Recently three Senators — Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas and Democrats Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — have announced that they are not seeking re-election in 2012.
Their departure ensures that more new blood will be coming to the Senate, continuing a recent trend that has seen about one-third of the current Senators take office since 2008. Observers believe that still more of the current Senators, because of their advanced age, presumed difficult re-election challenges, or both, will decide not to seek run again. And, if the 2010 election is any indication, in 2012 voters may decide, again, to toss out the incumbents in favor of new faces and increase the roster of new Senators still further.
News stories about departing Senators always seem to have the theme that their departure will be a real loss for the institution, further reducing prospects for bipartisan problem-solving and “working across the aisle.” That seems like “inside the Beltway” thinking to me. Anyone who thinks our Congress generally, or our Senate specifically, has performed capably over the past few years of irresponsible spending, corruption, and sleazy backroom deal-cutting is applying absurdly low standards to assess actual performance. There is no reason to think that new Senators can’t, or won’t, do a better job.