There have been other moments of "wha?" FISA, Iraq, running interference for the oil and coal industries, and on, and on. And Reid isn't just a Democrat from a conservative state--he's the Senate Democratic Leader, chosen by the Senate Democrats. I've been watching Reid, now, for years, make excuses to Democratic voters, most of whom are far more liberal than Reid. It seemed for a while that he might be a wimp. Only how could a wimp become Senate Majority Leader or retain his seat while consistently opposing his party's own constituency? No, Reid is pursing a conservative agenda and he's doing it with the support of a substantial faction of the Senate Democrats, who chose Reid, by their arcane institutional process (which seems to be secret) to lead them. Which means, not only has Reid sold out his party's rank and file, not only is he corrupt in some well-concealed way, but a substantial faction of the Senate Democrats are, too.
We are in a very bad way. For these Senators--and we do not even know all the names--have allied themselves with the authoritarians who dominate the Republicans. Let's spell that out: the upper house of Congress is dominated by a bipartisan conservative coalition. It is no wonder, then, that Obama, swept into office by progressives and an anti-authoritarian backlash, is not himself pursuing strongly progressive policies. Obama may or may not be a progressive in his personal convictions. But given a bi-partisan conservative coalition in the Senate, how could he make strongly progressive appointments or policy before he has cemented his power? And in fact, he has not made strongly progressive appointments and his early economic proposals are tailored to the biases of the Senate conservatives.
The consensus process of the Senate--the way that it is so easy to block legislation--means that most Senators end up voting for many bills which they do not support. A Senator who consistently votes their own convictions will find themself powerless; all their initiatives will be blocked. Even the Senate's reliable progressives--figures like Saunders, Boxer, and the late Wellstone--engage in this mutual backscratching. The way to know a Senator's convictions is by the issues they return to: John Kerry and veterans, Sanders and environmentalism, Clinton and "women's issues", ... Obama and constitutional law. So with Obama's appointments, I think. His strongest appointments, so far, seem to be attorneys and scientists...and Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State.
Now, I am very pleased with the issues he is taking a stand on. In the long run, I think, these appointments will make for positive change. But, "Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead." Paul Krugman is seriously concerned about his economic policies, Obama's environmental picks are questionable, and Obama's foreign policy picks are hawkish, though not insane like those of W. Bush. In current affairs, I think, the conservative coalition is going to continue to do a great deal of harm.