The Republicans need a net gain of six seats to gain control of the Senate. In the 10 Senate races where the probabilities would allow for the race to go either to a Democrat or a Republican, Republicans are leading in seven and five of those are seats currently held by Democrats. In virtually every race, the election will only be won by Democratic stalwarts aggressively getting out the vote, because the polls are against them (FiveThirtyEight states that the Republicans have a 75.5 percent chance of winning control and The Washington Post puts it at 96 percent). Democrats will have to work overtime to get supporters to the polls. It is a battle they will likely lose.
So, if you are a progressive, come Election Day's eve you will be asked to vote or root for some of the least impressive Democrats imaginable in states such as Alaska, Iowa, Louisiana, Colorado and Arkansas. In the other close elections, Democrats are expected to retain seats in North Carolina and New Hampshire, Republicans in Georgia and Kentucky.
The current composition of the Senate is 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two independents who caucus with Democrats. Shift five seats from the Democrats to the Republican column and the Senate is divided. Most Democrats find that comforting, because the president pro tem is Democratic Vice President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE and he would break the tie in favor of his party. However, the two independents, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats urge Biden to commute sentences of 4K people on home confinement Briahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices MORE of Vermont and Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise NY Democrat tests positive for COVID-19 in latest House breakthrough case MORE of Maine, could negotiate to break the tie in return for political favors — added to which is the current race in Kansas where it is a dead heat between independent Greg Orman and long-time Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Orman won't say who he will caucus with but few, if any, would describe Kansas as a progressive state.
You might ask why the 2014 election is so important. Democrats haven't been able to get any meritorious legislation to the president's desk since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010. In fact, the impasse that exists between a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratic-controlled Senate has led to the least-productive Congress in history.
The standard response is the appointment of judges, specifically, the appointment of justices to the Supreme Court. Four of the justices are over 75 (Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgTo infinity and beyond: What will it take to create a diverse and representative judiciary? Justice Ginsburg's parting gift? Court's ruling on Texas law doesn't threaten Roe — but Democrats' overreaction might MORE, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerBarrett: Supreme Court 'not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks' Sunday shows - Manchin says he won't vote for .5 trillion bill Breyer says term limits would 'make life easier for me' MORE) and the betting is that at least one will vacate a seat in the next two years, at which time the Senate will be asked to confirm the president's recommendation. With a Republican-controlled Senate, there will be no such confirmation. There are also several federal court judge appointments that will not be made. It is clearly a part of the strategy of the Republican Party to gain as many judgeships in the country as they can, since it has heretofore yielded great results upholding their corporate, wealth-slanted kind of justice.
The irony is that even if the Democratic ground machine can overcome the well-deserved skepticism of voters, retention of control in the Senate will change little. There is still the filibuster issue, which timid Democrats are reluctant to confront "because they will someday be the minority" and will want the protections this veto affords.
Added to this is the regional character of the Democratic Party. That is actually a euphemism for a divided party with no strong agenda, just a lot of incumbents enjoying the perks of office, providing good sound bites and basking in the indifference born of a gridlocked legislature. With the possible exception of those senators seeking higher office, Democrats are simply indifferent to major national issues and content to assist their constituents whenever possible and wait for a stronger and more compatible leader in the White House. Do you honestly believe they will produce meaningful tax or immigration reform? Will they produce campaign reform legislation? Restrict the limitations to civil liberties under the Patriot or Protect America Acts? Address regulatory reform? Wage issues? Improve the financial and medial safety nets? Restrict military spending? Promote education and infrastructure investments? Confront, investigate or rage against the undue influence of lobbyists, business interests or political action groups? Control restrictions on voter registration?
Americans deserve so much better than what either Democrats or Republicans have offered up. The fact that Congress has abrogated its responsibility to govern, diluted its ability to offset or balance the judicial and executive branches and foregone the requirement to oversee, criticize and correct the excesses of undue influence, pressure and control is quite literally a national disgrace. So while the grassroots Democratic Party members field a valiant effort to block even worse outcomes from the opposition, it should be little comfort to know that the limited benefits of success are just that — limited. The very best progressive voters can hope for is a stalemate. No matter the outcome, there will be nothing progressive that eventuates.
Russell is managing director of Cove Hill Advisory Services.