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Democratic Senate Primaries, From a Distance

It is so important for Democrats to hold onto a Senate majority, at least 50-50, with Vice-President Harris being the deciding vote. At the least, that would keep Charles Schumer as Majority Leader, and allow crucial bills to come to the floor, and judges nominated by Biden to be voted on..

Every Democrat should realize this. But the nature of local politics often obscures the overarching needs. And how could anyone forget the efforts of certain people on the so-called Democratic Left to make things as difficult as possible for Hillary Clinton, and in some cases refusing to vote for her in the general election, which led to so many awful things, including Oklahoma just passing a six-week abortion ban which would never, ever have been upheld or left to stand in a Supreme Court where Hillary would have appointed at least two Justices. But too many people never learn.

This Senate election cycle is our best chance to hold the Senate, as the 2024 races are less promising. One would think that Democrats would win in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but the nature of things now is that even in what had been Blue states, it has become very difficult for Democrats to unseat any Republican incumbent. I was rather stunned to see how easily Susan Collins won in Maine, even when Biden had such a popular vote margin nationally and in that state. We keep losing in North Carolina, though we come close. We cannot win in Iowa any longer. And Florida gets more and more extreme.

We have Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where we must win. But Republicans have the money, and their two “big issues” are going to be “inflation” and “culture.” Their goal is to trick enough people into voting for the Republican, even though their candidates have no ideas or power to effect any changes on any of it, and then people are surprised when a Republican majority blocks every Biden appointment and bill.

I find it hard to believe that Ron Johnson, who is now so far to the Right that his very patriotism is open to serious question, still has a good chance to be re-elected in Wisconsin. But of course it always comes down to a two-person race. So it is incumbent on the Democratic voters to pick the candidate most likely to win the general election–assuming, of course that he or she is not so far outside the mainstream of Democratic politics, so far to the Right, that there is question as to whether that person should be the candidate. Maybe that is the case in Pennsylvania with Conor Lamb, but the Republican candidates still seem far worse. If it were an era where we had a few seats as margin, we might occasionally want to risk one or two as a matter of ideology, but I do not think we can do such now.

But I want to focus on Wisconsin. I am not close to that state, but from a distance, it looks like there is all sorts of room for Democrats to botch this up. The primary is in August. The favored Democratic candidate was Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, a Black man who seemed to be the favorite of the the more Left-leaning Democrats in that state, but perhaps less so now. A poll taken a day or two ago shows that his lead in polling has shrunk some, he is at 19%. Some on the Left think that he is moving away from the positions that they favor. So a Sanders group, “Our Wisconsin Revolution,” just endorsed Tom Nelson, an Outagamie County Executive.

Second in the polling is Alex Lasry, an executive with the Milwaukee Bucks NBA team. He has the money, and is running many ads. I don’t know much about his politics, but it seems that he is more of the moderate type, like former executive Jon Corzine, who became a big disappointment.

Then there is the candidate I would want to see nominated, just based on what I have read about her and who supports her. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski. A poll a month or so ago showed her as the only Democratic potential candidate who leads Johnson in a poll, 48-46%. She is supported by Julie Zebrak, who has been an admirable force in supporting Hillary Clinton, and other female candidates. From what I have read about Godwlewski, she is “just right,” liberal but not too far to the Left, and capable, as well as obviously having a knowledge of economic issues.

Of course I could be wrong, but my sense is that she has the best chance to win the Senate seat–if she could get nominated, which does not seem too likely right now, though certainly not impossible. She is at 7%, with Barnes at 19%, and Lasry at 16%. 48% of those polled remain undecided!

Now, I did think that Amy McGrath had a better chance to beat McConnell than Charles Booker in Kentucky, and she was routed, though I think that Booker would have had the same result. Sometimes you can nominate someone who will run slightly better in a general election because they would create more enthusiasm among one group, but almost never enough to win. In Wisconsin, the key is to find the candidate who can actually win, while being a part of the general Democratic Party views on issues.

Most of us have no control over who wins these primary races in states we do not live in. I would wish that people who identify themselves as being part of the Sanders faction, would have more interest in winning national elections, than in getting all excited about someone who can’t and won’t win, and then angrily sitting out the general elections. I wish more people had an overview of things; and while not abandoning their principles, would think about being more in accord with the national party. If you were part of a faction which got 10% of the vote in every election, much less 5%, you would never win anything, but make it a lot easier for Republican fascists to win.

Right now, I am rooting for Fetterman in PA, though I like the gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro better. I will root for, and perhaps send some money to, Sarah Godwlewski in WI, and I am inclined to think that both she and Lasry have a better chance to beat Johnson than Barnes, and we desperately need the seat. We will see how it plays out, from a frustrating distance.