Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Is “What We Can Get” Good Enough?

In the April 10th issue of New York Magazine, Ryan Lizza walks us through the Democrats’ dream of reclaiming control of the Senate this November, in his must read article, “The Bush-Cheney Era Ends Here”. There are eight competitive races across the country, two seats currently held by Democrats and six held by Republicans, and if the Dems can win all eight races, they’ve got their majority and all that comes with it. As support for the President dwindles, Republicans are bracing for the worst and Democrats are starting to think this dream could actually become a reality. For those of us who want so badly to reclaim our own party by wrestling it away from the moderates and conservatives who currently dominate it, it’s tough to figure out if stopping the bleeding now is a good enough reason to put our plans on hold.

The article follows Chuck Schumer, currently heading the DSCC, on the warpath to take back the Senate. Schumer has been a masterful fundraiser and has managed to ward off possible GOP challengers in key states by bringing in the dough early, but he has also actively recruited anti-choice candidates and even pushed Paul Hackett out of the race in Ohio (after actively recruiting him to run) when his second choice Sherrod Brown changed his mind and decided to seek the seat. This kind of ruthless strategic maneuvering is exactly what we need in order to take control of the Senate, but it also may weaken the long-term health of the Party.

The debate rages within the Democratic Party about whether or not the numbers matter more than the ideology. I understand the value in taking a pragmatic approach, especially considering that taking control of the Senate means Democrats will be chairing committees, able to bring important legislation to the floor that has been sitting dormant for the past five years and finally have the subpoena power that will allow them to really investigate the Bush administration and GOP corruption. That’s a pretty powerful motivator for sending even moderate and conservative Democrats back to the Senate, although I remain unconvinced that it’s the best long-term strategy for the Party.

Reading Lizza’s article, he almost had me convinced that I should get behind Schumer’s plan to take back the Senate, regardless of his tactics, but then he lost me at the end when he put forth another scenario:

"Some Democrats, however, have been flirting with a slightly altered version of the dream. Wouldn’t it be better, they wonder, if they came close to winning back the Senate this year, but accomplished the task only in 2008? After all, a slim Senate majority would make it difficult to govern, perhaps giving Bush the opportunity to turn the new Senate leadership into a useful foil, just as Bill Clinton did to Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole, and thereby revive his presidency. Furthermore, this alternate dream scenario goes, in 2008, there are 21 Republicans up for reelection and only 12 Democrats. Wouldn’t that be the moment for Democrats to come sweeping back into power?"

This alternate dream has the added benefit of giving liberals and progressives a chance to exert our will before the election in ’08. Most of us have accepted that Bush will serve out the remainder of his term, so the carrot of impeachment is not as enticing as it once was. And with such a sad showing of unity during the Alito confirmation, many of us are acutely aware of how devastating moderate and conservative Democrats can be to the things we care about most. Having a Democratic majority in the Senate does little if those Democrats are anti-choice and will vote to confirm right-wing Bush appointees anyway. I can only accept so much in the name of Party unity and I’d rather have Republicans voting to restrict our rights than watch Democrats help them do it.

I have stated in the past that I would rather lose by a large margin with a candidate that actually represents the ideals I believe in, than lose by a slim margin with a merely adequate one. But the climate has changed and it’s no longer a choice between losing and losing badly, now there is actually a chance to win. I’m not sure that the new math changes my opinion, but the possibility of a tourniquet made of an adequate majority is becoming harder and harder to resist. But with Senate incumbents enjoying a reelection rate of around 80% (and it’s even higher in the House), we better be ready to live with these barely adequate, anti-choice Democrats for years and years to come. A tourniquet will stop the bleeding, but it certainly won’t solve the problem.


Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Ugh! I have decided that I am the disenfranchised. I do not want to vote anymore because there is no real choice. We invest so much of ourselves in a process in which it is no longer clear when we've achieved victory.

As far as the argument for 2008, is he suggesting that we not use every fair and legal means at our disposal to reclaim the majority? To, in essence, throw the fight? That's just about the dumbest thing I've heard in a long time. A bird in the hand... We may not care for a particular Democrat, but we have leverage with a democrat that we don't have with a republican. We represent a potentially lost vote. I can call both of my republican senators every day to complain, but the bottom line is, I do not represent a potentially lost vote to them. The democrat still has to satisfy the needs of his baseto remain in power.

12:11 PM  
Blogger BigNewsDay said...

I agree with yellow dog here. We need to take our chances when they are available. If we can get the Senate majority this year, we need to take it. Then we can look at just increasing the numbers in 2008, because I feel that the republican are going to continue shooting themselves in the foot.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Howard Martin said...

I don't want another republican senate, if can have a democratic one.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Chad Shue said...

"but we have leverage with a democrat that we don't have with a republican. We represent a potentially lost vote."

Whoa! How do we represent a "lost vote" if we are never a "lost vote"?

"Senator, I implore you to vote against this or that. However, if you still feel compelled to vote FOR this or that don't you worry. I won't withold my vote until our party is safely in the majority."

Considering the make-up of the country, I do not see a "safe" majority for either party for quite some time. Rewarding someone who does not represent you with another six years without a fight (read Primary challenge), is a cop-out (in the kindest of terms).


Chad (The Left) Shue

1:43 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...


I have the option of voting for a diferent democrat in te next primary.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In the long run, we're all dead." John Maynard Keynes

I say let's do what Johnny Keynes implies, and no, Mollie, I'm not an economist either! Let's take what's on the table.

When I read that one of the anti-choice Dems is running against one of THE worst specimens from Wingnutistan, Rick Santorum, I said "no brainer', which is an apt description of slippery slope 'Man on Dog' Ricky.

We take away 'the Dems are not a big tent party because they do not have 'right to lifers' charge, or at least mitigate it. One or two of those along with 4 new freedom of choice votes, and 4 fewer anti-choicers is arithmetic I can live with.

Think in terms of foolish and damaging legistation blocked for the final 2 years while the Dems also compile a legislative program they can run on in '08.

Also, I do not accept that Bush finishing out his term is a foregone conclusion. One or two more indictments from Fitzgerald, including perhaps a 'magical' unindicted co-conspirator charge against either or both Bush and Cheney would almost certainly result in impeachment hearings if the Dems are the majority. Hell, just a Rove indictment will be damaging enough to further nationalize the upcoming elections.

I say we run like there's no tomorrow!

2:57 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

You know, dale, I was gonna make a Keynesian reference, but since I'm taking macroeconomics right now, I thought it might sound a little pretentious.

I like he way you think. The last year ha been rope-a-dope. Time to start swinging away.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yellow Dog~

I care not a whit about appearing pretentious because I always 'cut' it
with ample sarcasm, irony, satire and barely concealed contempt.

Also, as noted philosopher Lily Tomlin once stated: "No matter how cynical I become, it's never enough to keep up!"

4:49 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...


Why do you not have a blog, man? You would kill.

6:08 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Yellow Dog--You're not disenfranchised, you just think too much and it feels like the same thing.

BigNewsDay--I think you're right, but those Republicans seem to have an unlimited supply of left feet to shoot at.

Howie--I think we're all with you on that one.

Chad (left) Shue--I hear you, it's just how much are we willing to suffer to make a point? The primary is the place to make that stand, beyond that, I'm not so sure.

Dale--Glad to see I'm not alone in still believing that ProsecutorMan can save the day (and democracy to boot).

Yellow Dog--Yep, let's grab our bats.

Dale--Your contempt is part of your charm.

Yellow Dog--I think you're right. See Dale, if you start a blog you've already got two fans lined up!

9:59 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...


I am hardy ever accused of thinkingtoo much.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Steve Zemke said...

Just a few months ago things looked pretty bad for the Democrats hoping to get a majority in the US Senate. Now people are trying to finesse some fancy super moves like we're the Harlem Globe Trotters against the local Junior High Team?

Give me a break. Nothing is certain or guaranteed in politics. Give Bush another Bin Laden attack on America and Bush could be riding high again.

Ever heard the saying "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" Even going all out to win guarantees us nothing at this point. Laying back, thinking a Democratic win is a cakewalk in 2006 is ridiculous.

Democrats controlling either the House or the Senate would break the current Bush/Republican deadlock on Congress. Without a majority it is almost impossible to stop Republican legislation. We need to go all out to win while we have the chance.

Remember if the Republicans keep their majority come November they will call it another mandate from the voters to continue doing what they’ve been doing. The gauntlet has already been thrown.

This campaign is about the Republicans and the mess they’ve created. Now is the time to act. You use your opportunities when you have them. Now is the time to fight to get the majority back. You may not get another chance.

8:25 AM  

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