U.S. Senate Democrats Unwisely Re-elect Harry Reid as Leader

Senator Harry Reid
Senator Harry Reid

Today, November 13th, the Senate Democrats re-elected Senator Harry Reid as their leader, now Minority Leader, for the next Session of Congress starting in January. [1]

Although the voting was by secret ballot, it was not unanimous. At least four of the Senators rejecting Reid have been identified: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. McCaskill said, “When you have an election like this, common sense says we need to change things. The voice was very loud and unmistakable. To me that means changing leadership, and it was just that simple.” Heitkamp added, “This was a change election. I think that we needed to demonstrate that we heard the American public.”

Over the last several months, these four were part of a group of about 10 more junior Democratic senators have begun more openly registering their dissatisfaction with Mr. Reid’s approach. Others include Senator Angus King of Maine and Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

The leadership votes went ahead after several in the caucus asked for a delay to give them an opportunity to consider others for the leadership posts.

Senator Reid apparently responded to these negative views of his leadership by appointing Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as the Caucus’ Strategic Policy Advisor, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota to chair a caucus committee that handles outreach to outside allies and activists and Senator Tester as Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

As a Democrat, I think the re-election of Reid is a horribly unwise. I have cringed every time Reid appears on television as the voice of the Senate Democrats. He comes across as tired, old, cranky, dull, weak and unpersuasive. When he appears on television with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, soon to be the Majority Leader, the personal animosity between the two often is apparent. The Democrats and the country do not want to see a continuation of this outworn drama.

Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Amy Klobuchar

As a Minnesotan, I believe our Senator Amy Klobuchar would be an excellent new Minority Leader. She would be a fresh face, younger (age 54) and female in sharp contrast to McConnell. She also has a record of being able to get along with Republicans in the Chamber. In the final debate this year for Minnesota’s other U.S. Senate seat, the unsuccessful Republican candidate, Mike McFadden, frequently praised Klobuchar and said “I’m here to say Amy Klobuchar sets the bar for work ethic and authenticity.”

Scott Lehigh, a Boston Globe columnist, said the 74-year old Reid “should announce that when this session of Congress ends, [he] will relinquish [his] role as leader of [the] . . . Democratic [caucus].” Reid is a “tired face, stale voice, entrenched presence in Washington. . . . After a certain period, congressional leaders’ caricatured images get so ingrained that they become electoral liabilities for their parties.” (Lehigh makes the same argument about why Nancy Pelosi should not be the Democratic leader of the House in the new Congress, but that is an argument for another day.)

Another columnist in the Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib, posed a similar question, “Where are the [Democrat] party’s fresh young leaders?” But he assumed that Reid would be the new Minority Leader, and instead mentioned Senator Elizabeth Warren as a potential national leader of the party along with “highly capable younger Democrat [Senators]:” Mark Warner, . . . a 59-year-old moderate from a key swing state, as is Colorado’s 49-year-old Michael Bennet. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, 47, is a rising star.”

I have no quarrel with any of these prominent Democratic Senators, and any of them would change the public persona of the Senate Democrats, but I point out that they have less experience in the Senate than Senator Klobuchar’s eight years: Warner (six years), Gillibrand (six years), Bennet (four years) and Warren (two years).

Here is a personal plea to Senator Reid. Wake up. Give someone else the opportunity to lead. Do not be a liability to your party. Stand down.

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[1] This account of the re-election of Senator Reid is based upon articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Politico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

2 thoughts on “U.S. Senate Democrats Unwisely Re-elect Harry Reid as Leader”

  1. Comment: More Information about Senate Democrats’ Re-election of Reid as Leader

    The Washington Post has identified two additional Democratic Senators who voted this week against the re-election of Senator Harry Reid as the leader of the Democratic caucus. They are the two from Virginia: Mark R. Warner, who narrowly won reelection last week, and Timothy M. Kaine, who previously served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

    The articles about Reid’s re-election suggest that in the caucus meeting there was discussion on what to me is a false issue: whether Reid was a cause of the dismal results for the Democrats in this year’s election. I do not think he was; there were too many other factors affecting that election.

    Instead, the issue should have been, does the new Senate Democrats’ leader need to be a “Mr. Inside” like Reid who knows the ins and outs of internal Senate procedures or a “Mr. or Ms. Outside” who can effectively communicate the Democrats’ message to the public at large. For this blogger, the Senate needs the latter, and Reid fails to qualify.

    Politico reported that “Since last week’s elections, Reid spoke privately with many unnerved Democrats, promising to open up messaging and policy strategy to include more of them – an under-the-radar effort to keep control of the caucus.” More specifically, Politico said, Reid promised to “open up his weekly Tuesday leadership meetings to a broader group of senators,” to “overhaul how they hold their weekly policy lunches,” to allow “more Democrats to drive the party’s message on individual issues,” and to “loosen his grip on the amendment process, allowing a more free-flowing set of votes on the floor.”

    Finally, Politico quoted California Senator Barbara Boxer: “The main reason for [Reid’s] support, is that he really listens to all the members.”

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    Kane & O’Keefe, Sen. Harry M. Reid sees dissent but holds onto Democratic leadership role, Wash. Post (Nov. 14, 2014), http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/sen-harry-m-reid-sees-dissent-but-holds-onto-democratic-leadership-role/2014/11/13/457ce474-6b75-11e4-a31c-77759fc1eacc_story.html?hpid=z1; Raju, How Harry Reid Kept His Job, Politico (Nov. 13, 2014), http://www.politico.com/story/2014/11/harry-reid-senate-democrats-112882.html?hp=t2_r.

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