Wednesday, May 25, 2005


The Decembrist: Senators' Optimal Experiences:
But Graham's enthusiasm reminds of why the important thing about Monday's "deal" is not the letter of the agreement, which has been lawyered to death already by people who don't seem to realize that it was written in half an hour and has no one to enforce it anyway. It's the change in the culture of the Senate. For most Senators, huddling in a room or in a hallway with a handful of colleagues from different viewpoints and working something out is the kind of "optimal experience" that the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote about in Flow. All the preening self-satisfaction that many noted in the Senators' presentation Monday night appeared to me just glee at being able to do this thing that they love. It's why they are there.

Many of them -- the best of them -- slog through all the campaigns and the fundraising and the committee meetings and the rest, just to get to those moments.
Schmitt used to work on staff in the Senate, so he knows. If he's right, the compromise, for all its flaws and all it's inherent advantages, has a larger and underappreciated benefit: it represents a return to governing.

He's advanced the idea that the filibuster represents not a supermajority, but an absence of intense distaste. So far, the Democrats have been unable to turn their intense distaste over the disastrous policies of Bush and his Congressional lapdogs into concrete change. But if this breaks that logjam, we may see a new dynamic. The Senate may actually serve as a cooling saucer.

We can only hope.