While the pundits and pollsters are predicting a Republican takeover of the Senate, it would be wise to take their prognostications with a grain of salt and not let them become a self-fulfilling prophesy. After all, even those so-called "experts" are not infallible. They didn't see the coming tsunami of the Tea Party in 2010 that swept into the House and effectively took control of DC. The Democrats were blindsided in that election, too, and we are all still suffering the consequences. In 2012, the women's vote was the deciding factor in re-electing Barack Obama to the presidency. Our democracy is a participatory institution, after all, and our government is as effective as we allow it to be. Special interests may have the money, but we have the numbers. Now we must show that we also have the will.
For the past year or so there has been a magnificent effort by Democrats and Progressives to fight back against big money interests in a handful of critical Senate races across the country. Throughout our history, in the face of terrible odds and adversity, the People have risen to the challenge when our democracy was teetering and ready to fail. Such is the case now. With the loss of just six Senate seats this cycle, that hallowed chamber would fall under the control of some of the most extreme right wing radicals we have ever seen in American history. There has been great heart and spirit in the Progressive campaign across the country to support Democrats and ensure they keep control of the Senate, make gains in the House and put more governorships under Democratic control. Progressives have come out in droves to provide a constant flow of small donations, volunteering, GOTV, phone banking, knocking on doors, registering new voters and anything else that helps the cause.
But it is the Senate that is garnering most of the attention in the country. Several critical races have been remarkably competitive this year, with Democrats fighting back against truckloads of out-of-state "dark" money funding vicious on-air attacks - and other dirty tricks - by Republicans. In 1998, the midterm election spending was $1.6 billion. This year, it is already at $4 billion, as noted by Chuck Todd on last Sunday's Meet The Press. That amount includes $50 million poured into Kentucky to help save the seat of 30-year incumbent Mitch McConnell from surging Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. Most of Mitch's support has been coming from his special interest "allies" like the Koch brothers and Karl Rove's various political front operations. Even so, last Friday "Senator Gridlock" was forced to loan his own campaign $1.8 million from his personal bank account. Mitch is clearly feeling the heat.
This race has long been neck-and-neck in the polls, and Mrs. Grimes has been outraising McConnell for months. Her campaign has caught on in 48 states, with almost 115,000 donors chipping in small donations, while weathering - according to The Center For Public Integrity - 41,336 attack ads that have been run in Kentucky from Mitch's side in this election, paid for by his millionaire and billionaire backers and lobbyists -- hardly a grassroots effort. Indeed, according to an e-mail I just received from Alison's campaign, "(a)bout one in every seven TV ads in Kentucky's Senate race -- about 12,000 of the more than 79,000 ads that have been aired through Monday - has been sponsored" by McConnell's big-money backers. Even so, two major Kentucky newspapers have now endorsed Alison, and rising Progressive star Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also made an appearance on her behalf, delivering her populist message this past Tuesday evening in Kentucky at an event for the candidate. Even Hillary Clinton campaigned with Alison last week to rally the women's vote. Mrs. Clinton will be returning on Saturday, and Bill Clinton has also made two trips to Kentucky in recent weeks. On Friday, Hillary swung through three New England states to help Democrats, including stopping in Massachusetts to campaign with Martha Coakley, who is running for Governor. Senator Warren has also been out there campaigning with other Senate candidates, while Vermont's Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has been talking to the people at town hall events in several states. Other nailbiter Senate races are in Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Georgia, Alaska and North Carolina, with the female candidates in a few of these states giving their old-boy opponents the fight of their political careers.
So what is the agenda of Mitch if he becomes Senate Majority Leader? Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, described in a recent article a secret meeting between Mitch and his mega-donors - including the Koch brothers - where he announced that if the Republicans take over the Senate and keep their majority in the House, they would slash services and agency budgets throughout the government: "...we're going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board. All across the federal government, we're going to go after it." And you can bet that would just be the tip of the iceberg, as McConnell and the radical Republicans would certainly also block all judicial appointments, try to impeach the President, takes steps to privatize Medicare and Social Security, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, push through more lousy trade agreements, further cut taxes for the über rich, continue their attacks on women's rights, and support more voter disenfranchisement -- not to mention possibly engineer another government shutdown, if the mood should strike them. And certainly there would be no raise in the minimum wage -- a bi-partisan issue if ever there was one -- which would pump up the buying power of hardworking Americans to enable them to purchase the goods from those mega-corporations that support the GOP in the first place. Truly a win-win for all.
Further to the voting rights issue, they continue to be under siege in almost half of the states -- how else could the 1 percent hope to have their lackeys win elections? On Bill Moyers' program Moyers & Company on PBS Sunday evening, we learned that in Texas 600,000 people will be disenfranchised and denied their right to vote. Bill devoted the entire program to voting, which revealed that 65 actions restricting voters' rights have taken place since Reconstruction. In Texas, student ID's are not acceptable, but gun permits are allowed for voting purposes. These laws unjustly target the poor, Latinos, African-Americans and the elderly, for to acquire a birth certificate would cost between $22 and $42 dollars and involve taking time off from work. Voter suppression is also taking place in the swing states -- so if the vote can't be bought, it will be stolen. Of course, an all-white and wealthy voting majority is the aim of these foul efforts to deprive people of their right to vote.
Senator Chuck Schumer said on Meet The Press this past Sunday that the Democrats would hold the Senate and mentioned two key issues as determining factors in this election: the economy and the outsourcing of jobs. He might also have added that the GOP will have a rough row to hoe with the Latino community in this election, as they are plenty angry at the lack of forward motion on passing comprehensive immigration reform. The Senator should also have mentioned that if the Republicans take over the Senate and there is a loss of just one liberal Supreme Court justice, the potential blow to the country with a Republican-controlled Senate dictating the vote for a replacement would be catastrophic. Some impressive news, however, is that millions of GOTV calls have been made by the PCCC, DFA, PDA, Daily Kos and other partnering organizations, and they will continue up until the election. Motivating the Progressive base to show up in unprecedented numbers in this midterm election is paramount, and significant GOTV work is also being directed in South Dakota to ramp up voting by our Native American friends. We must hear from them.
So, when all is said and done, just what can the Republicans offer to the people of the United Sates if they are given the keys to the legislative branch of our government? They still cannot even articulate a positive message.The GOP's disapproval rating is at 72 percent, while the Dems' disapproval rating is at 67 percent and the President hovers around a 60 percent disapproval rating, which suggests Democrats and Progressives have much work to do to get our house in order as well. After the election, we must up our involvement in the efforts to amend the US Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court's disastrous Citizens United decision and press for public funding of campaigns with small individual donations and matching funds. After all, it's crazy that money can and does buy our elections and government - that has no place in a real democracy. And then our thinking will begin to turn to the Presidential election of 2016. Punditry again should not dictate that Hillary is a given for the Democrats. After all, it is our voice that should be heard, not theirs.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead, world-renowned cultural anthropologist in the early 20th Century
-- with Jonathan Stone