In the leadup to today's votepocalypse, I've been pretty harsh to Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a terrible campaigner who's blown a pretty sure thing in his limp, cynical reelection campaign. But one reader wrote to me with a counterpoint——one strong enough that it's worth publishing here.
The gist of it is that Udall's a politician like all the rest, except that he's a real liberal who's really putting his thing down for freedom from government surveillance:
I like gawker and I liked your article, but to put it as nicely as possible, you really sold Mark Udall down the river.
Mark Udall is up there with Bernie Sanders as the closest thing we have to a replacement for Russ Feingold. In other words - credible, hardworking, effective, actually hangs-their-ass-out-on-a-limb for-things liberal senators.
One of the five best senators in the building dying on the vine, and you're a good case study in why.
Me too, probably.
This is why Senators are shitty—hard work for noble causes gets one absolutely nothing in job security, financial security, even recognition. That's a high wind to lean into every day.
I can't disagree with the last part, at least: The best work of governance is the least likely to hold much sway in a campaign.
As for the assertion that Udall's a real liberal: If he is, then he's in a crappy situation that's at least partly his own making, committing to a campaign path that accepts liberalism as dirty and moderate centrism as the proper path to electoral safety in a purplish state. Sure, it sometimes works (and, if the polls for Udall are an indication, it often doesn't); but it also reifies a system that vilifies libruls and celebrates status quo-ism.
I myself am in Florida, watching Rick Scott possibly win reelection, along with a local bubba and tea party congressman, Steve Southerland. Both face "moderate centrist" Democrats. Well, actually... Southerland's opponent, Gwen Graham, is the daughter of Bob Graham, one of Florida's most popular past governors and senators... and one pinko lefty (he was one of six senators who voted against the Iraq war, despite giving George Bush the benefit of the doubt on WMDs).
Gwen Graham's campaign staff has assured me she really is a liberal, but you have to say things like "Obamacare sucks" and "I don't agree with Pelosi and Obama on much" to get elected in the Florida panhandle, because God forbid if you should endeavor to undertake the hard work of expanding the Florida panhandle's political culture for the long haul instead of indulging the scared id of every insular voter.
My point is, all these "liberals" running as "centrists" could still lose to radical rightists. And all we would get for the trouble is a political culture that crabs its "center" farther and farther to the right.
Would I still vote for Udall? Probably. I'm not Coloradan, but I take this reader's analysis at face value, especially when it comes to the senator's work on NSA issues. Will I still vote for Gwen Graham, and for Charlie Crist, Rick Scott's Democratic (today) opponent? I already did. But at some point these candidates, win or lose, are going to have to decide whether or not they really stand for progressive values, or whether they'll keep running away from said values and granting to conservatives an absurd mouthbreathing luddite equation of American liberalism with Soviet communism.
[ Photo credit: AP Images]