In the summer of 1978, I arrived in New York City saddled with all the aspirations, apprehensions, and naivete available to a 16-year-old immigrant kid with no idea who he is or where he is going. But the great advantage of New York is that it normalizes baseless ambition and impossible dreams. Ridiculous, amazing things can happen to a person
there, and the miracle of those individual experiences is a central American idea.
The Senate on any given day feels like a time machine, as if you'd just walked back into an America long dead and buried. There is still a rule in the Senate that senators should not address each other directly, which is a difficult task on the days when so many of them want to call each other by name. But the result is a kind of forced majesty, because first you address the senator through the chair, and then you refer to the senator by the state he represents. "Mr. President, if the senator from the great state of West Virginia would yield ... "
Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., claimed victory in the Democratic primary runoff election in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, June 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Those who were looking to Tuesday's primary election results to provide a single, seamless storyline to explain the national mood and serve as a guide to November midterms and the 2012 presidential election, will just have to keep looking.
The anti-incumbent surge that is supposed to swamp President Barack Obama and his party was not much in evidence last night. The poster child for that school of political thought, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, beat back a strong challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in a close fight to be the Democratic Senate nominee, and she did it with the help of a perennial incumbent, Bill Clinton.
It is now so widely assumed that Democrats will take a beating at the polls in November that most of the corporate political-action-committee money donated to candidates and campaigns this year is going to Republicans. Already there is open speculation about who will replace Harry Reid as leader of what, it is assumed, will be a Democratic Senate minority.
Two longtime progressive senators announced their retirement this week, and so the Democratic Panic of 2010 begins in earnest. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Chris Dodd of Connecticut faced tough re-election challenges, and both decided they were not up for the fight. Their decisions are as personal as they are political, but their departures have been presented as definitive evidence of the "perilous political environment" that Democrats will face in the fall. This frantic reaction was entirely predictable, but it's also probably unnecessary and almost certainly premature.