This last election saw a stellar set of True Progressive Democrats elected to the US Senate. Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren will join Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Tom Harkin and others as key fights over the social safety net and the economy continue into 2013 and beyond.
With this distinctly progressive push voters provided Democrats the political capital to counteract Radical Republican Obstuctionists and Moderate ConservaDem Blue Dog senators who prevented President Obama from acting fully on his mandate in 2008.
The biggest question for Obama's second term is whether he'll work to protect long-standing Democratic programs and principles and enact the more progressive policies that voters urged with his second resounding electoral mandate:
"If the president stands firm ... he will have the overwhelming majority of Americans behind him," Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders says.If the president stands firm. And if the United States Senate maintains steady movement towards more progressive policies that are possible with these new and unabashedly progressive senators.
"And sooner or later the Republicans will catch on that they are in danger of becoming a marginal, fringe party unless they get along with the program and do what the American people want."
Two big ifs.
Some say it's politically possible, even predetermined by the current politics, but I say it will be much more difficult with new DSCC Campaign Chair Michael Bennet of Colorado picking candidates and strategies for the next set of Democrats elected to the senate.
Bennet, along with Mark Udall, immediately went the ConservaDem route in 2009 after Barack Obama's election.
Colorado’s two freshman senators, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, are part of a self-described centrist group of 15 Democrats meeting regularly “seeking to restrain the influence of party liberals in the White House and on Capitol Hill,” according to an account in Roll Call.Boy, they restrained liberals alright, and gave Republicans even more reason to believe their plan to foil Obama's presidency would work. Here's what Rachel said about the ConservaDems:
The group has a “shared commitment to pursue moderate, mainstream and fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, and energy policy,” according to a statement issued Wednesday by the group.
Conservadems like Jon Tester, and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are siding with the Republican Senators who are siding with no voters, not even their own, and who are siding against firefighters and against cops and against teachers."It happened time and again during Obama's first term.
Here's what just happened on the Fiscal Cliff vote courtesy of Colorado's Michael Bennet, the new chair of the DSCC:
"This proposal does not meet that standard and does not put in place a real process to reduce the debt down the road. While I do support many of the items in this proposal, I believe they should have come in the context of a comprehensive deficit reduction package.No, his vote didn't affect the outcome. It was a giveaway, and with it he clearly signaled his desire to cut more, to gut entitlements, to implement austerity as seen by his Republican and Fiscal Hawk partners in the senate.
Without a serious mechanism to reduce the debt, I cannot support this bill."
But that's not what voters said with their clear mandate and progressive electoral choices this November.
Will Bennet work to those choices as Chair of the DSCC? It doesn't look like it:
Staffers say the reason it took Bennet so long to decide whether to take the job — a record three weeks that drove Washington media crazy — was because he was negotiating a leadership platform that would promote moderate Democrats.Will Bennet fight harder to elect more Democrats to the senate or to be a bipartisan hero to his "friends" on the other side of the aisle - Republicans completely hostile to Obama's agenda:
Bennet says he took almost a month to decide whether to take on the role because in part he wanted confirmation, from Republicans in particular, that the job would not imperil relationships he has painstakingly built in four years on Capitol Hill.There you have it: Bennet was so concerned about taking the job he wanted Repubilican approval for what should be a partisan bulldog approach. Bennet's unnatural desire for bipartisanship seems to have overshadowed his duties as a senator, to Democrats, and to his constituents.
"I wanted to make sure it would not interfere with my ability to work in a bipartisan way in the Senate," Bennet said in a short, guarded phone interview. "I talked to people on both sides of the aisle about that and became convinced."
I don't think he can do both jobs these next two years. And I'm afraid the one he'll do is the one Republicans approve of - electing moderates to the senate and working for an austerity economy with cuts to our social safety net.
That's a lose-lose for Democrats.