Sunday, August 18, 2013

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Centrists in the Senate

Much has been made in the conservative media about the
few remaining “moderates” who are Republicans in the
U.S. senate. Most notably, these are senators from the
Northeast, and they have become targets for so-called
Tea Party conservatives who challenge them in their
re-election primaries. Two of these “moderates” (who I
prefer to call centrists) are up for re-election next year.
They are Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Lamar
Alexander of Tennessee.

Not discussed much in the old (liberal) media, however,
there are many more so-called “moderates” or centrists
on the Democratic side of the aisle. They include, in varying
degrees,  Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Senator Mark
Warner of Virginia, Senator Mary Landrieu of Lousiana,
Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Senator Kay Hagan of North
Carolina, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, Senator Tom Carper
of Delaware, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, Senator Christopher
Coons of Delaware, Senator Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania,
Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Senator Jon Tester
of Montana, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Senator
Jeff Donnelly of Indiana, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut,
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Senator Mike Begich of
Alaska and Senator Angus King of Maine (who calls himself an
 independent, but organizes with the Democrats). Democratic
Mayor Cory Booker of New Jersey, who almost certainly be
elected to the senate in an October special election to replace
a recently deceased liberal Democrat, is also very much a
liberal centrist, and will be added to this group.

Most of the above senators, it should be pointed out, are rather
liberal on social issues, as might be expected. They have also
been voting quite liberal on many economic issues, too, but that
has been primarily due to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
and to President Obama, both of whom have advanced a very
liberal agenda, and who have maintained a tight discipline on
all Democratic members, regardless of their personal views.

Just as centrist Republicans face primary challenges in 2014
(and did so in 2010 and 2012), centrist Democrats face serious
GOP challengers in their re-election campaigns. Their major
problem, unlike their conservative centrist counterparts, is
not with their party base, but with their statewide electorates.
Thus, Senators Landrieu, Pryor, Hagan, and Begich are
vulnerable in 2014 (although only Senator Pryor already has a
very serious GOP opponent).

I have pointed out that most of these liberal centrist senators
have been voting with the very liberal Democratic senate
leadership and with the White House, but a new question
arises if the Republicans should win back control of the U.S.
senate in 2014. Should the GOP win in 2014, especially if it’s
a wave election as it was in 2010, surviving Senate Democratic
centrists will face a very different environment in 2015.
President Obama will not only be a lame duck, he would also
be without the leverage to expand his very liberal agenda.
Not having a record of compromising, or any pattern of
relationships with the Republicans in the Congress during his
first six years in office, Mr. Obama would be on constant
defense, trying to protect his earlier legislation and programs.

Since more than 40 per cent of incumbent Democratic
senators would be centrists of varying degree, and a number of
them up for re-election in 2016 and 2018, the ability of any
senate Democratic leader to maintain voting discipline would
be very problematic. The ability to maintain Obama health
care reform, raise taxes, add new government regulations,
and increase government spending would be very much at
risk not only because Republicans would control both houses
of the Congress, but also because many Democrats might well
begin voting along more the centrist lines that they believe in,
and most importantly, that they can defend when they next go
before the voters.

Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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