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Brent Budowsky: Harry Reid fights back

Greg Nash

With the fighting spirit of Harry Truman in 1948, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is fighting in 2014 to save the Democratic Senate from ultra-conservative Republican oligarchs and special interests who pour oceans of money into negative campaigns attacking Democratic senators, from a super-partisan Republican House of Representatives that abuses taxpayer trust by staging kangaroo court hearings attacking Democrats, and from a partisan majority of five Republican Supreme Court justices who rule that wealthy interests should have the power to buy elections, but citizens should lose protections to vote in them.

Reid is fighting back against these mighty forces with a “give ’em hell” campaign against a highly unpopular GOP brand and obstructionist GOP tactics that are the modern equivalent of the do-nothing Republicans that Truman ran against.

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The extremism and intolerance that Reid condemns was dramatized once again this week, when as staunch a conservative as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was defeated in a primary for favoring minimal bipartisanship with Democrats and for suggesting even a scaled-back immigration bill that is supported by a majority of voters.

Reid’s battle to preserve a Democratic Senate has a 50-50 chance of success, which could leave him the longest-serving Senate majority leader in history against a GOP facing a demographic time bomb. If the defeat of Cantor is a death knell for immigration reform, the phrase “war on Hispanics” could plague Republicans alongside “war on women” for a generation.

Today’s news pits the big-tent Democratic brand of Hillary Clinton, who is so popular she could win a landslide that cements a Democratic president and Congress in 2016, against a small-tent GOP brand that rejects even its House leader for being slightly centrist and very slightly bipartisan.

When Labor Day comes, there will be barnstorming campaigns for Democrats by former President Clinton, a hugely appealing public figure, by Hillary Clinton, who towers above all national Republicans in favorability, and by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who will passionately rally the Democratic base.

As the campaign heats up, the Democrats’ base will be alarmed by the Armageddon for progressive values and the vindictive intolerance that will poison our politics if rightest Republicans dominate the Senate, the House and the Supreme Court. Democratic enthusiasm will grow, turnout projections will rise, and independents will be repelled by the prospect of an all-GOP Congress pursuing a politics of pathological partisanship, demonization and obstruction.

When Reid fights back against rightist and factional oligarchs and interests he warns are corrupting democracy, he taps into a widespread feeling outside Washington that the system inside Washington is corrupted by money, greed and selfishness.

When Reid proposes a constitutional amendment to reverse Supreme Court decisions rendered by party-line votes of Republican justices that make government subservient to moneyed interests, battles for voting rights against GOP voter suppression, challenges House Republicans to pass immigration reform and fights back against GOP obstruction of measures to bring pay equity for women and help students burdened by debt, he offers stands that will resonate with voters and energize Democrats.

When Reid says the Senate should not remain a dysfunctional institution with GOP filibusters threatened against virtually every piece of legislation, an abuse unprecedented in the history of the Senate, he condemns the gridlock that Americans detest about Washington.

Reid is a Senate traditionalist who long resisted changing Senate rules. When Republicans agree to end filibuster abuse, restore 200 years of tradition and limit filibusters to extraordinary measures, bipartisan agreement can be reached in minutes. Until then, Reid fights back against the obstruction that voters deplore and in favor of measures most voters support.

Harry Reid is fighting back against extremism and obstruction that are outside the mainstream of American politics. As Election Day comes closer and the enormous stakes of the election become clearer, don’t be surprised if 2014 ends for Senate Democrats the way 1948 ended for Truman.

 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

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