When the Reagan Revolution came to Washington, DC, he brought with him a Republican majority to the U.S. Senate. Senator Howard Baker became Majority Leader and served in this role until 1984. After Senator Baker’s retirement, Senator Bob Dole filled that role.
In late 1984, I came to Washington, DC after a campaign in my home state. It was my first real job after college. It was a fascinating time with much debate coming through the legislative radio that only a staffer could appreciate. What also happened was hard-fought, relatively civil progress.
In today’s scene in Washington, we definitely lost any sense of compromise or middle ground in trying to solve our problems and move forward as a society in a productive way.
Back in the mid-1980s, the Democrats still controlled the U.S. House of Representatives. Compromise was a reality, I guess, if anything was to pass. The moderating skills of Senator Howard Baker and Senator Bob Dole kept the balance. Sure, there were heated debates in the Senate, and there was politics present. This has been the case since the beginning of our government. In the end, everything came together more civilly then, as least it seems so now.
The question becomes then what is the right mix. With the 2010 election cycle upon us, is it better to have split U.S. Congress? A likely scenario would be the Senate going Republican and the House staying Democrat. In both cases, the majorities would likely be slimmer than they are today. Maybe this brings back reasonableness and balance to our political process.
I believe there is an added ingredient which needs to be mixed in and that is the Majority Leader role being filled by someone who has the skills and temperament of Howard Baker and Bob Dole. To be honest, I am not sure who that would be in today’s Senate. The class of 1980 brought a unique mix together. From Warren Rudman of New Hampshire to Paula Hawkins of Florida to Jim Abdnor of South Dakota to Steve Symms of Idaho plus many others, an old guard was swept away, and a new guard carried in with President Reagan’s coattails.
What we need is a class of 2010 in the U.S. Senate which will bring in what the class of 1980 did, along with a Majority Leader who can have a backbone when needed and the sensibility to negotiate a middle ground in a civil and reasonable way.
Whoever will be the new Majority Leader should sit down with Howard Baker and Bob Dole and learn their formula and enable a New Beginning.