Say Goodbye To These Middle-Class Zeros

Isaiah J. Poole

Though the balance of power in the House did not change significantly Tuesday, there is one noteworthy bright spot: As of midday today 10 of the 181 members who received “zero” ratings in TheMiddleClass.org Voter Guide lost their re-election bids, and another four are likely to be added to that list as results in their tight races are confirmed. Add that to the key victories in the Senate on Tuesday and the result is a stronger progressive wing in Congress fighting for the kitchen-table concerns of working-class voters.

On the other hand, only two of the House members who scored 100 percent in the voter guide—Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., and Rep Ron Barber, D-Colo.—and none of the Senate members lost their reelection bids.

You can definitely say goodbye to Rep. David Rivera, R-Fla.;  Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill.; Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill.; Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill.; Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.;  Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H.; Rep. Quico Canseco, R-Texas, Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn.; Rep. Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., and Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y. Four others are currently behind in their reelection bids: California Republicans  Rep. Brian Bilbray, Dan Lungren and Mary Bono Mack; and Rep. Allen West, R-Fla.

In most cases, the defeated middle-class zeros are being replaced by people like  Carol Shea-Porter, who campaigned on a strong populist-progressive platform that included support for government spending on job-creation programs, opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy, support for full disclosure of political superPAC donations, and opposition to cuts in Social Security, Medicate and Medicaid. The incumbent she defeated, Rep. Frank Guinta, took the opposite position on all of those issues.

In addition, a few key conservative legislators who narrowly averted a “zero” rating in our guide are being replaced by strong progressives. The most noted of these is the triumph of financial reform champion Elizabeth Warren over Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, but there is also the defeat of Rep. Joe “You lie!” Walsh by war veteran Tammy Duckworth in Illinois. Former New York congressman Dan Maffei reclaimed his seat from Tea Party darling Ann Marie Buerkle by campaigning on an agenda of increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help protect Medicare and Medicaid from cuts and to have revenues to invest in such priorities as education and transportation infrastructure.

In a key Senate race that pit a strong progressive against a noted conservative, Tammy Baldwin defeated Republican Tommy Thomson, a former Health and Human Services secretary, in Wisconsin for the seat held by Democrat Herb Kohl. And in a race that meant a net Senate pickup for the Democrats, Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly defeated conservative Republican Richard Mourdock. While it was Mourdock’s extreme comments about post-rape conception being “a gift from God” that offended large numbers of voters, Donnelly attracted voters with some populist planks to attract voters, including pledges to fight China’s unfair trade practices and oppose corporate tax loopholes.

The net result will certainly be more voices in support of middle-class concerns in the 113th Congress when it convenes in January, and perhaps more caution by conservatives who have voted with impunity against the interest of Main Street voters. Those votes may win the favor of the corporate superPACs, but they don’t guarantee support from aware and engaged voters.

 

 

 

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