Following CAFTA, the bankruptcy bill, the energy bill, extremist judges, and a host of other contentious votes, a whole lot of people here are wondering: who needs moderate dems? If they're as likely to vote with Republicans as they are Democrats, then fuck em. We can find people who actually sympathize with Democratic values.
While I sympathize with this line of reasoning, I don't agree with it. Who needs Moderate "Vichy" Dems? We do, for (at least) 3 crucial reasons.
Follow me to the flip...
Senate Majority Leader: Harry Reid (D-NV)
Agriculture Committee Chair: Tom Harken (D-IA)
Appropriations Chair: Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Armed Services Chair: Carl Levin (D-MI)
Banking Committee Chair: Paul Sarbanes (D-MD)
Budget Chair: Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Commerce Chair: Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Energy Chair: Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
Environment Chair: Jim Jeffords (D-VT)
Finance Chair: Max Baucus (D-MT)
Foreign Relations Chair: Joe Biden (D-DE)
Health, Education Chair: Ted Kennedy (D-MA)
Judiciary Chair: Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Rules Committee Chair: Christopher Dodd (D-CT)
Small Business Chair: John Kerry (D-MA)
Veterans Affairs Chair: Daniel Akaka (D-HI)
That's the way the Senate would look if Dems were in the majority, based on the ranking minority member of that Committee.
Look at that list. It's beautiful. Kerry, Dodd, Leahy, Biden and Kennedy would all chair committees. And that list is why "Would senator X vote for this bill" is the wrong question to ask when assessing senators. The question isn't "Would Mary Landrieu vote for another Janice Rogers Brown?". It's "Would Patrick Leahy ever let another Janice Rogers Brown out of Committee?" It's not "Would Mark Pryor vote for John Bolton?" It's "Would Joe Biden ever let John Bolton near the senate floor?" And it's not "Would Evan Bayh vote for the prescription Drug Bill?" It's "Would Ted Kennedy ever let anyone vote on the prescription drug bill?"
The answer to all those questions is no. And it's a huge reason why we really do need moderate, red-state Dems. Being in the majority isn't just about the votes you can muster on the floor. It's about gaining control of Committee Chairs and the House Majority Leader. As it is, we're on pins and needles with every vote. "How many Dems will defect? Will enough Republicans defect to block this horrible bill?" With the Dems in charge, those worries subside. Who cares how many Dems would defect, when they're never going to get the chance to? A progressive agenda will be served much better by a Democratic Majority, even a moderate one, than it ever could be by a reactionary Republican one. And we're never going to regain the majority without Red-state dems.
So you think you have no use for Mark Pryor? Do you have a use for Chris Dodd and Harry Reid being in charge? Then you have a use for Mark Pryor. And Evan Bayh. And Mary Landrieu. And whoever else it takes to get Democrats back on top.
Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Mel Martinez (R-FL)
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Conrad Burns (R-MT)
Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
That's a list of the Republican Senators from the states of moderate Dems Salazar, Bill Nelson, Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Max Baucus, and Ben Nelson respectively.
That's an ugly list. Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel play at being moderate republicans, but when the chips are down, they're just as ready to carry the water as the rest of the Republican Party. Conrad Burns is corrupt. David Vitter recieves a lovely Zero Percent from Naral, a 7% record from the ACLU, a 97% by the US COC, and an A rating from the NRA. Wayne Allard has a Zero Rating from the AFL-CIO. Mel Martinez is a Bush lackey who smeared both his primary and general election opponents this past year.
These are the type of people who would likely replace our moderate, red-state Dems if they lost, or were defeated in a primary. We wouldn't just be getting an even bigger Republican majority in the Senate, we'd be getting a bigger majority of crazy, subservient Republicans.
And let's be clear on one thing; in many of these states, running a Democratic candidate more liberal than the one we already have would likely be a recipe for electoral disaster. It's not assured, but Nebraska, Montana, Indiana and Louisiana aren't known for being hotbeds of progressive thought.
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Jim Demint (R-SC)
Mel Martinez (R-FL)
John Thune (R-SD)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Just in case the last list didn't drive home the point fully enough, I hope this one will. Here, in all its majesty, is your Republican Senate class of 2004. In addition to the afforementioned Vitter and Martinez, you have a man who smeared the Democratic Minority Leader out of office (Thune), an anti-abortion, anti-environment run of the mill republican (DeMint) and a man who objects to abortion in cases of rape (Tom Coburn). These are the Republicans that are getting elected today. We wouldn't be losing moderate Dem seats to Moderate Republicans. We'd be likely losing seats to the craziest of the crazy. It's all Republicans are running these days. So if you think there's no difference between "Vichy Dems" and their replacements, stand Ken Salazar next to Tom Coburn. One of them has a soul. (Hint: it's not Tom Coburn.)
So, we need Red-state, moderate, "traitorous" dems. Being in the majority serves us too well, and being in the minority hurts us too badly. I am all for progressive Democrats. I think we should elect as many of them as we can. But in some states, a progressive Democrat is going to have an almost impossible task winning election, and we need Senators from those states to be in the majority. And, moderate though they may be, each of these Dems is keeping someone truly insane out of the Senate. I'll take moderate over reactionary, half of what I want to none of what I want, any day of the week.