It’s time to point out some home truths about Claire McCaskill’s voting record. Why, you ask, is this important? Anyone can check out her record online – anyone who’s interested in the truth that is. But the fact is that she’s a Democrat running against the Republican machine and Republicans in general are no longer interested in the truth. Just consider the Romney campaign functionary who recently declared that “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers strategy.” Which is to say, truth be dammed. And it’s becoming equally clear that Missouri Rpublicans aren’t going to let the campaign against Claire McCaskill be dictated by facts either.
Although the state GOP is clinging to the story that they too scorn the their bumpkinish Senatorial candidate, Todd Akin, Talking Points memo reports that their disdain has not, in fact, stopped them from launching the usual dishonest attacks aimed at Claire McCaskill. I sympathize. I know how hard it is to keep quiet in the midst of a violent spleen attack; I lived through eight years of President George W. Bush after all. Nevertheless, after sampling their rhetoric, I would recommend that if these folks have to throw tantrums, they try for just a smidgen of accuracy. Specifically, a GOP official in a fit of high dudgeon claimed in response to a McCaskill ad:
This is about Claire McCaskill’s disingenuous effort to paint herself as a moderate when she clearly is not,” Missouri GOP communications director Jonathon Prouty told TPM. “We have always worked to hold McCaskill accountable, and we will not allow her to get away with distorting her record of rubber-stamping Barack Obama’s agenda.”
Buddy, from where I’m sitting here on the real left, not the GOP fantasy left, McCaskill is a moderate’s moderate. If you examine her record carefully, you’ll see that she’s voted with Republicans and she’s voted with Democrats. She’s made me screaming mad so many times I can’t count them – and I’ve probably also written thanking her for standing up for the good of the average Missourian just as many times. Mr. Prouty should get it clear in his head that there’s a big difference between moderates and Republicans. The former are still able to think for themselves.
You want to know what drives progressives into a fury, just consider the fact that McCaskill’s votes on energy policy and regulation have frequently been in sync with one the oil industry’s favorite congressman, Roy Blunt – in spite of the fact that she doesn’t benefit nearly as much from the generosity of the energy industry. She’s been consistent about her approach to energy from the beginning, even though many of her votes angered those of us who make up the Democratic base. Her main goal has been to save Missourians from any increases in their utility and gas bills. Short term thinking that will catch up with all of us, but you sure as shooting can’t call it rubber stamping the Obama administration agenda.
McCaskill also, sadly, immediately broke with progressives on the question of deficit reduction, which most of us on the left think should be deferred until the economy has recovered more fully. McCaskill, though, has been seriously hawkish about deficit spending. She actually introduced legislation that would have drastically capped spending; heck, she she even voted against extending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Contingency Fund (ECF) funding. Wrong-headed, yes. Obama rubber stamp, no way.
On the liberal side, McCaskill’s been equally consistent in her positions. She’s been a stalwart if somewhat muted defender of a women’s reproductive rights. She stands up for union people, including currently unpopular public unions, the teachers, firemen and policemen that the Republicans think we can do without. She defends the minimum wage, because she’s been around long enough to realize that the “job-killing” claim the GOP makes against it is so much smoke – a fair minimum wage brings prosperity to everyone. She seems willing to insist that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, although she’s willing to quibble about what that share might be. McCaskill also stands closer to the liberal side of the aisle when it comes to protecting Medicare and Social Security, while her opponent, Todd Akin is on the record for turning Medicare into a voucher program and privatizing Social Security.
And yes, Virginia, Claire McCaskill voted for Obamacare. And someday, when the disinformation campaign that the right has waged against this historic legislation has faded away, a much older Claire McCaskill will be able to point with pride to her vote which helped insure affordable health care for all Americans. As far as I’m concerned, this single vote means that Claire McCaskill passes an important test – she voted for a program that would make America a better place and, given the fury of the conservative campaign to demonize that program, she did it at the risk of her career.
For the most part, though, McCaskill’s votes have been on non-controversial issues, and bills that’s she’s introduced or sponsored have been equally non-controversial, directed at cutting waste and fraud in government contracting, at promoting transparency in campaign spending, and at protecting our veterans, along with some short-sighted efforts to cut the deficit – which prompted Slate’s Dave Weigel to dub her a “Tea Party Democrat” – a label that becomes even more ironic when one recollects McCaskill’s consistent vendetta against and refusal to take earmarks – while Tea Party caucus member Todd Akin defended the practice as ” an extension of a lawmaker’s constitutional duty to appropriate money.”
If you consider the voting records and achievements of both Claire McCaskill and Todd Akin, I think that you will have to conclude that McCaskill is just as she presents herself – a mostly reasonable, sometimes wrong-headed, centrist Democrat, who, no matter how she strays when it comes to progressive orthodoxy, manages to get lots of good, neutral, center-of-the-road stuff done. On the other side of the equation stands a bible-spouting zealot who in ten years hasn’t put forward any non-ideological initiatives; nor has he accomplished much of anything for Missourians besides warm his back bench perch, vote reliably for right-wing causes, and stick his foot in his mouth on a regular basis.
Sadly, since Republicans can’t point to positive achievements or sympathetic policy positions, they seem to think that their only alternative is to exaggerate, distort and outright lie, not only about the other guy, but about what they themselves stand for. Just as Paul Ryan told one whopper after another in his convention speech last night, we can expect to hear more lies and exaggerations about Claire McCaskill’s record over the next two months. Strength, brothers and sisters – we’ll need it as the Grand Old Party morphs into the party of grand mendacity.