Don Davis

A Few Words From Blanche Lincoln

Filed By Don Davis | September 27, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Arkansas, Barack Obama, Blanche Lincoln, Democrats, election 2010, politics

Those of you who've followed my work know that I'm usually the one blanche-lincoln.jpgsuggesting moderation and keeping everyone in the big tent, and, even in this most difficult year, I'm the one telling folks that sometimes you just have to hold your nose and vote for the candidate that sucks less.

And even though the last thing I'd ever want is a Speaker Boehner or a Leader McConnell (or even worse yet, DeMint), the fact remains that there are two Democratic Senators I would actually vote against, even if the candidate that sucks more does win and those two are Arkansas's Blanche Lincoln and Nebraska's Ben Nelson.

One of those two is up for re-election this year, and thanks to a particularly ridiculous vote by Senator Lincoln, we found ourselves in a bit of an email exchange.

And there is still this most difficult question of all: If we are eventually fortunate enough to find truth, who among us will know how to make good use of it?

--Jean Jacques Rousseau, "Discourse on the Arts and Sciences"

So here's the deal: as you may or may not know, Senator Lincoln's was one of the Democratic votes that killed any chance of reforming the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy and also killed the DREAM Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for non-citizens who serve in the US military... despite the fact that she is one of the Senate co-sponsors of the DREAM Act and has publicly supported repealing DADT, despite the fact that this vote hurts her in a re-election campaign, by painting her as a flip-flopper, and despite the fact that her vote hurt Democrats nationally, twice, once by not forcing Republicans to vote against the Defense Appropriations bill ("they hate the troops!"), and, second, by making Democrats deal with a very, very, angry base, for no good reason.

I'm part of that angry base, and, even though I normally try to be a bit more restrained, I just had to send a note to the Senator's office to make a point. Here's that note, reproduced:

Apparently Senator Lincoln has no interest in supporting troops who are gay who are serving today, despite the flag-waving stuff on your own home page?

As a supporter of Democrats, I have to say; "nah nah na na, nah nah na na, hey hey hey...good bye!"

Have a great November...and honestly, we won't really miss you.

The Senator was kind enough to offer a response, which arrived Friday.

Today we'll look at what she had to say:

Thank you for contacting my campaign regarding my recent vote on the Defense Authorization bill.

The stalemate we find ourselves in today is an example of Congress' failure to appropriately deal with issues of critical importance to Arkansans and the American people, and that is why people are so angry.

Both political parties are so focused on how they can tear each other down that they've forgotten that we were all elected to build our country up by coming together, finding common ground and working to move our nation forward.

So far, so good...

I voted against the Motion to Proceed on the Defense Authorization bill today because of the lack of an open amendment process. I had eight amendments to improve services and benefits for Arkansas's veterans, Guardsman and Reservists. But under the process and time-frame established by the Democratic Majority Leader, none of my amendments will merit consideration this week.

Well, now we're getting to something.

Apparently you felt, Senator, that Arkansans would be so grateful that you absolutely killed reforms that even you support because you couldn't insert a few amendments, that they would ignore the fact that you absolutely killed reforms that even you support because you couldn't insert a few amendments.

Well, guess what? This kind of thinking is exactly why you're gonna lose your job.

Try to imagine, Senator, if you hired me to paint your house, because I made such a great sales pitch ("I'll paint that house, and I'll paint it cheap, and I'll use good quality paint!") and then I held a press conference to announce that I'd like to paint your house, just like I told you I would but I can't, because right now you won't allow me to propose cutting the grass and redesigning the pool.

That's appears to be what you just did and if I came up with a story like that, wouldn't you fire me?

However, my vote against this procedure does not in any way alter my co-sponsorship of the DREAM Act or my support for allowing the military to repeal the 'Dont' Ask Don't Tell' policy. These important issues were taken hostage by an election year political agenda at the expense of full and open debate on a $726 billion defense spending bill. I look forward to the day we can debate these issues fully and vote on them.

You might still support the DREAM Act, and you may still support DADT...but your vote killed 'em both, which means you're holding those issues hostage, right this very second. Since you'll become a lame duck in November, and you won't be around after January, you probably won't be debating much of anything.

Transparency should be the rule, not the exception. I have heard Arkansans loud and clear, and I will continue working to ensure that we do things in an open and transparent way.

If you had heard Arkansans loud and clear, you probably wouldn't have supported either of these reforms in the first place. If you really believed in these ideas, what you should have been doing these past 18 months is gettin' out there and doing a better job of explaining why, so that Arkansans would have heard you loud and clear.

That's called "political leadership," and that's how you win elections, and, sad to say, a lot of other Democrats this cycle also seem to have been unable to grasp this most basic lesson from Politics 101 (Barack Obama, I'm looking at you...).

There are many important issues in this critical bill that deserve our full attention. When we are ready to get serious about debating the multitude of issues that are relevant to this bill, I am prepared to help move that debate and this legislation forward.

Translation: I hope to be the super duper important 59th vote, after the election, and I hope that y'all will get serious about making a deal so that Olympia Snowe can get something and I can get my last eight amendments, even though by then I'll be fired and my party will have taken a beating in the election and the reform I claim to have supported will basically die away in the night, pretty much thanks to me.

In late July, I was able to gain unanimous approval by the Senate for the most ambitious Child Nutrition Authorization Bill in the history of our country. It didn't require a procedural motion. It was bipartisan, paid for and reflected the best of what this Senate can be. I hope that process becomes the norm.

Well congratulations to you for having the political courage to support feeding babies, and I'm willing to bet that if a "don't strangle puppies" bill comes along, you'll probably have the intestinal fortitude to support that as well.

Again, thank you for contacting my campaign.

You're more than welcome, and you have yourself a great day.


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I think the words you're searching for from Lincoln are "Fuck you Democrats; I'm really a Republican in Dem clothing." That's what she's really saying.

actually, what i'm searching for is more like this:

i'm blanche lincoln, and for the most part i have tried, desperately, to avoid ever being pinned down on anything remotely controversial to my most conservative voters.

this is because i figure i can co-opt most of my opponent's opinions and positions, and the voters of arkansas will like me.

it'll also prevent republicans from having any weapons to use against me.

of course, it never occurred to me that no matter what i did to grab some of that crazy republican 'edge', republicans would be willing to be far crazier than me, and absolutely unwilling to allow reason or rationality to enter the contest.

since i never figured any of this out until it was too late, i never bothered to go out among my voters and sell them on the things i've been voting on that might be good for them...and now i'm running about a thousand times more scared than i was before...in fact, i'm literally paralyzed with fear, at this point...and all of that has put me in a political death spiral from which i will not recover, unless the other two candidates have unexpected aircraft crashes or change their names to osama bin laden or perez hilton."

I didn't vote for Blanche Lincoln in the party primaries. I voted for her Democrat opponent. But be careful what you pray for. Lincoln's Republican opponent this November is a kinder, gentler Christian fascist and acting head of the Senate subcommittee of Veteran Affairs, John Boozman. There's a YouTube video of him receiving the Ten Commandments Award. His is probably the most abysmal voting record on gay rights of any member of Congress. And he has NEVER broken ranks with his fellow Republicans on ANY issue.

i gotta tell ya...it may not matter, at least in terms of dadt or the effort to advance same-sex marriage rights, and here's why:

i anticipate the rs to find ways to hold up the defense authorization bill until after the election...and then, there will be no final votes until the 112th congress, when rs hope to control one or both houses of congress.

and if either house is lost, i would suggest it's all over at the federal level for either issue, unless the courts step in.

It is unfathomable to me that any queer person outside of GOProud could advocate putting John Boozman - with his opposition to every lgbt-rights bill he has ever voted on and his continuing advocacy of a Federal Marriage Amendment - in the Senate for six years rather than putting up with more of Blanche Lincoln and her pathetic shilly-shallying. The stakes are just too high.

i understand what you're saying, but as i said above, if either house is lost, it's not gonna matter who represents arkansas, and that's because there will be no legislative avenue, at all, to advance either dadt or same-sex marriage rights.

even in the best-case scenario, where ds hold the house and senate, if these issues aren't moved by the 2011 july 4th recess it's over anyway, as nothing legislative will happen in the runup to the '12 presidential.

now all that said, i do think there is a good argument to be made that a "worst-case" republican congress might go so far as to try to overturn lawrence legislatively.

so, yeah, i would love to have a 63-37 senate with blanche lincoln, because i presume that they could get olympia snowe to come along from time to time, which would mean 60-40 votes on issues that we care about...but that ain't never gonna happen, so hold your noses and vote d, folks, and let's see if we can't get something like a 53-47 senate...without blanche.

Rev. Tara Lee | September 28, 2010 7:51 AM

Forget the legislative path. Our only hope is in the courts.

i think you're right, at this point.

the 111th congress is over, and the senate leadership has basically told us that there will be no more controversial votes before the election, and the senate rs will block anything after.

so that leaves a few months for the 112th...and there are few things more certain in political life than the fecklessness of democrats in the runup to a presidential campaign...so as i said above, it's possible that something might happen before the july 4th recess, if both houses stay d...but at this point, The Fear has taken over the democrats, and that basically means congress is no longer a part of the solution.

and having said all that, let me point out that much of the democratic house, including nancy pelosi, have actually been doing their jobs with unusual courage (for democrats), and even as we trash senate democrats we should be applauding the house democrats of the 111th (although steny hoyer is one prominent exception), who moved pretty much every single thing we could have ever asked for, and a lot more besides...only to watch it die in the senate.

Rick Sutton | October 8, 2010 9:04 AM

Ohhhhhh boy, here we go again.

We just can't stand being in the majority, can we? We flog ourselves half to death if all our elected representatives don't march lock-step with us.

Let's cut to the chase for the sake of dear ole' Blanche. Her state won't support any of our causes. Ever. Period.

Her state's average literacy and education rates are and have consistently been in the bottom four. Uneducated voters are not typiclaly friends of GLBT causes. That's not being prima-donnish, it's just (statistically) true. Sadly.

I would hold my nose and vote for her, if I lived in Arkansas, because the nutcase running against her is to the right of Atilla the Hun. He thinks Chinless McConnell is too freaking liberal.

I understand your frustration. My senator, a Dem, who's also a friend, caved and didn't run for re-election because of this gridlock. In his place we're likely to get (follow this closely):

The man who succeeded Dan Quayle in the House, then in the Senate. And who was known as being just one thin hair smarter than PotatoeBoy.

This same man told a North Carolina audience, on tape, not to tell his Hoosier friends he preferred NC for his retirement home. He proceeded to serve as chairman of a lobby firm that listed some of the biggest diplomatic despots as clients. He hasn't lived in Indiana for 12 years--two of which, Bush had him serving as Ambassador to Germany. (Yeah, we actually send goofuses to diplomatic posts around the world...and leave the clean-up to the professional diplomatic corps).

And this absent Hoosier is likely to be my new senator.

So hell yeah, I feel your pain. I'm voting for the Democratic nominee who's with us more than the Republican nominee, but only by a little.

But I try to keep my eye on one number: 50. The majority neded to control the agenda, throw out Harry Reid's sorry ass and get a fighting leader, and avoid the one thing I care about most: the potential of this title on a door in the Hart Senate Office Building:

Senate Judiciary Chairman Jeff Sessions.

Because SCOTUS survives multiple Senate majority switches. And effects EveryDamnedOne of us every damned day.

Blanche needs a boot up her ass. No question. But if she's not there, the chances of Chairman Sessions get better by the minute.

couple comments:

i actually agree with you on virtually everything you've said here--and in fact, in about 18 hours or so you'll see a story coming up from me that makes aome of the very same points you're making here.

but there is a difference in our thinking.

50 doesn't mean much to me, compared to 60, thanks to the cloture rule...at least not when you're trying to pass legislation.

to control committees, of course, 50 counts, but at this point i don't see 9 or 10 democratic senators losing, even counting lincoln...which means 50 is probably not going to be as tough to manage as some think.

so how does lincoln fit into the democrats' need to get to 60?

she made damn good and sure that the dream act and dadt repeal would be sunk, and she did it in a way that didn't just hurt the effort to advance good ideas...but in a way that is now hurting every democrat running for congress. (no vote on tax cuts for the rich? you can probably thank lincoln for that.)

she ain't a reliable 60th vote, and she'll actually trash the chances of other democrats so that she can accomplish...oh, yeah, what the heck did she accomplish doing that?

as i said in the story, i'd be willing to lose two democratic senators (and in truth, maybe baucus as well), and under senate rules, apparently 55 or 53 is meaningless anyway...so why support democrats who actively make an effort to damage the chances of so many other democrats?

this is particularly true when we already can see that sessions and demint (and probably numerous other) republican senators will "hold" anything in the 112th that smacks of civil rights (in fact, expect nothing to move, at all, in the 112th, on any important issue).

there probably won't be any votes on civil rights in the 112th, at all, so, with all due respect, i don't think the question of how nutty the lincoln option is as relevant as it might have been in a working senate.

better to make the effort to "flip" olympia snowe, who has actually been a more reliable progressive vote, then to keep making deals with lincoln to no avail...in fact, just to get slammed back by her actions...if you ask me.