Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Congress runs for election, too

By Carol Gee

In addition to electing a new U.S. President, some 435 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 Senators will be required to stand for election or reelection on November 4, 2008. There will be 7 Democratic House incumbents retiring and 25 Republicans. Five Republican Senators have announced retirement. We should ask the rest of the legislators running to stand on their records, just as we do our next president.

As Democratic voters we have more than one decision to make as we mark ballots, touch a computer screen or pull a lever. We have to decide whether to work to re-elect some of the Democrats with whom we have deep disagreements or not. I have starred* those Senators with whom I often have the "deep disagreements" I mentioned. According to Wikipedia, Democratic incumbent Senators running this year include: *Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Biden of Delaware, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, *Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Carl Levin of Michigan, Max Baucus of Montana, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, and *Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Democratic incumbents should not have a free ride with us. But this view presents several big dilemmas for us as we consider our choices for congressional representation. Those include accepting the new power of the relative conservatives elected in 2006, avoiding the temptation to not vote for some Democrats in November -- or vote Republican, understanding that Democrats need healthy majorities in Congress in order to do anything meaningful, and holding up the "big tent" principles that have long been the mark of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic victories in the 2006 midterm elections, according to Media Matters, could often be attributed to the wins of conservative Democrats in Red States. Intra-party strife was correctly predicted in that article. Glenn Greenwald and Ed Kilgore, two of my favorite reads, had a spirited debate recently over many of these gut-wrenching dilemmas for Democrats. Greenwald is involved in a fundraising effort that targets "Blue Dogs" whom we think vote wrongly. Kilgore maintains that we should "let the sleeping Blue Dogs lie," saying in 2008, "now is no time to settle scores with conservative Democrats." Blue Dog Democrats are a group of 47 moderate and conservative Democratic Party members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The New Democrat Coalition is an organization within the United States Congress. It is made up of 20 Democratic Senate members and 44 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who claim moderate and pro-business stances. The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is another group sharing many of the values of New Democrats. The DLC is united behind Senator Barack Obama, however, according to Chicago columnist Lynn Sweet.

At the same time, the highest ranking Democrat in the land, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), is not riding a huge wave of popularity with those of us calling ourselves progressive activists. Even though she says that she is "trying to save the planet," according to Politico.com., she is not trying hard enough to save the Constitution, or hold her President accountable through supporting impeachment. She is now on the TV author circuit with her new book, "Know Your Power: A message to America's daughters." And next month she will chair the Democratic National Convention as they nominate Barack Obama to, I believe, be the next President. Pelosi's title sounds a bit ironic to me because she may be forgetting that her power derives from the Constitution she has sworn to uphold.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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