Friday, September 29, 2006

what about Bob?

A dozen nominal Democrats shamed us yesterday. They voted for the court-stripping, torture-embracing, morally repugnant legitimating of the Bush administration’s politically motivated bullshit excuse for an anti-terrorist policy.

Now, I am a fairly loyal Democrat, but I am loyal to principles, not to people—and a “yea” vote on S.3930 was unprincipled. As for the people—the specific Senators that sided with Republicans—well, we are fighting to retake control of the Senate, and several of these Senators are up for reelection.

In the case of Joe Lieberman, it was unprincipled votes just like his “yes” on torture that cost him the Connecticut Democratic primary last month. In his case, the choice is simple: Loser Joe is no longer a Democrat—he now belongs to his very own party of one—but he insists on damaging his former Democratic brethren by mounting an independent run. If you live in Connecticut, it is easy to tell Joe that he lacks the moral fiber required of a US Senator—vote for Democratic nominee Ned Lamont.

In the case of Bill Nelson, “Democrat” of Florida, he is running far ahead of the plastic surgery disaster known as Republican Katherine Harris. No one wants to vote for Harris—a shameful character herself—but I would not want to vote for Nelson, either. Because Nelson has this one in the bag, I would encourage a protest. Not knowing what third party candidates are on the Florida ballot, might I suggest a write-in vote: my choice would be Yaser Hamdi.

I would suggest a similar write-in strategy for Senate races in Nebraska, Michigan, and Delaware.

But what about Bob Menendez—what do we do with him? Menendez was appointed by New Jersey Governor John Corzine to fill the remainder of Corzine’s Senate term; now, Menendez is fighting for reelection against Republican Tom Keane, Jr., the son of the former governor and 9/11 Commission chair. Menendez is seen as the only Senate Democrat who is in trouble this November—something in itself hard to understand in increasingly blue New Jersey—and I can’t imagine his vote for the Bush is God bill will help energize his base.

If the Democrats are going to retake the Senate, they cannot lose New Jersey. With Menendez reelected, he will vote with the Democratic leadership most of the time, and most importantly, he will vote for Democratic leadership all of the time. In a race as close as this one, a protest vote is just not rational—it’s nose-to-spite-face territory. Still, his pro-torture vote has to be noted, remembered, and acted upon. We can start grooming a primary challenge for six years from now, but what can we do about this in the interim? How do loyal, principled Democrats let Senator Menendez know votes like the one on detainee tribunals are never acceptable?

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid can take away torture-lovin’ Bob’s plum committee assignments, but what can the voters—the principled people of the United States—do to let Menendez and those that think like him know that he has shamed the Democratic Party and the democracy?

I’m asking—I really don’t know.

(cross-posted over at DailyKos)


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