Minorities In U.S.Senate Race
(Edited for content and length - b)
The passion invested by the Democratic faithful in taking back the White House has meant that not enough has been said about the imperative of taking back control of the place John Kerry will hopefully be leaving — the United States Senate.
If Kerry is the next occupant of the Oval Office, he will need legislative muscle to undo the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, which have damaged our economy, degraded our environment, added millions to the roll of America's uninsured, and seriously undermined our national security. No executive order can reverse all that
In looking at the Senate races Democrats can win, I focused on the three open seats currently held by retiring Republicans in Illinois, Colorado and Oklahoma. In each of these states, the Democrats are putting forth a candidate — Barack Obama in Illinois, Ken Salazar in Colorado, and Brad Carson in Oklahoma — capable of bringing a new type of leadership to Washington.
Just for starters, Obama is black, Salazar is Hispanic, and Carson is a member of the Cherokee Nation — no small matter when you consider that despite making up over 25 percent of the U.S. population (accounting for more than 71 million Americans), there are currently no blacks, no Hispanics, and just one Native American in the Senate. The World's Most Exclusive Club, indeed.
But what separates and elevates these candidates goes far beyond race and ethnicity. It's their ability to focus on the Other America — the millions struggling to make ends meet — while retaining the ability to draw supporters from across the political spectrum.
As an added bonus, the three are running against some of the most troubling opponents ever to come down the political pike. Even if Obama, Salazar, and Carson weren't so appealing, their opponents — Alan Keyes in Illinois, Pete Coors in Colorado, and Tom Coburn in Oklahoma — are so repellent that their resounding defeat should be a priority for all sentient Americans. More on these bozos as we go along.
The nation saw firsthand the reasons for Obama's widespread appeal when he delivered his headline-making keynote speech at the Democratic convention: He is brilliant (a former president of the Harvard Law Review), charismatic, an eloquent speaker, and in possession of a life story that embodies the American dream.
Colorado's Salazar faces a tougher challenge: There are 193,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats in his state. Nevertheless, the popular two-time state attorney general has been able to open a lead by combining a two-fisted attack on President Bush's mishandling of Iraq, domestic security, the economy, and the environment with a down-home, folksy style. His pickup truck persona (complete with blue jeans and cowboy hat) has won him the support of a majority of the state's rural voters.
Given Oklahoma's unabashedly conservative bent — Bush carried the state by 22 percent in 2000, and currently leads Kerry by even more — it's nothing short of a miracle that Carson, a 37-year old, two-term Congressman, is running neck-and-neck with his Republican rival. Carson, a sixth-generation Oklahoman who turned down an opportunity to go to law school at Yale in favor of the University of Oklahoma, then devoted a third of his practice to providing free legal services to impoverished clients, has attracted the small town support essential to pulling off a major upset in this decidedly red state.
"Too many working Americans," Carson told me, "are seeing their jobs shipped overseas without enough of our elected officials in Washington fighting on their behalf. We've got to stop pursuing policies that leave behind middle class families — such as stripping workers of overtime pay, the pay that often makes the difference between a family having groceries for the last week of the month or doing without.
Most experts agree that, in the end, the balance of power in the Senate will turn on what happens in the presidential race — And it could also turn out to be the recipe for an Election Night Democratic two-fer — taking back both the White House and the Senate.
© 2004 ARIANNA HUFFINGTON
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