents have always been allowed to pick liberal justices, and Republican presidents conservative ones.”
Chait sees “the frightening outlines of a future systemic crisis” here. But I might rephrase that a bit: I see the the outlines of a necessary systemic crisis leading to an overdue set of procedural reforms in the Senate.
When I think about the difference between Lyndon Johnson’s Senate and Barack Obama’s, I think of a memo — pictured above — that Mike Manatos, who served as Senate liaison for Johnson, sent to Larry O’Brien, who directed Johnson’s campaign. It was written on Dec. 8, 1964, just days after the election. Manatos is giving O’Brian an overview of how the Senate elections improved the chances of passing Medicare. Manatos wrote: