Professional Democrats: Legislators, Not Politicians

I’ll have to flesh this out some more later, but when I watch the ongoing Senate shenanigans (malarkey, if you will…), I think back to a story about Obama’s time in the Illinois State Senate, in which he learned that the body was highly transactional. That’s how legislators work: they cut deals, often influenced by political necessity (due to survival and to lack of power). But they don’t see themselves as politicians in a broader sense. In other words, they have a disdain for mass politics, in part because that constrains their ability to legislate (and weakens their power), and for ‘performative politics’, which takes time from legislating as well as things like fundraising and constituent services without accomplishing anything concrete: the Dreaded Symbolic Vote.

Many ‘savvy’ rank-and-file Democrats embrace these attitudes, which only encourages these behaviors. Unfortunately, often to get legislation passed, you need both mass movements and performative politics to maneuver into a position where it’s possible to pass that legislation. As I put it earlier this week, Democrats have to start manufacturing issues and redefining the political terrain.

That requires politicians, not legislators, which seem to be in short supply in the Democratic Party.

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