As discontent grew over how health care reform has been handled since the end of last summer, Senator Harry Reid(D-NV) became a lightning rod for many progressives as evidenced by many posts on Daily Kos that are anti-Reid in substance, and he became a symbol for the futility of being a centrist when the times have clearly shown that being out there and proudly on the left is the way to victory and our nation mandated that on November of 2008. Now, Reid’s hopes of re-election grow slimmer with each passing day, and he has been widely criticized on both sides of the political spectrum. This month, we learned that during the Obama campaign in 2008, Reid said something in language that was politically insensitive, but uncomfortably true concerning a portion of the American electorate. There were calls for Reid to resign. I also think Reid should resign but for a much different reason. Reid’s leadership has been unacceptably mediocre, and his seat could be held on to without him there. A much better Senate Majority Leader could then get a progressive agenda done.
This week, a Research 2000 poll done for Daily Kos showed that Reid has a significant unfavorable rating and would be beaten by either Danny Tarkanian or Sue Lowden if the general election were held now. THE Kossack himself put it very nicely; Reid is Toast. The poll shows that there isn’t any particular love for Republicans in Nevada, they have even less favorable numbers than the Democrats. No, Nevada is just sick of ineffectual, anti-choice Harry Reid. Also, so far Reid’s likely opponents are not top-shelf Republicans either, and as Matt Yglesias showed us a few weeks ago, Lowden wants to make sure that Fake People don’t get jobs. But it could get even worse for Reid, as the Las Vegas Sun reports that Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki is seriously considering running against Reid. Krolicki has won statewide office three times, and is John McCain’s preferred candidate for the Senate seat. But of course, as another Kossack has told me before, the ballgame could really change if Nevada’s other Senator, John Ensign has to resign due what the FBI is probing him on.
Reid has been the leader of the Democrats in the Senate sine 2005, and has been Majority Leader since 2007. Since Reid has held that position, we’ve had numerous opportunities to end the War in Iraq sooner, we could have held telecommunication companies liable for breaking the law by spying on us, we could have ended discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military, we could have enacted a carbon tax that would have started us on the road to reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and showed Europe and Asia our greatness at Copenhagen, and we could have had the start of universal health coverage. Most people will blame President Obama for the lack of progress in 2009, but Obama is not a Prime Minister, he’s our President, and therefore he is limited in what laws he can enact. Harry Reid is the closest thing we have to a Prime Minister, and the lion’s share of responsibilities for the failures of Congress rest at his feet. Granted, Reid can claim that he helped close the pay gap for women, got tougher on the credit card companies, passed a much needed Recovery Act that is still helping this country, and is very close to doing what others have failed to do in the past: pass a comprehensive health care reform bill, albeit a severely watered-down one that falls short of universal coverage. As I was watching Gov. Bob McDonnell’s(R-VA) well-chereographed answer to the State of the Union address, I was struck by something he quoted. From the Gospel of Luke 12:18(NIV) "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. " Reid was given a supermajority of 60 to enact legistation that America had mandated by electing Barack Obama and voting out so many Republicans. For failing miserably at getting most of what was set out to be done in 2009, and for continuing to let Joseph Lieberman(I-CT) have a gavel, Harry Reid should do the honorable thing and step down as Majority Leader.
A real Majority Leader wouldn’t have made the mistakes Reid made in aproaching health care reform. For one thing, a great Majority Leader would have kept a Medicare for All, Canada-style bill on the table as a sort of "nuclear option" that could be passed through reconciliation with 51 votes or 50 plus Vice President Joseph Biden. And when the Gang of Six were letting the teabaggers define what was the bill was by sitting on their asses, Reid should have told some other Finance committee members to do their own bill and leave Baucus in the dust. If this was done, we could have had bills pass through both houses at the end of July or at the very latest, the beginning of September. When Lieberman was holding the whole thing hostage, Reid should have threatened to strip him of his gavel, tar and feather him and then change the Senate Rules to invoke cloture at 59. It also may have been a mistake to try and do everything in one massive bill instead of four or five very strategically written bills, some that would have gone through the reconciliation process at the start and some that we know we could have the ladies from Maine get on board with(with or without some horse trading and Lieberman would be irrelevant). As it is, Reid needs to start doing a bill through reconciliation so the House can then pass the Senate Bill, and President Obama can sign the Senate Bill with the reconciliation patch as law.
As to who would replace Reid as Majority Leader, his second-in-command, the Majority Whip is Sen. Dick Durbin(D-IL). Durbin is a bona fide progressive with a record to show for it. Reid has said that Durbin is a "great debater", and I think he would have enough fire in the belly to do what had to be done to pass some legislation. Durbin might not have some credibility with the PUMA crowd and some of the more further left because of his close relationship to the President, and some might question if he was too close to the Chicago machine. I would be perfectly fine with Durbin as Majority Leader, and I think most of us feel the same. I would suggest another candidate however, just so we can have an alternative. Sen. Tom Harkin(D-IA) is a beloved progressive from a swing state that often helps to decide the winner of the nominations of both parties. Having a Majority Leader that is in touch with America’s Heartland would really give our agenda more credibility, and most of the past Majority Leaders came from states that weren’t on either coast. Harkin is also close to the Clintons which could bring some of those PUMAs back into doing what needs to be done on the streets to advance our agenda. It would also help that Harkin was the chief sponsor of the American with Disabilities Act. I certainly welcome any other suggestions for Majority Leader though.
If Reid has any honor or sense left in him, he’ll pass the torch to someone else to be Majority Leader, so that the Democratic agenda could still get done. I’m also still hopeful for someone to challenge Reid in a primary, so it would still be possible to hold onto that seat. If he doesn’t resign, November 2010 could be the final verdict on Reid’s job as Majority Leader. I am still hopeful he’ll do the right thing.