It’s officially election season, and many people have been wondering out loud if the Democrats can keep their majority in the Senate. They are defending 23 seats in 2012, and the GOP needs only four to take control. The House? That’s a taller order. The Democrats need 25 seats to take back control. Yet, according to Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee, the Democrats are “tantalizingly close.” On ABCs “Top Line” Israel said that the Democrats have top recruits running for 60 Republican-held or open seats. According to Israel, the Democrats won’t take anything for granted. Pardon me, but I’m from the ‘show me’ state when it comes to the Democrats helping each other out.
The Battle in Massachusetts
I remember how utterly stunned I was when Scott Brown took Ted Kennedy’s seat after his death. Are you kidding me? Ted Kennedy, an unabashed liberal, held that seat for 46 years prior to his untimely death, and a Tea Party Boy walked away with it. Now, the Democrats had to know how important that seat was. Barack Obama had to know how important that seat was. Martha Coakley, the incredibly competent Attorney General for Massachusetts, took up Kennedy’s mantle. Many people want to blame her for running a bad campaign. Hey, they have to blame someone. She did make several mistakes along the way, so maybe her inexperience under the big top didn’t help. However, I’m not willing to lay all the blame on her. Barack Obama did nothing to help her. No other Democrat stood by her side helping to give her cover and pump up her credentials and visibility. Instead, they just assumed the Dems had the seat locked up. Enter Scott Brown, who had plenty of support from the Tea Partiers and money from corporate America. Guess what? When we woke up in the morning, he had won. Now, it’s up to Elizabeth Warren to unseat Scott Brown and bring the seat back where it belongs.
Massachusetts is a key battleground, there’s no question about it. Let’s hope the DC Democrats recognize that. There’s more to the game than sending letters out asking for money. I’ve received many emails from big-time Democrats asking me to contribute to Warren’s campaign. What we need is visibility from some of these public servants. We need people to pump her up. Where’s John Kerry? How about Barack Obama? Now, people have a theory about how Elizabeth Warren came to challenge Brown. One theory is that Barack Obama turned his back on her appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) because he knew she’d run against Brown. Let’s not be naïve. Barack Obama turned his back on Elizabeth Warren because the GOP wanted no part of her, and he spends way too much time ‘playing nice’ with the GOP. Let’s not forget that his own corrupt Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, wanted no part of her either. She’s too dangerous to their toxic game. She is challenging Scott Brown because a lot of people, including the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), identified her as the person with the right mindset and the right credentials to get rid of Tea Party Boy. If anybody represents the 99%, it’s Elizabeth Warren. Frankly, if Barack Obama was smart, he’d be seen with her as much as possible in the coming months.
The Newest Battleground: Maine
Another new key battleground will be Maine, where Olympia Snowe has announced that she will step down from her Senate seat after three terms because she’s disgusted with the GOP agenda. Case in point: The Blunt Amendment. This Neanderthal legislation, introduced by Missouri’s Roy Blunt (R-MO) and co-sponsored by (you guessed it) Masshole Scott Brown, will allow any employer to withhold health care services that violate their “religious beliefs and moral convictions.” We’re not just talking about religious organizations, but any employer. At risk here would be coverage for things like contraception and abortion, leaving millions of women in the lurch. Snowe is the only member of the GOP to go on record saying she will not vote for the bill. Neither her compatriot in the Senate, Susan Collins, nor Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, have gone on record. Snowe’s resignation stunned the GOP brain trust (such as it is). They are left scrambling, leaving a golden opportunity for the Democrats. Pro-choice women are hard to come by in the GOP, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the right-wing Christian lunatic fringe. The Dems need to field a strong candidate here. So far, former Gov. John Baldacci and Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree (all Democrats) have jumped on the opportunity.The choice of the PCCC here is Chellie Pingree, and they’ve started a signature campaign to help her make the decision much as they did with Elizabeth Warren.
As I was writing this article, an email popped up saying that the Blunt Amendment (thankfully) failed in the senate. It should be noted that Scott Brown both co-sponsored and voted in favor of that amendment. This right-wing stance should prove, once and for all, that he isn’t an ‘independent’ thinker who doesn’t always tow the party line. Rather, he is in lock step with his GOP counterparts on the front line in the war on women. The Democrats should spare no opportunity to make that clear in their attempt to help Elizabeth Warren unseat him in November. Warren wasted no time, stating “It’s an assault on every family in Massachusetts,’’ Warren said in a phone interview. “It’s an extreme attack that opens the door to outright discrimination. I’m shocked that Senator Brown is cosponsoring this amendment. This would mean no one could count on basic health coverage.’’
Can Tammy Baldwin Take Wisconsin?
Wisconsin is another state where the unthinkable happened when Tea Party candidate Ron Johnson defeated progressive three-term Democrat Russ Feingold in 2010. In the ever-changing political landscape, Wisconsin now presents an opportunity for the Democrats to recover in 2012 from what can only be considered a devastating loss. While progressives wanted Russ Feingold to run again for the seat of retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, he has thrown his support behind Rep. Tammy Baldwin. This race is critical for more than one reason. Should Baldwin lose, we lose a tireless fighter in the house for the LGBT community, women and the middle class. Baldwin has held her house seat since 1998. At present, the Wisconsin senate polls are in flux but the latest show her ahead of Tommy Thompson (seriously, does this asshat ever give it up?) by a hair and by the other two contenders by a more comfortable margin. Baldwin’s message should resonate in the state where Democrats have fought a hard battle with Republican Governor Scott Walker over the collective bargaining rights of state workers.
Sayonara, Joe Lieberman
The race is on in Connecticut where Joe Lieberman is retiring.They say time heals all wounds, and Lieberman is now being cast a woe-is-me man who never recovered from the misadventures of 2004, 2006 and 2008. According to Lieberman, he never changed. Rather, the Democratic party moved to the left. I have my opinions on Manic Joe. The long and short of it is that he always had more in common with the GOP than with the Democrats. He was the other half of the losing Al Gore for President ticket in 2004. After George W. Bush took office, Lieberman became a vocal supporter of the Iraq war. In 2006 after he lost the Democratic primary for re-election, he declared himself an Independent and reclaimed his Senate seat. There’s no question he could not have done that without the backing of Republicans. Although an Independent, he caucused with Democrats. Then, in his own manic manner, he backed the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008, even attending the Republican Convention to speak on stage. I say ‘sayonara.’ Any Democratic win here will be an improvement over Lieberman. On the Democratic side, Rep. Chris Murphy and former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz are testing the waters and raising money. The field is growing crowded on the Republican side as well
All of this being said, there are vulnerable seats as well. In Missouri, freshman Sen. Claire McCaskill is at risk for re-election. She has admitted to failing to pay taxes on a private plane, and the GOP is making sure that is an issue. Missouri voted for McCain in 2008, and elected asshat Roy Blunt (yes, that Roy Blunt) in 2010. In Ohio, Sherrod Brown (who is labeled a ‘firebrand liberal’) still has the edge, but is being heavily targeted by the GOP. It would be a shame to lose him. This has to be seen as a priority by the Democrats. In Virginia, freshman Sen. Jim Webb is retiring after one term. Former GOP Sen. George Allen, who lost to Webb, will try to reclaim the seat. In West Virginia, Sen. Joe Manchin won the seat left vacant by the passing of Robert Byrd. Now he must run for re-election. And in North Dakota, Sen. Kent Conrad is retiring. Political experts say that the GOP will take both seats in 2012.
Winning in the House Critical
On the House side, redistricting has forced Dennis Kucinich to run in a primary against his longtime colleague, Marcy Kaptur, in Ohio’s new Toledo-area 9th District. Kucinich represented more of this district than did Kaptur. One of the most progressive voices in the House who once filed 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, Rep. Kucinich is virulently anti-war, a crusader for same-sex marriage and LGBT civil rights, and a foe of the Wall Street fat cats. There can be no question that Kucinich was a Republican target in the redistricting effort. It is absolutely critical that Kucinich returns to the House of Representatives.
In Massachusetts, Barney Frank became another victim of redistricting and announced his retirement after 16 terms in office. Frank has been a pioneer fighter for LGBT civil rights, expanded affordable housing, and was an architect of the Dodd-Frank Financial Act designed to protect consumers and prevent excessive risk-taking by financial institutions. Oddly enough, Frank won his seat in 1980 and then, due to redistricting, was forced to fight two years later against powerful Republican incumbent Margaret Heckler. Frank went on to beat Heckler with 60% of the vote and has been in the House ever since. At 71, Frank wants to do something else other than fight for his political life, becoming the 17th Democrat to retire (only six Republicans are retiring). While others are running for Frank’s seat, Democratic hopes rest on Joseph Kennedy III – the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and the son of former Rep. Joseph Kennedy II – who announced in February that he will run for Frank’s seat.
There are only so many races I can go into detail about in this article since the Republicans must defend or fill 60 contested or open seats come November. I see the Kucinich seat and filling Barney Frank’s seat as the most critical off the top. There are, to be sure, others.
The Democrats Need a Tough, Consistent Message About the GOP
Some political junkies believe that it is unlikely that the Democrats will pick up 25 seats, but I don’t think that is insurmountable if the Democrats make a concerted effort to point out just exactly what the Republicans have been up to since 2010. In other words, while it’s important to look at each race individually because the dynamics are different from state to state and district to district, there should be some kind of overall strategy and message against the GOP. There are some avenues of attack.
The GOP has been taken over by right-wing Christian extremists who are more concerned with legislating morality than solving real-world problems. The GOP took back control based on the promise that they had solutions to our economic woes. In reality, the GOP has no novel ideas and no plans. The Republicans are completely out of touch with the issues that face the 99%. They continue to advocate for tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. They refuse to reign in Wall Street.
The GOP has literally spent nearly two years on ideological bullshit, the cornerstone of which is their vast war on women. Women comprise 55% of the population. If the Democrats aren’t formulating a strong message to the female voters in this country, they are fools who deserve to lose in November.
The message to the Democrats and, specifically, to Barack Obama is: Take the gloves off and stop playing nice with the GOP. Been there, done that. It doesn’t work. The GOP isn’t interested in bipartisanship. It is interested in advancing its own agenda which, oddly enough, doesn’t mesh with the agenda of the vast majority of Americans. Bipartisanship can only hurt the Democrats now. It’s time to expose the GOP for exactly what it is.