Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Do former governors make for better senators?


"The former governors have formed an informal caucus of their own within the Senate," writes David Broder, "inviting former mayors and state attorneys general to join them. What they have in common is the discipline of coming from jobs where they are judged by their results rather than their words. And most of them have learned to work comfortably and cooperatively with colleagues from other parties, as state or local officials regularly do when dealing with the federal bureaucracy."

You hear this sort of thing occasionally, but I'm curious: Is there any evidence at all that former governors make for more effective, or even bipartisan, senators? Evan Bayh, the former governor of Indiana and the focus of Broder's column, doesn't have much in the way of large legislation to his name. Of the senators who come to mind when I think of bipartisan dealmaking -- Ted Kennedy, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Olympia Snowe, Orrin Hatch, Kent Conrad, Max Baucus, Joe Lieberman -- none of them are former governors. Which sort of makes sense: former governors probably get more annoyed with the Senate than do former legislators. But if there's evidence saying otherwise, I'm open to hearing it.

Photo credit: By Chip Somodevilla/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  February 18, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Live chat at noon today
Next: The state of health-care reform


David Broder is a tool who'd rather appear non-partisan than be accurate. I'd say that he should retire expect that the WaPo would undoubtedly replace him with a former member of the Bush administration.

Posted by: cjo30080 | February 18, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse


Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Biden -- also Senators who have never been governor -- should also be in that list of bipartisan dealmakers.

On the Democratic side, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, Jay Rockefeller, Chuck Robb, and Bob Kerrey were all Governors before becoming Senators. On the Republican side, Judd Gregg and Lamar Alexander were governors before becoming Senators.

That said, the Senate is what you make of it. Some like Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden excel at their job, and others like John Breaux, Evan Bayh, and Ben Nelson (another former governor) amount to mediocrity.

Posted by: moronjim | February 18, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Joe Lieberman? What's the case that he's a successful legislator, rather than a bipartisan peacock?

Posted by: Sophomore | February 18, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Do you sit near Broder? Does he come into the office anymore? He's one of those folk who values people getting along and looking collegial as opposed to actually getting legislation passed that accomplishes policy goals.

To him, collegiality IS the goal. Disagreements make his hair hurt. Therefore, he can write a column not about how former governors who are now senators get all sorts of great legislation passed, but how they talk and (presumably) lunch and play squash together. That's his definition of a good legislator

Posted by: damonchild | February 18, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

This is just Broder talking out of his ass, as usual. The funny thing about Broder is that it's amazing that he ever became respected in the DC Village. Has any ever bothered to read his pieces back during Watergate? Broder is probably lucky that people don't, as they're about as embarassing as anything being written today apologizing for the Bush War & Torture Regime. Seriously bad stuff, and a strong indication that Broder's "bipartisan" meme has always meant "Democrats should let the GOP do whatever it wants".


Posted by: toshiaki | February 18, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

That Broder wrote this means it was printed in a newspaper that people paid money for today. What a ripoff. This is total BS!!!

The Senate, as anyone who is alive and paying attention knows, is not a place for free thinking independent action, its a team sport. This is unlike life as governor of a state where you have far more room to move around between the parties, and say cut taxes and do layoffs as a Democrat or raise taxes to pay for basic services as a Republican.

Maybe in some college civics course it would seem to make sense that a person with this kind of experience would make a better Senator, but it is emphatically not the lived experience of the US Senate today, and if Broder doesnt know that someone oughta show him the way to Del Boca Vista, phase three.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | February 18, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Don't lots of people say uninteresting stuff unsupported by evidence all the time?

Why rebut this one?

Posted by: adamiani | February 18, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree - I think former governors get frustrated with the Senate. Interestingly, I heard that George Allen, who had been Gov of Virginia, insisted on being called "Governor" even while he was a senator. Any truth to that?

Posted by: gocowboys | February 18, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Charles Krauthammer just wrote a piece about the leadership of former governors Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Naturally, he compared and contrasted these with the leadership of former community organizer and lecturer and never-had-administrative-experience-of-any-sort-much-less-governor Barack Obama, and found the latter wanting.

Posted by: bgmma50 | February 19, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company