John Kerry retired from the Senate yesterday in order to accept his appointment to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. As the chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, his nomination was seen as a sure thing. And yesterday, he gave a pretty rousing speech bidding farewell to his colleagues in the Senate.
First and foremost, the media has been focused on his breakdown during the speech. Kerry mentions Senator Ted Kennedy and pauses a moment to collect himself. However, the speech was much more than that. It was a pretty clear iteration of what it’s like to a member of the Senate for 30 years.
Kerry opened by thanking his staff and even impressively counted 1,391 interns that have worked for him during his six terms in the Senate. His point was to emphasize that “..sometimes in politics, itâs now almost a sport in America to dismiss the contributions of the people who work in government, people who make the Senate work, but people that the public never see.” And these people are substantially important, they are carrying the brunt of the work for congressmen.
However, Kerry quickly switched to talking about the efficiency of the Senate, a topic of importance with the recent filibuster debate. During the speech, Kerry emphatically stated “I do not believe the Senate is broken.” Perhaps anticipating criticism that most senators who retire tend to disparage the chamber for its slow and painful pace electronic cigarette brands in passing legislation.
Nonetheless, Kerry continued to chastise the Senate. Although Kerry holds the Framers and the rules of the Senate in high regard, he blamed the “choices” of Senators:
Iâm hardly the first and will not be the last to call on Congress to remember why weâre here, to prioritize our shared interests above the short-term, to bridge the breadth of the partisan divide and reach across the aisle and take the long view.
And this is the crux of his argument. Here, Kerry calls on his colleagues to move past their own personal interests and desires, to represent the electorate. Kerry is making an argument that the chamber needs to ignore microrepresentation in favor of macrorepresentation.
Kerry then suggests that the Senate moves beyond its inaction in three specific points. He says that senators need to work on building reciprocal relationships with each other, reforming campaign finance, and educating the public on political issues. While these are points that political scientists have made time and time again in the past, it is refreshing to hear them from the mouth of one of our most prominent politicians. Unfortunately, like his colleagues before him, Kerry has waited until his retirement to iterate important arguments. Although I applaud the content of the speech, I can’t help feel but it’s slightly hypocritical. And sure enough, I’m sure it will fall on deaf ears and business will continue as usual in the Senate.