The perfect is the enemy of the good. ~ Old Italian aphorism

            Democrats have a small chance to become the Senate majority party after the November 6 elections. The Senate balance is currently 51/49 (Republican/Democrat, including two Independents, who caucus Democratic). So, we badly need to win at least two GOP seats, without any losses. With any losses, we will need to win more.

            Senators serve for six years, and are divided into three ‘classes’ for the purpose of elections only. One-third of Senate seats are in play every two years, plus any vacancies for early resignations. This year there are two of the latter, with the resignation of senators Al Franken in Minnesota and Thad Cochran in Mississippi.

            Unfortunately, in 2018, we have an uphill battle. There are 35 races, but 26 are for Democratic seats, and only 9 for GOP ones. And most of the latter are considered ‘safe’ for the incumbents. So, taking the Senate in 2018 is a daunting battle.

            This uneven division is mostly the result of successful 2000, 2006 & 2012 elections, which threw out 12 Republican Senators. All these seats have remained Democratic.

            So, the only winning strategy is to defend all the 26 Democratic seats, and try to unseat as many of the nine Republican senators as possible. The best way you can thwart the Democratic takeover of the Senate is to oppose, or primary, or not support, those incumbents who are not “pure” enough. We cannot afford to lose a single one. I know most of you don’t like moderates. Nor do I.

            If you want a much more liberal Senate, look to the next two elections. In 2020, 12 Democrats and 21 Republicans are up for reelection. In 2022, it is 12 Democrats and 22 Republicans. There is a large potential for gains. I count ten Republicans in those two classes in Swing states. Any gains in 2018 will add to the Democratic majorities in those years, and beyond.

            Winning the Senate is important because the Majority controls the agenda. It appoints all of the committee chairpersons, and decides which bills to send to those committees. The Majority can also block any legislation or nomination. Very important is the Senate’s control the confirmation process for the Supreme Court, especially because two of the liberal judges are 85 and 79. (No, there will not be enough Democratic votes for removal for impeachment (which requires two-thirds).)

            It has been the Senate, not the House, that has thwarted Trump from achieving any major legislative victories in 2017 and 2018, excluding those horrible tax cuts, repealing the ACA individual mandate, and rolling back banking regulations.

            The ultimate villain in all this is our single-winner election system, inherited from the UK. In advanced economies, none but UK and its ex-colonies use winner-take-all elections for their legislatures.

            In the real world, most states, in statewide elections (the Senate and the Electoral College), vote fairly consistently either Red or Blue. Red states usually have two GOP Senators, Blue two Democratic. The Blue state exceptions are Maine and Pennsylvania, which have one GOP Senator each. They, and those from Swing states, tend to be less extreme: Collins, Flake, Gardner, Heller, McCain and Portman. There are exceptions—the more extreme GOP Ernst, Johnson, Rubio and Toomey.   Likewise, Democratic from Red or Swing states tend to be much less liberal. I can’t think of any exceptions.

            These are the biggest possibilities for gains and losses, based on the most recent ratings by the three top independent outside rating agencies, the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. (‘Tossup’ means no advantage. ‘Lean’ means slight advantage. Actual polling is limited at this point.):[1]

Shaky Republican seats:     Vote 2012   Pres 2016         Ratings

AZ  Jeff Flake (retiring)      49% R       Trump       3 tossups

NV   Dean Heller                  46% R     Clinton      3 tossups

TN   Bob Corker (retiring)      50% R       Trump   1 Tossup, 2 Lean R

Shaky Democratic seats:

FL   Bill Nelson                              55% D     Trump        3 Tossup

IND Joe Donnelly                50% D     Trump      3 Tossups

MO   Claire McCaskill                     55% D     Trump      3 Tossups

ND   Heidi Heitkamp                      50% D     Trump      3 Tossups‏

WV Joe Manchin                61% D     Trump      3 Tossups

            Before “True Believers” jump all over me, I am as liberal as you are. I probably agree with you on nearly every other issue. I feed the homeless. I fight Trump, the GOP, NRA, Citizens United, Gerrymandering and the Electoral College.

            But you really have two choices this year: ideological purity, or winning the Senate. To paraphrase Hamlet, is it nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of moderate Democrats, and by opposing them, end our chances of winning the Senate?




[1],_2018    No author listed. No date listed, but the three rating services last ratings were: Cook Political Report, 4/ 9/2018, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, 4/20.2018, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball, 6/13/2018. Last accessed 6/18/2018.