By Robert S. Becker
Where are our gutsy muckrakers of yesteryear? In a stunning 1906 Cosmopolitan expose, journalist David Graham Phillips made history with his headline, “The Treason of the Senate.” He then justified his condemnation of mercenary senators, in that era cherrypicked by states and owned by nefarious Trusts: Treason is a strong word, but not too strong, rather too weak, to characterize the situation in which the Senate is the eager, resourceful, indefatigable agent of interests as hostile to the American people as any invading army could be.
By 1914, the 17th Amendment mandated senators be popularly elected but, judging by today’s unevolved results, we have hardly salvaged one of the Founders’ blunders. The American replica of the House of Lords, our least democratic, least representative organ, lives on, still oppressive after all these years.
You’d think franchising ex-slave descendants, non-land-owning men and wise women would save us. Yet our pretend elections, especially where counting votes tests southern I.Q’s, only cloud our version of 1906-style corruption. We actually pay senators from, say, Oklahoma as dumb as posts, ignorant of science, economics and history, easy pickings for modern “trusts” run by smarter executives. Beyond the energy, mining, banking and endless war cartels, robber barons of health will spend $400 million fighting reform just this year, on top of $50 million channeled to Senate Finance committee members. None dare call that treason but good business.
This Senate, Literally “Council of Old Men”
Modern misconduct invokes not just 1906 but Roman history and the root for “senate” – from the Latin, “senex,” old man, as in senior, seniority, and senility. Toadying to entrenched authority, and including only handpicked, aged patricians enlisted for life, early Roman senates did the bidding of kings. 2500 years later, our least enlightened senators honor this history: feckless, impregnable lifers beholden to masters of the economic universe.
Until we reform the Senate, via election, outrage and amendment, forget strong systemic reform that reverses our hastening slide. Pogo aside, the enemy is “them” – “indefatigable,” moneyed interests “hostile” to America’s future. The log jam is not public opinion, the House, the White House, nor deranged rightwingers full of sound and fury – not even Senate Republican blowhards, despite bad faith fictions that poison debate. The current enemy, treasonous to good government and rationality, are Senate DINOs – Democrats in name only.
Just what our Bush-bludgeoned republic needs: mercenary, intellectually senile “councils of old men” who shudder at the tamest “public option” reforms – thus holding all hostage. That’s only Democrats: throw in GOP primitives – Inhofe (OK), DeMint (SC), Bunning (KY), Sessions (AL), Shelby (AL), and Cornyn (TX) – and we’re shamed by this House full of Lords who demagogue sham heresies: a duly-elected, “colored” president, evolution, stem cell research, democratic health care, global warming, or negotiation with unconquerable foes. None call that intellectual treason?
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