Vermont’s Patrick Leahy has announced he will not seek re-election in 2022.
Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, one of the most powerful senators in office today, officially called it quits Monday, telling reporters that he would not seek re-election in 2022. “It’s time to come home,” he said, nearly five decades after he was first elected. And while he didn’t mention it during his sufficiently somber and not wholly unexpected announcement, I have a sneaking suspicion Leahy has chosen now as his opportune moment to step back from politics for a series of unrelated — but interconnected — reasons.
1) He’s pretty old, and he’s been doing this for a long, long time.
Leahy is the longest serving senator in office today, having been first elected in 1974 when he was just 34. At 81 years old now, Leahy is well past the typical retirement age in the U.S., and currently serves as the Senate president pro tempore, a position he’s held once before already, putting him third in the presidential line of succession. During his eight terms in office, Leahy’s been all over, chairing any number of the institution’s most powerful bodies, including the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the nominations of federal judges (including to the Supreme Court), and the Senate Appropriations Committee, which decides how to spend federal money. He’s presided over impeachment trials, survived attempted assassinations, and outlasted seven presidential administrations. He’s also been unwell recently, making a last minute stop at a D.C.-area hospital just hours after the opening of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment for an undisclosed ailment.
2) His seat is pretty safe for Democrats, but the Senate sure isn’t.
With the Democrats’ 50/50 margin in the Senate tipped into the majority solely by dint of Vice President Kamala Harris, the 2022 midterms are looking increasingly bad for the party’s chances of maintaining control of one, if not both chambers of Congress. Leahy’s seat, however, seems likely to stay in Democratic control, with President Biden having won Vermont by a more than 2-to-1 margin in 2020. In fact, there hasn’t been a Republican representing Vermont in the Senate for 20 years, after then-Sen. Jim Jeffords became an independent in 2001. (Jeffords was eventually defeated by another independent — Bernie Sanders — a few years later.)
Given then that had Leahy decided to run for re-election, he would almost certainly have won a seat in what is increasingly looking like a Senate minority, it’s understandable why he might opt to spend his ninth decade on this planet not mired in the agita of being once more relegated to the party out of power.
3) He has better things to do, like make cameos in more Batman movies.
There are two people who have been in the vast majority of Batman films since 1989: award-winning actor Michael Gough, who played Bruce Wayne’s steadfast butler Alfred throughout the Burton/Schumacher run, and Patrick Leahy, who has cameoed in five separate Batman films, from the initial Warner Brothers quartet, through Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, and into the DCEU Snyderverse. He also lent his voice to a role in the much beloved Batman: The Animated Series cartoon and authored the introductions to a number of comics anthologies.
Look, here he is telling the Joker that he’s “not intimidated by thugs” despite looking and acting extremely intimidated.
Is this a metaphor for the United States Senate? Who can say.
According to Leahy’s office, all the money he’s made from his various Batman work has been donated to his childhood library. I think we can all agree that being a United States senator is quite the impediment to what is clearly Leahy’s true passion: Batman. Will he spend his retirement plodding around the house with a towel tied around his neck, looking for evildoers and other miscreants? Maybe. Frankly, it’s none of our business how the man fills his private hours once he’s no longer a public servant.