Maintaining Lower-Case Democracy

Like many progressive Americans, we were distraught when we learned of Sen. Paul Wellstone's sudden death in a plane crash on Friday. It was, as many have observed, like losing a member of one's extended family. However, while the Senator certainly would have been flattered by the outpouring of grief in his name over the past few days, his life and his works make it clear that he would have wanted his memory to endure not as eulogies but as political action.

The coming week is a crucial moment in this country's history for just such action. Simply put: Any future checks and balances on Bush's extremism rest in the Democrats holding the Senate and winning majority control of the House. (And if it can at all be helped -- keeping one's eye on 2004 -- booting Jeb Bush from the Florida governor's chair.)

All of these goals are within reach, but only just. This next week is going to feature extensive (as well as expensive) taxpayer-funded forays by Bush and his minions to do all they can to scuttle such plans.

In the coming few days, a little bit of time and money will go a long way. There are some tight races in the House and Senate right now, ones that will turn Congress either toward a Republican rubber stamp or a Democrat roadblock. What is desperately needed in Washington in the next two years is more of what beltway pundits typically treat with scorn and contempt: Gridlock, glorious gridlock!

Below is a breakdown of the key Senate races and how they stand in the polls, as of Oct. 28 -- from the very helpful site Note, however, that these are only projections. Much can and will change between now and Election Day.

Top Nine Senate seats for Democrats to Take Over

  1. Arkansas (previous rank: 1)
    Pryor (D) vs Hutchinson (R)
    Currently, a 3-5 percent win projected for Pryor.

  2. New Hampshire (previous rank: 3)
    Shaheen (D) vs Sununu (R)
    Currently, a toss-up, a 2-4 percent win projected for Shaheen.

  3. Colorado (previous rank: 2)
    Strickland (D) vs Allard (R) vs Stanley
    Currently, a toss-up, a 1-3 percent win projected for Strickland.

    To quote "Former U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland (the first U.S. attorney fired by Ashcroft when he became Attorney General!), strongly supports balanced energy policies, civil liberties, environmental protections, women's choice and campaign finance reform. As a U.S. Attorney Strickland prosecuted white-collar crime and has called for legislation to ensure that auditors maintain their independence from the corporations they are supposed to watchdog, whereas Allard pressured the SEC to delay similar administrative measures."

  4. North Carolina (previous rank: 7)
    Bowles (D) vs Dole (R)
    Currently, a toss-up, a 1-3 percent win projected for Dole.

  5. Tennessee (previous rank: 5)
    Clement (D) vs Alexander (R)
    Currently a 2-3 percent win projected for Alexander.

  6. Texas (previous rank: 4)
    Kirk (D) vs Cornyn (R)
    Currently, a 2-3 percent win projected for Cornyn.

  7. South Carolina (previous rank: 6)
    Sanders (D) vs Graham (R)
    Currently, a 3-4 percent win projected for Graham.

  8. Maine (previous rank: 10)
    Pingree (D) vs Collins (R)
    Currently, a 5-7 percent win projected for Collins.

    The populist, pro-union, clean-election, green Pingree is as close to Wellstone's politics as anyone running for national office in 2002.

  9. Oregon (previous rank: 8)
    Bradbury (D) vs Smith (R) vs Mabon
    Currently, a 6-8 percent win projected for Smith.

    Again quoting "Bradbury is Oregon's Secretary of State, and served 14 years in both legislative houses, including time as both Senate Majority Leader and Senate President. Bradbury has a strong environmental record in protecting the Oregon coast from off shore drilling and preserving the native salmon runs. By contrast, Smith is anti-choice, favors school prayer, voted against campaign finance reform, and opposes any gun control measures. Oregonians are feeling a bit irritable at Washington these days -- they have twice voted to permit assisted suicide, and the administration has responded by threatening to prosecute any doctor who tries to implement the law. Most importantly, Smith has voted to authorize the Bush Administration unilaterally to attack Iraq, a moved Bradbury vocally opposes."

Republican Favored by +10 percent

  • Oklahoma
    Walters vs Inhofe

  • Alabama
    Parker vs Sessions

  • New Mexico
    Tristiani vs Domenici

  • Kentucky
    Combs-Weinberg vs McConnell

Top Four Senate Seats for Republicans to Take Over

  1. South Dakota (previous rank: 1)
    Johnson (D) vs Thune (R)
    Currently, a toss-up, a 0-2 percent win projected for Thune.

    Johnson was co-sponsor of the USA PATRIOT act.

  2. Missouri (previous rank: 2)
    Carnahan (D) vs Talent (R)
    Currently, a toss-up, a 2-4 percent win projected for Carnahan.

    This is a special election -- to fill the seat vacated by Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash a few weeks before the 2000 election -- which will likely find the winner being appointed to the seat as soon as the election results are official, perhaps as soon as the day after Election Day. Thus if Jim Talent wins, the Republicans will have a one-seat majority in the Senate for two months, even if the Democrats retain control in the other Senate races. As Harvey Wasserman wrote, "Two hundred years of American democracy could definitively end Nov. 5, starting in Missouri." Whether you agree with Wasserman's hyperbole or not, this race is critical.

  3. Georgia (previous rank: 3)
    Cleland (D) vs Chambliss (R)
    Currently, a 4-6 percent win projected for Cleland.

  4. Minnesota (previous rank: 4)
    Mondale (D) vs Coleman (R) vs Moore (I)
    Currently, a 5-7 percent win projected for Mondale.

Democratic Favored by +10 percent

  • New Jersey
    Lautenberg vs Forrester

  • Iowa
    Harkin vs Ganske

  • Montana
    Baucus vs Taylor

  • Louisiana
    Landrieu vs Republican

Here are four websites that are helpful in picking out the best candidates and most strategic races to donate to -- if you contribute online, your donation will be accessible to the campaigns immediately: Council For a Livable World, MoveOn, BuzzFlash, and MyDD.

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