Commentary Magazine


Topic: imperiled Red State senator

Sorry Blanche, You’re Toast

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

Charles Lane catches Obama writing Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s political obituary. During the meeting Senate Democrats had with Obama, the imperiled Red State senator practically pleaded with the president to turn to the Center. (“Are we willing as Democrats to push back on our own party?”) Her request was summarily denied. Any accommodation to “centrism” is a return to Bush policies, said Obama. Lane is stunned on two grounds by Obama’s stridency:

The first was the ease with which he cast Lincoln’s plea for a bit more centrism as a call for a return to Bushism — the “exact same proposals that were in place for the last eight years.” That’s not what she was advocating. … The president set up this strawman, and he pummeled it, rather than engaging Lincoln’s valid concerns. The second striking thing was how easily he appeared to write off Lincoln politically. Conceding nothing, he implied that her defeat was not only a foregone conclusion, but also an acceptable price to pay for staying the course on policy.

Well, at least the Red State senators and Blue Dog Democrats know where they stand. They are about to be pushed off that “precipice” Obama keeps talking about. But, as Lane notes, the dogmatic fidelity to leftism requires Obama to ignore some fairly convincing political evidence that this is the way to ruin for the Democratic party — and for Obama. (“If Virginia and New Jersey didn’t prove that, Massachusetts did. And November could prove it again.”)

This is what happens when arrogance and political extremism meet political tone-deafness. The Obami haven’t learned anything from Massachusetts; they simply are more candid that the Blanche Lincolns have no place in their party. But in doing so, they’re also writing off the majority of the electorate, which doesn’t share their fascination with big government and doesn’t appreciate their disdain for the ability of ordinary citizens to make decisions on their own. When Obama tells Lincoln to get lost, he’s also telling the voters of Arkansas (and a bunch of other states) that his agenda and his party’s political goals aren’t for them. Does he suppose that he can govern and win re-election by dismissing all centrists in this fashion? That’s a recipe for becoming a fringe minority party, not a broad governing majority. I suspect Lane is right: it will take a November 2010 election to ram that message home.

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How to Save Themselves

Conservatives are debating whether ObamaCare is a done deal yet. I tend to be in the Yogi Berra club (“It ain’t over till it’s over”). In addition to the infirmities in the bill that might make it difficult for Nancy Pelosi to round up the needed votes (to replace those of Bart Stupak and other pro-life Democrats who won’t buy the Ben Nelson/Harry Reid abortion-subsidy language), consider the dynamic in the Senate. The Cornhusker Kickback has become an embarrassment, the bill is a fiscal train wreck for the country at large and specifically for Blue states (whose governors are now complaining loudly), and incumbent senators are heading for the hills because the political environment is so toxic.

So perhaps it is time for a Senate Democrat to step forward to save his or her own skin and that of some colleagues. It might be a liberal like Kirsten Gillibrand who has figured out that she could be a hero to home-state taxpayers and the new darling of the Left by voting against the bill and its ensuing bonanza for big insurance companies. (Sure, she voted for it the first time, but she’s now had time to think it over.) It might be an imperiled Red State senator like Blanche Lincoln, who has been taking pot-shots at Ben Nelson’s wheeling and dealing and needs to get out of her polling death spiral. Or maybe it is someone like Evan Bayh, who needs to fend off a serious challenge at a time voters are noticing the significant gap between his fiscal “conservative” message and his voting record.

Sure, Rahm Emanuel would go on an obscenity shout-a-thon, but he is not on the ballot in 2010. And really, wouldn’t the brave senator who finally stood up to the politically suicidal Senate leadership and the tone-deaf White House get the quiet praise of many of his or her colleagues?

There is a way out of this policy and political train wreck. All it requires is a clearheaded Democratic senator. Surely there is one, right?

Conservatives are debating whether ObamaCare is a done deal yet. I tend to be in the Yogi Berra club (“It ain’t over till it’s over”). In addition to the infirmities in the bill that might make it difficult for Nancy Pelosi to round up the needed votes (to replace those of Bart Stupak and other pro-life Democrats who won’t buy the Ben Nelson/Harry Reid abortion-subsidy language), consider the dynamic in the Senate. The Cornhusker Kickback has become an embarrassment, the bill is a fiscal train wreck for the country at large and specifically for Blue states (whose governors are now complaining loudly), and incumbent senators are heading for the hills because the political environment is so toxic.

So perhaps it is time for a Senate Democrat to step forward to save his or her own skin and that of some colleagues. It might be a liberal like Kirsten Gillibrand who has figured out that she could be a hero to home-state taxpayers and the new darling of the Left by voting against the bill and its ensuing bonanza for big insurance companies. (Sure, she voted for it the first time, but she’s now had time to think it over.) It might be an imperiled Red State senator like Blanche Lincoln, who has been taking pot-shots at Ben Nelson’s wheeling and dealing and needs to get out of her polling death spiral. Or maybe it is someone like Evan Bayh, who needs to fend off a serious challenge at a time voters are noticing the significant gap between his fiscal “conservative” message and his voting record.

Sure, Rahm Emanuel would go on an obscenity shout-a-thon, but he is not on the ballot in 2010. And really, wouldn’t the brave senator who finally stood up to the politically suicidal Senate leadership and the tone-deaf White House get the quiet praise of many of his or her colleagues?

There is a way out of this policy and political train wreck. All it requires is a clearheaded Democratic senator. Surely there is one, right?

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