Kent Conrad’s Partisanship Lament

It’s become fashionable, over the last several election cycles, for self-styled “moderate” politicians who are retiring to lament partisan, polarized politics on their way out the door. Senator Kent Conrad is no different.

“The job is somewhat different because it’s become more political theater than getting results and quite frankly a reason why I am less interested in being here,” Conrad told a local CBS affiliate in an interview. “I am really interested in getting results and a lot of my colleagues on both sides are more interested in political posturing. And I Find that incredibly unfortunate, really unfortunate for the country. It was much more getting things done when I first came here than it is now.”

That’s certainly a very self-serving comment for Conrad. Why, back in his day Senators were about Getting Things DoneTM, unlike these young whipper-snappers today who are all caught up in taking principled positions on things.

This from the guy who, not once but twice in his Senate career could have been the deciding factor on the passage of a balanced budget amendment and demurred. How’s that for getting things done?

And, of course, let’s not forget to mention that the Senate Budget Committee, which Conrad has chaired since 2007, hasn’t produced a budget since 2009. Getting things done, indeed.

But let’s be clear, things have changed since Conrad was first elected to the Senate. The media has changed. Where once it was very easy for self-styled “moderate” Democrats like Conrad to walk the line between red state constituencies and the far more liberal expectations of their parties in Washington DC, especially when the local media where most constituents got their news were (and still are) such utter lap dogs. But with the advent of the internet, causing an avalanche of new information and viewpoints to land in the laps of voters, it’s much harder to be so flexible.

Voters expect fidelity to promises and principles, and that has caused things to become more polarized in Washington, and it’s had the side benefit (in my humble estimation) of making things positively untenable for poseurs like Conrad.

Combine that with the ugly scandal Conrad was involved in during this last term – one which saw him one of hundreds of elected officials and bureaucrats who sold mortgage bailouts for mortgage deductions – and you can see why he’s not running.

It’s not because of partisan politics. It’s because of increased transparency, and all the headaches that come with that for prevaricators like Conrad.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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