Today is Memorial Day in America; a day we set aside to honor our war dead. Hopefully all Americans will at least pause to think of them. The day has morphed into another holiday for picnics, ballgames and parties. We have a day honoring all veterans who have worn the uniform and served; today is for those who gave their lives to preserve the freedoms we have. I have never worn the uniform and certainly wasn’t called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice but I appreciate that many, in fact too many, did. That took courage and a sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves. What is disappointing me is that, to date at least, too many Democratic politicians appear unwilling to risk their political future to save America. Let’s explore.
I think the latest count is that we have 23 “significant” contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. That is ridiculous. Several would serve the cause much better if they ran for the Senate.
I’m a Nervous Nellie by nature. 2020 should be similar to 1976 for Democrats in that anyone we run with a “D” after their name should be elected President. Don’t count those chickens just yet! Unless the Democrats really mess up they should hold the House, which is important but not enough on its own. I still think the Democrats have to be favored to win the presidency, but keep in mind that America is very polarized, our democracy will be under attack from foreign powers and everything still depends on voter turnout. How many of you predicted a President Trump in 2016? I certainly didn’t.
The Democrats have the opportunity to take back the all-important Senate but to date aren’t doing what they need to do to make that happen. As of this writing there will be 34 seats up for grabs, with the Republicans defending 22 and the Democrats 12. Just those raw numbers favor the Democrats, but it gets better. Only one of the Democrats looks vulnerable (Doug Jones in Alabama) and only one incumbent Democrat has announced their retirement (Tom Udall in New Mexico). While New Mexico is not solid blue it does lean Democratic and all other things being equal the D’s should be able to retain the seat. Jones’ chances look a tad better after Alabama passed their recent anti-choice law and the rumors are that Roy Moore may run again. That issue may well be mostly forgotten by November of 2020 and the Alabama Republicans may be able to dissuade Moore. All that said I will assume the Democrats defend 11 of the 12 seats.
Of the 22 Republican seats I count 13 in play when you include the seats of the retiring Lamar Alexander in Tennessee and Pat Roberts in Kansas. (I admit Kansas is more of a stretch but it still doesn’t make me a likely subject for drug testing.) In alphabetical order here are the other 11: Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia, Susan Collins in Maine, John Cornyn in Texas, Steve Daines in Montana, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, Martha McSally in Arizona, David Perdue in Georgia and Thom Tillis in North Carolina.
To date the only one that has drawn a top tier Democratic challenger is McSally in the person of Mark Kelly who is a retired Navy Captain (the rank immediately below Admiral – the same one the late Republican Arizona Senator John McCain held).
At this point Stacey Abrams is sitting it out in Georgia where she is the best the Democrats have to throw against Perdue. Beto O’Rourke, Steve Bullock and John Hickenlooper are running for president and except for O’Rourke they are hardly registering in the polls. We need them to run against Cornyn, Daines and Gardner who are all vulnerable to a strong challenger.
It’s baseball season and thus far my Tampa Bay Rays are doing very well so I’ll use a baseball analogy. Sometimes you have to take one for the team. In baseball that means allowing yourself to get hit by an inside pitch so that your team gets a needed baserunner. (There is also hitting behind the runner and a sacrifice but this is a political, not baseball, column.) Getting hit by a baseball hurts, but getting on base helps the cause.
I’m not an expert on every state’s Democratic “bench” but in several others the best available candidate is either not stepping forward or running for a safer office. In 1942 I’m sure it would have been much safer for my father to stay home instead of enlisting in the Navy. (My late father couldn’t swim.) Luckily he made it home, met my mother, married her and a few years later Larry was born. He didn’t have to pay the ultimate price but he took a fastball or two in the process.
Assuming Jones loses and the Democrats take the White House they need a net gain of four to take the Senate. If they fail to win the presidency the net gain needs to be five. A Jones win coupled with the Oval Office lowers the number to three. In all likely scenarios the goal is achievable if only the best candidates are willing to risk their personal political future for the greater good (the team/cause).
Under the leadership of McConnell the Republicans are letting good legislation passed by the Democratic House die without a vote. If that weren’t bad enough they are confirming radical right wing judges that will be on the bench for decades to come. Then there is the plethora of Trump appointees who are unqualified, corrupt or both. Even if Trump is reelected a Democratic Senate can plug that hole to a great degree.
I pride myself on being a practical progressive but a part of me would love to see McConnell defeated. It could happen. Mitch never wins by a wide margin, but he controls the Republican Senate reelection funds and it might not be the most efficient use of funds to go after him hard. While spending all that money on a single race might be less than intelligent it is downright suicidal if we don’t have a top notch candidate to challenge him. Even if the Republicans retained the Senate they would not be as effective sans McConnell. He may be evil but he is a master of the Senate and the Republicans don’t have anyone with his skills waiting in the wings.
I could go on but you have holiday things to do. Let me leave you with this thought: Today we honor those who died to preserve America; won’t a handful of Democratic politicians risk their political careers to save it?
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