There is some chatter amongst some D.C. Democrats that it really doesn’t matter in the South Dakota Senate race which of the two candidates running against Republican Mike Rounds beats him. According to this logic, Pressler has said he voted for Obama and has taken some moderate positions on a few issues, so he would probably caucus with the Democrats.
Democrats, simply put: This is crazy talk.
Look, I have a horse in this race — I have been helping out Rick Weiland from the beginning because he is a strong progressive in a race that I always thought was more winnable than conventional wisdom had it. But hear out my logic, and see if you don’t think I have a case.
First of all, there is the simple fact that Larry Pressler has not said he would caucus with Democrats. That seems, I don’t know, kind of important somehow — we don’t actually know whether he would vote for Harry Reid for Majority Leader. His entire career in public office was as a deeply conservative member of the Republican party. And as I will detail below, his stands on issues are still quite conservative. Given a choice between a known Democrat and a lifelong Republican who hasn’t said who he would caucus with “fellow” democrats, it seems pretty obvious that Democrats ought to side with, um, let’s see, the Democrat.
Add to that Pressler’s very well-known and well-established reputation as a flake. He is the man who walks into closets, stays inside for a while, and waves at non-existent people on his way out. The man who falls asleep in yet another closet. (What is the deal with closets anyway?) The man who thinks he can run successfully for mayor of D.C. because he is “friends with a lot of black people.” This is the person some Democrats say we should rely on to caucus with us, even when he has made no such commitment. This is the man who we would want to rest our faith in if a Senate majority is decided with his vote? Relying on a man this flaky who has made no promises to you in the first place is pure insanity.
It is also worth noting Pressler’s voting history and the stands he has taken on issues in this campaign, seeing as how that kind of stuff kind of matters to most Democrats. When he was in the Senate, Pressler had one of the most conservative voting records in the entire body. He voted against the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. He voted against public school teachers every single time he took a vote on something that mattered to the National Education Association. He voted against the minimum wage and the Family and Medical Leave Act. He voted against both limits on campaign finance spending and lobbyist disclosure rules, so he was happy to have the special interests in charge of everything. Both the National Council of Senior Citizens and the Children’s Defense Fund said he opposed them about 90 percent of the time, so his record on both ends of the age spectrum was pretty lousy. He recently affirmed that his 100 percent voting record against NARAL will be no different should he get into the Senate again, saying that he wants to overturn Roe v Wade. He told the AARP this year that he wanted to both raise the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare, and cut the benefits of both programs. He has said that he wants to rewrite the Affordable Care Act so that “tort reform” (the conservative Republican solution to all things health care related) can be imposed.
This is not someone Democrats should want to caucus with them, even if he could be relied on to do so. But beyond Pressler’s lack of commitment to caucusing with them, his supreme flakiness, his extreme conservatism, and his lifelong Republicanism, there is one other reason Democrats should be enthusiastically supporting Rick Weiland: Rick Weiland. Rick will be an effective fighter for what most Democrats stand for. He is going to fight for a higher minimum wage. He wants to expand Social Security and strengthen Medicare. He is pro-choice and pro-gay rights. He will fight for a cleaner environment and against climate change. And he is running his campaign against the power of big money in politics, against Citizens United and the Koch brothers, against the stranglehold big corporate special interests have over our economy. We don’t have to guess where he will stand, or whether he will fight for everyday people: he is a Democrat.
And this race is within range. Rounds is scarred by scandal, and is fading fast. Pressler has a lot of name ID but no campaign to speak of, no endorsements, no field operations, almost no money raised. In a four-way race (the fourth candidate is a tea partier who is way back but will draw some more votes from Rounds) with no run-off, Rick Weiland can win this race running as a prairie populist version of Elizabeth Warren. It sure would be exciting to know before the day he is sworn in not only who Rick will caucus with, but who he will fight for: all of us. Democrats need to go all-in on this race for Weiland.