by Jonathan Singer, Sun Sep 16, 2007 at 10:25:39 AM EDT
Earlier this week over at Open Left Matt Stoller started up a bit of a discussion with a post in which he was less than excited (to put it mildly) by Mark Warner's decision to run for the United States Senate in Virginia. For those unfamiliar with the post, Stoller called the announcement video"disgusting[ly] Lieberman-esque" and wrote that Warner will "be a bad Senator." Stoller stepped back a bit in updates, but maintained his "skepticism."
I think this ties in well with a broader conversation going on within the netroots and progressive circles about whether it is better to exclusively support candidates who are with us on most every issue and who speak and act in ways that forward the movement, or to support candidates who may not be with all of the time and/or who may speak and act in ways that don't always forward the movement if the election of those candidates would help the Democrats get closer to 60 votes in the United States Senate. This debate pertains also to Nebraska, where it appears that Bob Kerrey, who is hawkish on the war and has shown a willingness in the past to to deviate from the progressive line, is eyeing a return to the United States Senate. To a lesser extent it also applies to Democratic primaries in states like Oregon and New Hampshire, where the establishment pick is not by any means bad (in fact in both cases fairly progressive) but where there is also a strong grassroots candidate in the mix.
I definitely feel an understanding for those who are reluctant to support Democratic candidates who do not, in and of themselves, advance the cause and who, in fact, might in their own way seemingly set things back, perhaps by voting with Republicans on key or even symbolic issues, perhaps by going on Fox News and speaking ill of fellow party members. I also understand and relate to the sentiment that it's important to elect Democrats who are "right" on the issues.
But at the same time, I can't minimize the importance of having 60 votes in the United States Senate. That's right -- 60 votes, a filibuster-proof majority. No GOP obstruction of progressive jurists to the federal bench, no Republican filibuster of legislation ending the Iraq War or creating a universal healthcare system. For the first time in decades the Democrats could have a truly working majority in Congress.
While some members of the Democratic majorities might not be with us on every issue, they would no doubt -- no doubt -- be with us a greater portion of the time than the Republicans they would be replacing. And for the vast majority of the time, most of these members would be with us.
Perhaps if a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate were not in reach I would think differently. But 60 votes is attainable, if not this cycle than between 2008 and 2010. With Kerrey in the race, the Democrats have in their sights four Republican seats that probably lean pickup (Nebraska, New Hampshire, Virginia and Colorado, in no particular order). The next tier of solid pickup opportunities includes Oregon, Maine, Minnesota and Alaska, assuming a run by Mark Begich (again, in no particular order). Winning those eight seats while not losing a Democratic-held seat this cycle (Mary Landrieu in Louisiana is vulnerable, but less so than any of the GOP incumbents in the states listed above) would put the Democrats at 59 seats, one seat away from the magical 60-seat threshold. Winning just one more race in a state like Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky or North Carolina, a feat that would be remarkably difficult but not impossible, would put the Democrats at 60. And even if this all did not come together, the map in 2010 shows Democratic pickup possibilities in Arizona (where popular Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano could beat John McCain, assuming she isn't tapped by a Democratic President to serve in the cabinet), Kansas (where Sam Brownback is retiring and popular Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius would be difficult to beat), Oklahoma (where popular Democratic Governor Brad Henry could give Tom Coburn a run for his money), Kentucky (where Jim Bunning nearly lost to an unknown state senator in 2004 and would be in for a whole heap of trouble against Democratic Congressman Ben Chandler), Florida (where Mel Martinez is not popular), New Hampshire (which is trending blue), Ohio (which is also trending blue), Iowa (which is also trending blue), and Pennsylvania (which is blue), as well as elsewhere pending retirements.
And let me just say, before I wrap up this post, that I think that Mark Warner will make a fine Senator and that, in the case that he is elected this cycle, Virginia will have one of the best teams of representation in the Senate of any state, red or blue.