The knives are out against Senator Baucus as he considers (or prepares for) his re-election bid in 2014. On the right, we’re seeing predictable, often childish attacks about the Senator’s personal life and alleged liberalism. From the left, we’re seeing predictable, often childish attacks about the Senator’s personal life and alleged conservatism.
That Baucus engenders such hostility from conservatives and from the self-appointed arbiters of progressivism on the left certainly is a testament to a career that is perhaps more defined by moderation and political pragmatism than that of any other Montana politician I can remember.
Do I wish Senator Baucus were a more reliably progressive voice and vote? Certainly. Have I been incredibly critical of his work on health care and taxation? Repeatedly. Do I wish he was less influenced by corporate interests? Often. Is he my first choice for one of Montana’s senators? No.
But let me be clear: absent a credible, more progressive challenger who can not only defeat Baucus in a primary but win a general election in Montana, I will support Senator Baucus’s bid for re-election.
It’s not enough to attack Baucus, pretending that will conjure a liberal candidate who can win in Montana. Progressives had better have an alternative in mind when they tear down the Senator, because it’s a hell of a lot easier to throw bombs than build the support for a candidate. I haven’t heard any names of candidates who are likely to defeat a Republican candidate who will receive millions in Koch-Rove money. Have any expressed interest? Do any have a reasonable chance of winning election?
Let’s not indulge in any Brian Schweitzer fantasies until and unless the man makes it clear that he wants to run for the Senate. My guess is that he doesn’t have any interest at all. If anything, there’s another location he has in mind in Washington.
I for one, cannot work to help create Senator Steve Daines or Senator Dennis Rehberg. Attacking Baucus without a candidate who can defeat Republicans like these is beyond foolish; it’s just grandstanding to get attention.
I’m unlikely to ever support Senator Baucus as enthusiastically as I have Senator Tester, though truth be told, their policy positions are often quite similar. But I do know this: if we return Senator Baucus to Washington, women will have another vote to protect their reproductive rights, labor will have an ally who represents workers, schools will have an advocate for adequate funding and support, and those without health insurance or with pre-existing conditions will have someone fighting for their health. And let’s not forget: Max was the first elected statewide political official to stand for marriage equality.
I would always prefer a more progressive candidate that Montana Democrats are able (or willing) to choose, but I’m not willing to sacrifice critical policy that protects the rights of human beings for ideological purity. While the latter must feel incredibly affirming, it doesn’t win very many elections. And I still believe those matter.