WASHINGTON — Dear Democratic presidential candidates: I know all 23 of you want to run against President Trump, but only one will get that opportunity. If you truly believe your own righteous rhetoric, some of you ought to be spending your time and energy in another vital pursuit — winning control of the Senate.
I’m talking to you, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who would have a good chance of beating incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. I’m talking to you, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who could knock off GOP incumbent Sen. Steve Daines. I’m even talking to you, Beto O’Rourke, who would have a better chance than any other Texas Democrat against veteran Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
And I’m talking to you, too, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, even though you haven’t jumped in. You came within a whisker of being elected governor, and you have a national profile that would bring in a tsunami of campaign funds. You could beat GOP Sen. David Perdue — and acquire real power to translate your stirring eloquence into concrete action.
As the Republican Party has long understood, it’s all about power. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could not care less about lofty words and high ideals. Coldly and methodically, he has used his power to block widely supported progressive measures such as gun control, enact a trickle-down economic agenda that favors the wealthy and pack the federal bench with right-wing judges whom we’ll be stuck with for decades.
We all remember how McConnell refused even to schedule hearings for President Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, ostensibly because the vacancy occurred during an election year. Were you surprised when he said recently that if a seat were to come open in 2020, he would hasten to confirm a replacement? I wasn’t. That’s how McConnell rolls. He exercises his power to its full extent and is not bothered by what you or I or anyone else might think. Charges of hypocrisy do not trouble his sweet slumber.
McConnell is not going to be reasoned, harangued or shamed into behaving differently. The only way to stop him is to take his power away, and the only way to do that is for Democrats to win the Senate.
That will not be easy this time around, but it’s possible if Democrats can build on the blue-wave momentum they generated in last year’s midterms — and if they put forth the candidates who have the best chance of winning.
Flipping the Senate also will require a bit of luck. For example, if Alabama Republicans are foolish enough to nominate the buffoonish Roy Moore yet again, Democratic Sen. Doug Jones will have a much better chance of re-election in what ought to be a GOP bastion.
But fortune favors the prepared. Good things are much more likely to happen for the Democratic Party if it backs up the presidential nominee with down-ballot candidates who have their own appeal and their own pizazz.
We don’t need 23 presidential candidates. Some of you, please, fight for the Senate.