Monday, April 11, 2016
Down Ballot Blues: Hillary Clinton Can Better Help Democrats Take Back The Senate
On the other hand, if the Democrats can take back the Senate -- and gain seats in the House -- it is far more likely that a Democratic President can successfully pursue progressive policies. (Think Elizabeth Warren as Chairperson of the Banking Committee.) More importantly, in my view, the balance of power on the Supreme Court would shift to the left of center for the first time since about 1970, and with that shift (along with a similar shift in the lower federal courts), there is enormous potential to transform society with a justice system that would advance, rather than impede, privacy and reproductive rights, civil rights, voting rights, consumer and workers' rights, and criminal justice.
There's your political revolution!
The Democrats need to pick up just four seats to control the Senate (with the Vice President then serving as tie-breaker), and there appear to be at least six seats currently held by Republicans that can be had -- Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Illinois, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. (Colorado and Nevada, currently held by Democrats, however, are also in play.)
The Republicans who find Trump too abhorrent and erratic and Cruz too creepy and extremist may sit out the election altogether, greatly benefitting Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, particularly if Trump is the nominee, Republican Senate and House candidates in these battleground states will be put in the uncomfortable position of having to distance themselves from their own presidential candidate (and conservative voters) or risk alienating independents -- especially independent women -- and whatever remaining moderate Republicans still exist.
But still there are huge challenges for Democrats, most significantly, the likelihood that the Koch Brothers and other right wing mega-donors, realizing that neither Trump or Cruz are electable, will focus their vast resources on Senate and Houses races to keep Congress in Republican hands. Which leads to a critical question of which Democratic candidate is better equipped to help Democratic candidates down the ballot. The answer is the only real Democrat in the race -- Hillary Clinton.
Sanders has been an Independent for his entire political career -- as mayor, Congressman and Senator. He only became a Democrat to run for President. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But his campaign staff and wildly enthusiastic supporters appear so focused on "The Bern" that they have yet to even consider supporting other Democratic candidates.
Hillary Clinton, unlike Sanders, has deep ties to the Democratic Party that go back at least to her work on George McGovern's campaign. As Clinton herself said: “I’m also a Democrat and have been a proud Democrat all my adult life. I think that’s kind of important if we’re selecting somebody to be the Democratic nominee of the Democratic Party. But what it also means is that I know how important to elect state legislatures, to elect Democratic governors, to elect a Democratic Senate and House of Representatives.”
And Clinton, in great contrast to Sanders, has put her money where her mouth is. In addition to raising money for her own campaign, Clinton raised an additional $15 million for the DNC and state parties in the past quarter. Sanders has not raised a penny for other Democratic candidates during this time. Indeed, when Sanders was asked by Rachel Maddow last week whether he would turn his fundraising ability toward helping the Democratic Party more broadly, including helping their campaign committees for the House and the Senate, his noncommittal response was: "Well, we’ll see. And, I mean right now, again, our focus is on winning the nomination."
As Jamelle Bouie put it "Hillary Clinton is running to lead Democrats, and Bernie Sanders is running to lead liberals." Consequently, Clinton is more concerned with traditional party building and leading a broader coalition that includes not only the liberals and progressives that Sanders is courting. While this often results in what appears to be Clinton's infuriating hedging and measured compromise on issues in order to please conflicting constituencies, it also means that she is far better equipped to help a wide range of Democratic candidates down the ballot. And, it is only by taking back the Senate -- and then the Supreme Court -- and defeating Republicans in local elections throughout the Country that there is even a possibility of true progressive change.