Maine’s Angus King still doesn’t want to caucus with anyone

Guy running to replace Olympia Snowe continues to break ground in the fetishization of "independence"

Topics: 2012 Elections, Angus King, Olympia Snowe, U.S. Senate,

Maine's Angus King still doesn't want to caucus with anyoneAngus King (Credit: AP/Joel Page)

Angus King, the independent candidate for Olympia Snowe’s soon-to-be vacated U.S. Senate seat, is not backing off his pledge to not caucus with anyone should Mainers decide to send him to the world’s most deliberative body. Here (again via David Nir) is a laudatory editorial from Seacoast Online praising King’s independence:

However the election shakes out this fall, it’s clear that the majority margin will be razor thin. Into this situation, any party candidate, no matter how reasonable, automatically comes with baggage. “We could send down a combination of Pericles and Thomas Jefferson, and if that person’s reporting to (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid or (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell, he’s going to be ineffective. Every vote is a test vote. Every vote is party loyalty. We’re sunk if it keeps up this way,” King said.

He believes, if he heads to Washington truly as an independent and beholden to no one, he may have a chance to break the logjam. Certainly, if five or six senators like him were elected to Washington — which could just happen in 2014 if politicians around the country see that King has been effective — it could end the damaging political impasse.

Once more: “Caucusing” with a party in the Senate does not mean “always voting in lockstep with.” Caucusing with the Democrats does not force you take take marching orders from Harry Reid, as anyone who has paid attention to the news over the last five years or so should know by now. But not caucusing with anyone means you don’t get any committee assignments, or any say over legislative priorities.

The Senate is a two-party body and operating entirely outside the party system means giving up most of the power associated with being a senator. This is not because of “partisanship” but because of the nature of the institution. And if the party split is 50/50, the way some “fierce independent” like King would leverage his power would be to make a deal to get some plum committee assignments in exchange for caucusing with one of the parties. That would be very good politics for that guy, and it would also illustrate how “moderates” already have a great deal of power in the essentially undemocratic Senate.



If this is King’s plan, and his “I don’t understand what it means to caucus” talk is just designed to get the parties to start wooing him, then he’ll fit in just fine. But the way to end the logjam in the Senate would actually be to just force it to adhere to regular majority rule like the House (or to abolish it altogether — I am keeping the dream alive!). Five random non-caucusing independents would just be five more senators with the ability to halt all Senate business but no ability to actually accomplish things.

Also, “independence” is not an inherent virtue and party affiliation is a useful method by which voters, who are not and should not have to be political experts, determine what a candidate stands for, and “partisanship” is a really facile and inadequate explanation for what is wrong with American politics.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>