The most lasting contribution to history may come from outside the presidential race.
I’m talking about the Senate, where voters returned one of the most progressive cohorts in history.
Sure, it’s possible that Obama will become the radical the right warns of, or that the solidly Republican House will have a change of heart. But the most likely outcome over the next few years is more gridlock, and a simple maintenance of the wins (with all their limitations) of the 2008-10 period.
That’s why I think it’s more likely that the dividends from this election will be felt post-2014, as these mostly young senators begin to set themselves up for what could be decades of a progressive bloc in the Senate. Unlike Obama, whose political career will come to an end in 2016, these senators will be with us until at least 2018, if not much much longer.
In Massachusetts, consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren replaced Republican Scott Brown. This is the closest thing we’ll get to having Ralph Nader in the Senate, and she claims the historic mantle of progressive Ted Kennedy.
In Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin won. She will not only be the first openly gay member of the Senate, but also a much stronger progressive than the Democrat she replaced (Herb Kohl). On the measure that I’ve followed most closely over the years (willingness to break with party leadership and corporations over trade deals), she has an 100 percent progressive voting record.
In Indiana, union-tied Joe Donnelly took the seat of Republican Dick Lugar. In New Mexico, young progressive Martin Heinrich takes the seat of outgoing (less progressive, in many respects) senator Jeff Bingaman. In Connecticut, Chris Murphy replaces arch-conservative Joe Lieberman. All three have 100% fair trade voting records.
And Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania are returning, as is the Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders, who got one of the highest vote percentages in the country. All three are also 100% lifetime fair traders.
Conservative Democrats like Bob Kerrey, on the other hand, did not win… by a large margin. Somewhat less progressive Democrats like Shelley Berkley did not pull through in Nevada. The Montana race is still not called. Angus King in Maine is a mystery. And we’ll have to see whether Mazie Hirono in Hawaii or Tim Kaine in Virginia do a better job than the Democrats they replace.