Liddick: A fun year of political maneuvering on the left
I was in Denver last Thursday. So was President Obama. We were both working, but he had the harder task; he was in town to prop up his senatorial sock puppet Michael Bennet.
By all accounts, it was an interesting afternoon. The president introduced Bill Ritter as the “Governor of California” – perhaps he still has trouble figuring out which of the 57 states he’s visiting – but that wasn’t the worst gaffe. No, that was when he decried the poisonous partisan posturing in Washington, and then claimed “Michael Bennet and I don’t have time for that nonsense.”
This from the man who, three days before a scheduled negotiating session with Republican congressional leadership, will publish his own version of health care legislation and propose to attach it to a budget bill, so it may pass through the process of “reconciliation,” requiring only 51 votes in the Senate. I know “bipartisanship” is the first thing that comes to my mind when I hear about shenanigans like that …
Both Sen. Bennet and Colorado CD 2’s very own Jared Polis are instrumental to the pursuit of reconciliation, which they have been pushing hard in their respective chambers. Leaving aside the legal and procedural questions about such an approach – both men are in favor of reinserting an explicit “public option,” which would be an addition to the Senate bill – it’s doubtful in this political climate that the good senator will be able to muster 51 of his colleagues suicidal enough to embrace this “the public be damned” maneuver. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try.
Which is one reason the president was campaigning for Sen. Bennet on Thursday: the old political game of “one hand washes the other.” But that wasn’t all there was to it. Barack Obama evidently believes that the White House should be represented by at least one senator on Capitol Hill and Thursday, it was clear that Michael Bennet was it.
The reason for his choice is obvious. As his own campaign blog puts it, “Michael’s background is pretty unusual in the Senate – unlike most of his colleagues, he’s not a career politician.” We can quibble about the last bit, but the first is true. Sen. Bennet was elected under a one-man, one-vote system, but in his case, the “one man” really was just that. Problem is, he seems to be laboring under the misapprehension that he still has only one constituent.
If the White House proposed, His Appointedness voted yea, even to put a radical Service Industries International Union lawyer on the National Labor Relations Board.
I’ll try to be charitable. Perhaps Sen. Bennet doesn’t like confrontation – at least not with the left. Or perhaps it’s his political “inexperience.” Whatever the reason, the senator likes to vote “yes.” He’s supported every major, and most minor, initiatives of his party since he arrived in Washington. A review of recent votes by the Washington Post turns up a history of voting with party leadership 91.7 percent of the time, which makes him only slightly more partisan than Senators Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham, both of whom actually are party leaders – on the Republican side.
Many of his “nay” votes were also labeled “progressive” by sites such as “thatsmycongress.com.” Like his two against enhanced border security, or opposing careful consideration when it came to doling out the remaining detainees in Guantanamo.
So after Thursday’s posturing, shadowplay and shoveling of cash, what are we left with? A senator with a track record of truckling to the party leadership and political proclivities sliding down the bell curve to the left. That might make sense if Colorado sent people to Washington to represent the narrow interests of Boulder’s “progressive” academics and the trades union movement, but Colorado – purple though it may be – has far more constituencies than that, many of them dubious about the current tendency of government to try to cure problems of its own creation with money borrowed from our children. And between the two camps is a gulf that even a deluge of dollars will have difficulty papering over.
On the other hand, there is the senator’s Democrat primary opponent, Andrew Romanoff – the candidate preferred by the red-meat left of the party. Less well-heeled than the Anointed One, but a canny campaigner with a glib tongue and contacts stretching across the state. Political conspiracy theorists think that the fix is already in, with a Bennet withdrawal following poor polling results before the primary, and the bulk of his money going to fund Democrat campaigns for both the Senate and governorship. The degree to which Sen. Bennet has contracted Potomac Fever will be crucial to this scenario.
This is shaping up to be a fun year.
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