The Missouri Senate race is tied and, in a scene so dramatic that it could be made into a film, we just so happen to have a nearly evenly divided Senate, with a Supreme Court vote less than 8 weeks from Election Day. This situation clearly has raised the stakes for a lot of Senators, especially those running in states that President Trump carried in 2016, like our own Sen. Claire McCaskill. I’ve met Sen.McCaskill a number of times, in fact her 2006 campaign was the first campaign ever that I remember in detail. I’ve followed her political career closely. At times I’ve been inspired, and at times I’ve been disheartened. McCaskill brands herself a moderate, and she votes like one, but I’ve supported her because I understand the importance of the Senate. I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors, spent hours talking to voters, and donated what I could to help her campaign. I like Claire: I find her to be an amazing story teller and approachable person who reminds me of an older style of retail politics. However, if Claire McCaskill votes for Brett Kavanaugh I almost certainly won’t be voting for Claire McCaskill. There’s no circumstance where I’d vote for Josh Hawley, noted Trump sycophant and crusader against women’s progress. Yet, if McCaskill votes to confirm Kavanaugh as a member of the Supreme Court, I might be forced to spoil my ballot for US Senate.
The St.Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board recently published an article arguing that McCaskill should vote for Brett Kavanaugh because “sometimes you look over the battlefield, accept that victory is beyond your grasp, and prepare to fight another day.” There is an implication that because McCaskill likely won’t be the deciding vote, she should vote for Kavanaugh purely on some contrived notion that it helps her survive politically. There’s not a whole lot to suggest that voting for Kavanaugh has any political upside. We know this because pollsters have asked Missouri voters. This Fox News poll (say what you will about their newsroom, but their polling is one of the gold standards according to Nate Silver) shows that among likely voters, there would be no movement no matter how McCaskill votes on Kavanaugh. If she were to vote against confirmation, 26% of voters would be more likely to support her, 26% would be less likely to support her, and it would make no difference to 39% of voters. So let’s forget about this idea that voting for Kavanaugh makes McCaskill appealing to more voters, because at this point that’s just factually untrue.
What’s more important in my view, even if there was some political upside to voting for Kavanaugh, she still shouldn’t do it. McCaskill supporters (myself included) have prided ourselves on supporting someone who has a record of promoting women’s reproductive freedoms, voting rights, expanded access to healthcare, unions, and a host of other very important issues. Voting for Brett Kavanaugh literally would negate all of the work we’ve done on those issues. Kavanaugh’s judicial opinions, his work in the Bush White House, his appearance on the Federalist Society list, and the stated goals of President Trump in picking appointees should immediately disqualify him from McCaskill’s consideration. The pantomiming and damned kabuki theater have gone on far too long. There is no “living to fight another day,” if McCaskill is willing to vote for someone who is so antithetical to everything she claims to believe, then the fight is already over. Progressives have been willing to compromise their deeply held beliefs for McCaskill under the unspoken agreement that when the time came for the big things, like the Supreme Court,she would stand with us. When she voted to extend the PATRIOT ACT in 2011, we came out in full force to return her to the Senate in 2012. When she voted for the Keystone Pipeline in 2014 after the party had already been decimated in the midterms, we were there. When she voted for a $350 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia in 2017, we were still there. Now she has to be there for us.
I’ve heard the argument from good, well meaning friends of mine that not voting for McCaskill is essentially voting for Hawley. If McCaskill would vote like Hawley on the Supreme Court, then I’m put in the awkward position of trying to explain to not just voters but myself how they’re different. It doesn’t matter how many times McCaskill votes to protect Obamacare and reproductive choice or how many times Hawley would try to gut those things. Because if McCaskill votes for Kavanaugh, she has given the Court her approval to gut those things, and we end up with policy outcomes that look like Hawley won anyway. Again, McCaskill won’t be the deciding vote on the confirmation in all likelihood, but that’s not the point. If a bill arrived on the Senate floor declaring the entire state of Missouri be used as a landfill for medical and nuclear waste, even if it got 99 votes, I’d expect McCaskill to still vote no. The point is, when these watershed moments happen where you’re meant to pick between principle and politics, you pick principle. You do the right thing, and you stand confident in your convictions. This song and dance, the “will she or won’t she,” is ridiculous.McCaskill ought stop trying to impress people who will never vote for her and remember who sent her to Washington in the first place.
McCaskill ought stop trying to impress people who will never vote for her and remember who sent her to Washington in the first place.
Not only that, but remember why she wanted to go to Washington, which as I remember was to “stand up to anyone or anything to fight for Missouri’s families”. That’s what she said in her 2006 victory speech, and I took her at her word. McCaskill might see this vote as “damned if I do, damned if I don’t”, but that’s not true. It’s time for her to stand up to Mitch McConnell and the dark money donors who will try to make her a boogeyman. There are a lot of activists who feel the same way I do, and we’re pretty much in agreement about our concerns. I want to support McCaskill, I’m a Democrat and I believe the only way to move this country forward is by electing more democrats who are sympathetic to a progressive agenda. McCaskill doesn’t need to become a progressive firebrand, I’m not asking for her to abandon her independent identity, I’m not asking her to start going to work for Chuck Schumer…but I am asking her to vote no. Because if she doesn’t vote no, then I can’t in good conscience vote for her.