Look, you need a rest. Let’s talk about the Senate races.
If Hillary Clinton wins – and if she doesn’t, the Senate will be the least of our problems – Democrats need to pick up four seats to gain control. Otherwise, Clinton will have trouble getting anything through Congress, even her most basic appointees. She’ll be holding Cabinet meetings with people from the temp staffing agency.
The single most interesting sidelight in the Senate fights is watching embattled swing state Republicans trying to avoid revealing who they support for president of the United States.
We’re seeing some weird dances. Truly, the mating peacock spider has nothing on some Republicans who are trying to balance their need to appease the base with their deep-down understanding that Donald Trump would be a disaster for the country.
“I don’t think my constituents care that much how one person is going to vote,” said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania when he was asked the obvious question at a recent debate.
“On Nov. 8, I’ll have a decision,” said Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada, who’s running in a tight race for an open Senate seat. Recently, he’s taken to pointing out that we have a secret ballot in this country. That’s certainly true, but our forefathers didn’t invent it to protect members of Congress from revealing what they think of the top of their very own ticket.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, another Republican in a difficult re-election fight, says she’s going to write in Mike Pence for president. You have to appreciate her predicament. During one debate, Ayotte made the mistake of saying, in a super-vague way, that Trump might be a good example for American children. (“I think that certainly there are many role models that we have, and I believe he can serve as president.”) She had to issue a retraction.
But this business of making up candidates to vote for is pathetic. Have you ever watched a big TV singing contest? How do you think viewers would react if it got down to a pitched battle between a crazy saxophonist who couldn’t follow the music and a disciplined but slightly boring guitarist – and the celebrity panel announced that the winner was Plácido Domingo?
Really, this is pretty much the same thing. Ohio Gov. John Kasich claims he’s already voted for John McCain. McCain, who has his own re-election race to deal with, said he may write in his old friend Sen. Lindsey Graham. This is literally throwing away your vote since neither Arizona nor Ohio counts write-ins for people who haven’t registered as candidates.
Can you see how ridiculous this is? The write-in dodge might be appropriate for 20-year-olds who want to demonstrate their moral superiority to the system. But a career politician holding high office knows perfectly well that unless you vote for one of the two major party candidates, you’re not taking part in the most important decision the American public ever makes.
How could you trust a senator to make a principled stand on the budget if she can’t even bring herself to choose a president?
Thirty-four states have Senate races this year, but most of them involve incumbents so safe they could not be dislodged by a rocket launcher. (A prominent New York City Democrat told me he went to a meeting of party regulars the other night where a number of attendees were surprised to hear that Chuck Schumer was up for re-election.)
On the other hand, virtually everybody seems to agree that one current Republican senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois, is probably doomed, doomed, doomed. Kirk won Barack Obama’s old seat in the big anti-Democratic upheaval of 2010. Since then, he’s made news by referring to his unmarried colleague Lindsey Graham as “a bro with no ho.” Recently, in a debate with his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, Kirk took the interesting tack of making fun of Duckworth’s heritage.
“I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” he sniped. Duckworth’s mother is Thai and her father comes from a family with a military history that goes back to the American Revolution. Have we mentioned she’s an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs in a helicopter crash?
Kirk has been running desperately away from Donald Trump, who he says is “too bigoted and racist.” You would think this is one case where a Republican with little to lose would figure that it’s time to take a stand and admit that although he disagrees with Hillary Clinton on tons of issues, she’s the only presidential candidate who has the capacity to protect the nation’s basic security and safety.
But no. At one point Kirk claimed he was going to vote for former CIA director David Petraeus.
Swing state Republican voters, if you’ve got a hot Senate race involving two unsatisfactory candidates, consider just writing in Thomas Jefferson. He’s not alive, but nobody’s perfect.