Monday, April 11, 2016

Down Ballot Blues: Hillary Clinton Can Better Help Democrats Take Back The Senate

Assuming a Democrat wins the White House but the Senate remains in Republican hands, there will be no political revolution as Bernie Sanders promises and little of the relatively more incremental change that Hillary Clinton proposes.  Supreme Court vacancies, including the current one, will likely remain vacant, with Republicans having no incentive to confirm a Democratic nominee -- even after the election.  Indeed, it is hard to imagine very many Republicans foolhardy enough to dissent from a rabid GOP base that would strenuously object to any nominee to the left of the late Antonin Scalia.

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.


Jonathan Spalter said...

To paraphrase Telemachus, your excellent and important analysis is not only an eye-opener to the real stakes involved in this consequential election, but "it has the added value of being true!" Thanks for this!

J Thomas said...

My concern is that we desperately need fundamental change. We are heading toward the nation splitting apart, likely sooner than most people imagine.

I don't see any of the change we need from Clinton. From Clinton I see some minor social stuff. Maybe a small step toward gun control. A small step toward getting women to be equally oppressed in the marketplace. A degree of protection for abortion. Only partial cutbacks for Social Security.

For foreign policy she promises total support for Netanyahu. I can hope she's lying, making campaign promises. If not, that will mean a big long ground war in Syria and attacks on Iran. Then there's TPP etc.

She'll basicly do nothing about Wall Street and the finance industry because she believes they are OK, she wants a few tweaks. She thinks Obamacare needs a few tweaks. She'll basicly do nothing about the balance of trade because she thinks it's OK. She does want to spend money on solar energy.

If you think the status quo is good for you and we don't need changes, then a Clinton win gives you 4 years of the status quo. Then if she wins again you can have another 4 years. Otherwise it's 4 years of Clinton and 4 years of GOP.

The Senate is likely to turn Democrat this year because there are a lot of GOP senators on the line and some of them will fall. In 2018 there will be 25 Democratic senators on the line and the Senate will surely switch back.

I just don't see anything to be hopeful for from all this. If you treat it like a sporting event and you cheer for the blue jerseys and boo the red jerseys, then sure, play to win. If Clinton gets the nomination the best thing I can do is vote Green, because it's time to create functional parties to replace the Democrats and the GOP.

Prabu Gopalakrishnan said...

hillary is a lying crook. She wont do 10% of what she is saying. She just wants to be president. She is owned by Wall sTreet and Corporations, and will ruin our country. Vote for Bernie.

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