As I wrote before, the numbers in the Senate always worked against us. We need to increase the number of Dems in order to give Red state Democrats (who we very much need) the cover they need on votes like these.
With all due respect to Markos, the assertion that the Democratic Senators who voted in favor of ending the debate on Alito are beleaguered red staters who need political cover for this kind of vote is pure fiction.
The re-election rate for incumbents in the U.S. Senate over the last 20 years is higher than the re-election rate for members of the politburo at the end of the Cold War. And the reality is that the overwhelming majority of red state Democrats on the list of those who voted to end debate are more popular than their blue state counterparts.
Indeed, among Senators who voted to end debate, the only person below 55% approval in the latest SurveyUSA opinion poll is Maria Cantwell, a Democratic Senator from Washington, a state where Democrats control every branch of government, 6 of 9 members of the congressional delegation, and both seats in the U.S. Senate.
Though many of us, quite understandably, feel betrayed, the real reason that we lost this vote is that for all of the work that people in the progressive netroots poured into this campaign, our grassroots and netroots opponents on the Republican side are simply better prepared and better organized to conduct this kind of advocacy -- and it showed.
Democracy for West Virginia leaders said that calls to Byrd and Rockefeller favoring Alito, organized through conservative churches and their affiliates, greatly outnumbered calls opposing him. And, as Kos noted earlier, Digby has suggested that Ken Salazar's vote was a capitualtion to James Dobson, whose headquarters is in Colorado Springs.
I live in Blue Oregon. Oregon is arguably one of the most progressive states in the country. Every statewide officeholder in Oregon is a Democrat. 4 out of 5 members of our congressional delegation are Democrats. Our governor is a Democrat, and we control one of two bodies in the legislature.
Yet there was not one single call to action on this issue by the Democratic Party of Oregon. The only chatter on the major listserves to whip up public opposition to Alito in Oregon was on the Pacific Greens list, and some email that I sent to the DFO steering committee and to the county central committees.
And theirin lies one of the biggest challenges that we face... the precinct and county-level infrastructure of the Democratic Party is antiquated and ill-equipped for this kind of fight, and key staffers within the party, such as state and regional-level executive directors are all-too-often unwilling to champion a system that encourages grassroots political advocacy outside of the general election cycle on the grounds that it might alienate incumbent Democrats.
If the Democratic Party in Oregon was nowhere on this issue, how can we expect the Democratic Party in West Virginia, or Louisiana, or Nebraska, or any of the other Red States to challenge their Democratic Senators to move beyond their comfort zone on votes like this?
In any case, here's a roll call of Democrat "Nay's" and their approval rating:
Ben Nelson 67%
Bill Nelson 53%