Taking Back The Senate

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by Steve Buschbacher

With Donald Trump’s campaign deteriorating faster by the day, it is time to turn our attention to an almost equally pressing issue – taking back the Senate. I write this from a perspective of someone who is a registered Democrat only because my home state of Pennsylvania requires voters to officially register with a party in advance if they want to vote in its primary election. My point of view is liberal and progressive and not necessarily affiliated with either major party. That being said, the Democrats have done more to further my causes than the Republicans.

Currently, the House of Representatives has a breakdown of 246 Republicans and 186 Democrats. Making up that difference in one election is not a practical reality. That will take a few cycles. However, the Senate is a different story. In the Senate, the count is 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats, and 2 independents (who caucus with the Democrats). Taking 5 seats from the Republicans while holding on to those they already have will give control of the Senate back to the Democrats. Senate confirmation hearings will go a lot better for a sitting Democratic President if the Senate is theoretically on her side.

There are a number of closely contested races for seats currently held by Republicans and one held by a Democrat. Harry Reid of Nevada is retiring so his seat is up for election in a close contest. In Florida, Marco Rubio is getting pushed more than he expected as is John McCain in Arizona. Add in North Carolina and Missouri and you start to see the possibilities.

I’d like to focus on three particular races here. Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania all have toss up elections for Republican Senate seats. Before we start, I’d like to explain the issues on which I focused.

Marriage equality is as simple as it sounds. It means simply that any couple can get married. All couples get treated equally. What a radical idea, right?

A woman’s right to choose has been referred to as Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life. The abortion issue is an emotional one for many people. Many people disagree on when life begins. At the center of the question for me is that a woman has the right to make the choice about her own health and her own body and no one else gets a say.

Vouchers for schools. As public schools in many areas continue to deteriorate, vouchers represent the idea that the amount of money you pay in taxes for public schools be given back to you to so that you can pay for private school education. Property taxes pay for public schools. How does this apply to people that rent or who live in areas with low property taxes? So, this is a way for the more affluent to avoid sending their kids to schools in the city.

It is incomprehensible to me how anyone would not be a friend to the environment. This is the only planet we have and if businesses and people are allowed to do whatever they want with our natural resources, there will be less and less available for future generations. It DOES require some forward thinking which does not always work for some people.

By Pathway to Citizenship, I mean the idea that, people who have come to our country illegally but have become productive and pay taxes, should be allowed to fulfill specific requirements that can result in being able to qualify for and become United States citizens. No demonizing all illegal immigrants by pointing to one or two who have committed heinous crimes. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were United States citizens who perpetrated the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

There is a question as to whether an economic stimulus (similar to the one passed right after President Obama took office) is the better way to speed up economic recovery over trusting in the stock market. We trusted in Wall Street in 2008 and we see where that got us. Why would we want to go back?

Candidates who support privatizing Social Security will never get my vote. I have paid into Social Security for more than 40 years. It is my money and some people think that it ought to be trusted to a private entity? Like maybe tying it to the stock market? (see the preceding paragraph about how well trusting the stock market served us in the past). Maybe the better solution is to stop raiding Social Security to fund wars and to double the income cap (currently around $118,000) for automatic contributions.

Illinois –

Mark Kirk, the incumbent, is being challenged by Congressional Representative Tammy Duckworth. Mark Kirk is a moderate Republican who has taken progressive positions on a woman’s right to choose, marriage equality, and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants. He has been a good friend to environmental issues as well. However, he also takes the party line with opposing an economic stimulus package in favor of a market lead recovery He favors privatizing Social Security. He is also in favor of vouchers for schools. Kirk initially supported the candidacy of Donald Trump but withdrew his support over the issue of Trump’s ridiculous criticism of an American born judge of Mexican ancestry. And then there’s this from Senator Kirk in the last Debate with Duckworth (a Veteran who is of Thai ancestry) – “I’d forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.” Have you picked out a job in the private sector yet, Senator?

Tammy Duckworth is pro-choice and favors marriage equality, a pathway to citizenship, and a stimulus package over a market lead recovery. She is completely against privatizing Social Security and against school vouchers. She also strongly supports Hillary Clinton for President.

Indiana –

The current incumbent for this seat, Republican Dan Coats, is retiring.

Todd Young, a Congressional Representative, takes a neutral position on marriage equality. He must feel that it is safe to sit on the fence. There are plenty of fences in Indiana so I guess that works for him. He is not even close to being a friend to the environment and has taken the party line by opposing a woman’s right to choose, a pathway to citizenship, and an economic stimulus. He favors privatizing Social Security and vouchers for schools. Not completely lock step with the party line but pretty close. He supports Donald Trump completely ( that should be enough, one way or the other, to sway some voters).

Evan Bayh is a former Senator from Indiana who is running again. He favors marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose, a pathway to citizenship, and an economic stimulus. He is a friend to the environment and he opposes vouchers and privatizing Social Security. He supports Hillary Clinton for President. What he faces is that he is running in the home state of Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence. Mike Pence takes a radical, alt-right, position on every issue mentioned here. The biggest thing Bayh has going for him is that he is still popular in the state.

Pennsylvania –

Pat Toomey is the incumbent. He is in lock-step with the platform of the Republican Party. If it’s a progressive issue, he is against it. Marriage equality, a woman’s right to choose, pathway to citizenship, and an economic stimulus are not even considerations for him. To say that he is not a friend to the environment is the under-statement of the year. He favors vouchers and privatizing Social Security. In a recent debate with his opponent, when asked if he supports Donald Trump, he talked about everything else to wander as far away from the question as possible. When pressed by his opponent for a simple answer, he wandered off into the woods again without giving an answer.

Katie McGinty is the Democratic challenger. She had been the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Her position on the environment is pretty obvious. She also openly supports Hillary Clinton. Voters know where she stands on the presidential election as opposed to her opponent who would rather talk about anything else BUT what Presidential candidate he supports. McGinty’s positions are diametrically opposed to Toomey’s. She favors marriage equality, is pro-choice, she favors a pathway to citizenship, and a stimulus over a market lead recovery. She opposes vouchers and privatizing Social Security.

My final message is a simple one. On November 8 …. Vote!

Vote to win back the Senate.

Vote as if your future depended on it.

Vote as if your country depended on it.