He Used To Be The Caucus Whip, Right?
Harry Reid explains why, I'm guessing, that was a bad fit for him:
Reid says he expects the tactic of gentle persuasion to work best, given the size of his Senate Democratic flock and the political divergences within it. “I don’t dictate how people vote,” he said in an interview this month. “If it’s an important vote, I try to tell them how important it is to the Senate, the country, the president ... But I’m not very good at twisting arms. I try to be more verbal and non-threatening. So there are going to be — I’m sure — a number of opportunities for people who have different opinions not to vote the way that I think they should. But that’s the way it is. I hold no grudges.”
I'm sure that other Senate Democrats would say that this style works well - for them. They don't get pestered into votes they don't like to take, they don't have any consequences for their actions on the floor of the Senate.
But Lyndon Johnson just came back from the dead, read this profile, and stabbed himself in the heart.
Democratic politicians of this age like to speak about raw numbers and votes and lament the lack of the same. Even in this age of 60 Democratic votes, Reid in particular has worked overtime to downplay the significance, in that gentle, not arm-twisting manner of his. Of course, the facts are that 60 votes are only required to end debate, not for every particular bill. And participation in the caucus should mean, almost by definition, not joining in filibusters from the other side.
If I'm not mistaken, there was at one time at least some power in the office of Majority Leader of the Senate, after all. There are committee assignments to dole out, and decisions on funding vulnerable incumbents, or appearing in their states, and legislation that wayward members might need to get to the floor, among other things. There are a whole set of incentives that can work in both directions - carrots and sticks, in the vernacular. Harry Reid's a carrot man in a stick world. And the carrots haven't exactly been enough.
The only person who seems to understand the power of the office of Majority Leader is someone who isn't even in the party, Bernie Sanders, who gets that you can demand the caucus not to participate in Republican filibusters, which would necessarily end them. As soon as we get 40 or so more social democratic-leaning independents in the Senate, I nominate Sanders for Majority Leader. He seems to know what to do with the job.