I think this is satire, probably

At least, I wish it were satire. Alexandra Petri describes the role of senators.

A senator, as you know, is someone empowered by the Constitution to go on cable news and state opinions. A senator can do nothing to restrain the executive branch. In the system of checks and balances designed by the Founding Fathers, the Senate is neither.

The Senate is an appendix, a vestigial organ whose function no one can determine, so it just sits there and sometimes rumbles ominously after meals. Aside from its traditional role of acting as a rubber-stamp for judicial appointees, it is a kind of cheery bobblehead designed by the Constitution to stare at what the Executive is doing and offer tacit approval. It is decorative, not functional — like a pocket square, or a succulent in a dentist’s waiting room, or the “Share On Facebook” button at the bottom of an article.

It might be a little too accurate, since it perfectly describes the behavior of all those Republican senators who go on TV to deplore the president and mewl a little bit and then do nothing to stop him. Jeff Flake? John McCain? Susan Collins? All those pseudo-mavericks of the right?


  1. says

    Orange Yeller’s behaviour might distress them, but they’re getting what they want. Conservative judges, massive tax cuts, terrorized people of colour. As long as they keep getting this thing, they can concentrate on the job at hand – appeasing the base so they can get re-elected.

    (And they do have to appease that base. It’s bizarre how wildly popular Donald is in the Republican party.)

  2. notruescott says

    Now I’m confused. Here (2008-2016) I had been trained to think that their job was to obstruct any decent thing a sitting president might do, possibly offer up lame excuses as to why, and accuse the president of all manner insidious plots and motives.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    A senator, as you know, is someone empowered by the Constitution to go on cable news and state opinions.

    So Kellyanne Conway & Stephen Miller & Roger Stone & Carl Woodward & … are all senators too?

  4. Gary Halliday says

    Petri is always satire. WaPo puts infuriating plausible headlines on her pieces and mixes them in with real articles. I always check the by lines now and just skip it when its her. She’s funny, but dropping her in with real articles is frustrating. The “IT’S ALL FAKE NEWS” crowd probably goes nuts.

  5. twosevenoneeight says

    “or the “Share On Facebook” button at the bottom of an article.”

    I would go further than that. Right now, the Senate is as useful as a “Share On Facebook” button on a porn site, i.e. even when it finally gets around to doing its job, in general it would be better if it didn’t.

  6. Johnny Vector says

    Gary Halliday @#4:

    WaPo puts infuriating plausible headlines on her pieces and mixes them in with real articles.

    Where are you seeing this? On their front page, her column only (and very rarely) shows up in the “Opinions” section. The only other ways I know of to get to it is to follow the navigation to Opinions/ComPost, or click a link from her Facebook posts.

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Alexanda, try reading The Federalist Papers, (with comprehension), our Founders strongly disagree with you there. There is a reason they advocated 6 year terms for Senators as opposed to the two year Congressional term.
    This had better be illustration of Poe’s Law.

  8. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Thank you for reading @7, which I wrote before reading her full article, now I’m back having read it.
    “a lighter take” is in her byline, describing her general approach.
    The general sense of the article is description of how Senate is currently behaving. To derive that is how the Constitution intended them to behave is the awful mistake. (re Federalist Papers).
    In conclusion, yes I was enacting the effect of Poe’s Law by my @7, above.
    I read it now as a “subtle” slap at the Senators’ current tactics of inaction.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says



    enclosing a italicize with a single * at each end, results in –> italicize
    which is a little easier than the full <i>italicize</i>
    must be a new feature of this new site

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 9
    * ipsum * (without the whitespace between the * and ipsum, italicizes ipsum like this: ipsum


  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    another feature I just noticed after overlooking for a while is that [star]like button t the bottom of each reply.

  12. says

    “The Senate is an appendix” and like an appendix, when it gets infected by bacteria the body, in this case the country, is at risk of dying from peritonitis. Unlike an appendix this diseased organ of government can’t be removed.

  13. ck, the Irate Lump says

    If you think your senate is bad, take a look at the Canadian version of the same. Senators are appointed by the current Prime Minister whenever a vacancy is present and can serve until age 75. Many of them rarely show up for work, and nothing useful ever comes out of the governmental organization (they commission reports and studies, but they are often never used). It’s widely regarded as the place where old politicians go to die.

  14. HawkAtreides says

    It really is all laid out very clearly in the Constitution.
    When a Republican sits in the office of the President, we have a Unitary Executive.
    When anyone else is President, if Congress is majority Republican, we have Legislative Primacy.
    If neither is the case, we have a Rogue Government and only the Supreme Court can save us, unless it is also majority non-Republican, in which case we have an Illegitimate Government and only the States have any authority.

    /s, I promise.

  15. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Alexandra Petri is perhaps the funniest person in the country right now. And like all the best satirists, she hides the truth in plain sight.

    As for the substance of her article, the founders designed Congress to be the most powerful branch of the government, but that power is intentionally diffuse. Their biggest unintentional blind spot was not realizing that they had designed a system that would lead almost inevitably to a two-party system which would effectively cede power to the president. (Party primaries also have a lot to do with our present mess.)

    Right now the US Senate is looking a lot like the Roman Senate ca. 30 BCE.