Politics & Policy

Standing Athwart the Senate, Yelling Stop!

We have three weeks. Act like it matters.

Three weeks. That’s what we’ve got left before Election Day.

This one’s a big deal. We’re at war. The daily headlines are about an economy in chaos — the mess being partially the result of, and potentially worsened by, big government.

And yet we seem to be taking it lightly. We hear a lot of about the superficial.

#ad#They say that we like the idea of “change.” Some of us — a lot of us — like the idea of the historic moment Barack Obama offers.

Pollsters, talking heads, and even both campaigns (John McCain doesn’t want us to be afraid of Barack Obama winning) seem to consider this election over and done with. But it’s not.

Besides a lack of depth to our discussions of how we got here on the economy and driveby treatment of the war the Democrats would have had us lose in Iraq, there are a slew of issues that haven’t even been debated. Anyone remember abortion? Barack Obama, as it happens, is a radical on this. We have three weeks, it should be an issue. It is, after all, a matter of life and death. And there are clear choices in this election on that issue, given Obama’s record of defending infanticide.

Does anyone remember the Supreme Court? When asked in January about President Bush’s legacy, I will without hesitation answer: “Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Alito.” And yet judges and the courts have barely been talked about this cycle. According to Barack Obama what “matters at the Supreme Court is those 5 percent of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction will only get you through 25 miles of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.”

Move over emanations and penumbras. We’ll have empathy on the Obama Court. With that — and international law — who needs the U.S. Constitution?

And the presidential race isn’t the only major election that Americans face three weeks from today. Consider the Senate.

In Minnesota, voters may just hear “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me,” when Stuart Smalley is elected senator there. Comedian Al Franken is in a tight race with incumbent Norm Coleman in a year when being an incumbent is far from an advantage and in a state that once put wrestler Jesse Ventura in the governor’s mansion.

Adults like John Sununu and Mitch McConnell and even Elizabeth Dole find themselves fighting for their political lives. If you’re a conservative, you want them reelected. You need them reelected.

Consider Barack Obama’s promise to sign the “Freedom of Choice Act.” He told Planned Parenthood that signing this sweeping legislation would be “the first thing that I’d do.” In a Pelosi-Reid Congress, if there are not enough votes to push back, Obama can have this and anything else his pro-legal-abortion heart desires for the next four years.

Forty-one is the magic number for GOP Senate seats — if conservatives hope to have any voice in the Senate next Congress by being able to wield the threat of a filibuster. And that number doesn’t account for the stable of moderate Republicans who are unreliable on a whole host of issues, and are unlikely to fight a “Freedom of Choice Act,” especially with all of Washington in Democratic hands — hands that are all-too-happy to twist arms.

Senate watchers see at least seven Republican seats potentially being lost — in Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oregon, Virginia, Alaska, and North Carolina. Those losses would put the Republican minority at 42 seats. The number 42 assumes that Kentucky, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Georgia are won by Republicans — and there are no guarantees.

New Hampshire and North Carolina should not be lost. Consider that both of those GOP senators were prescient on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Consider that since his first year in Congress, John Sununu has pressed for reform on these issues. In 2007, Elizabeth Dole warned, “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must be run properly and with adequate transparency and oversight. We will not tolerate an intentionally weak regulator, especially when the stakes are so high for American taxpayers, the housing sector, and the economy as a whole.” Sununu and Dole are members you want in the Senate right about now.

So when you laugh at Tina Fey and listen to pollsters and analysts tell you that it’s all over, think again. There are three weeks left in this race, and there are a whole lot of races that promise (or threaten) to change the face of Washington. An Obama administration with 39 or 40 Republican senators who are completely impotent will certainly herald change — and it’s unlikely to be change you can believe in. With the prospect of a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, you’d better believe that radical change might be only three weeks away. I have the audacity to hope we can do something about it before it’s too late.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

Editors note: This piece has been amended since posting.

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