Will Vulnerable Senate Dems Hand Gift to GOP Challengers?

Posted on Tuesday, June 11, 2024
by Aaron Flanigan
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As Democrats grow increasingly worried that their extremist lawfare agenda against President Donald Trump will come back to bite them up and down the ballot this fall in states and districts where Trump is popular, as detailed here, a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing suggests Senate Democrats are slated to hand their GOP opponents another gift issue for TV attack ads.

That hearing was to advance the nomination of Biden judicial pick Sarah Netburn, a far-left radical who will likely soon be confirmed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Netburn notably made headlines a short time ago with her decision to send a transgender-identifying male serial rapist into a women’s prison where he would have female cellmates. 

When Netburn was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) asked her if her political ideology matters more than her commitment to protecting individual rights. When Netburn answered that her political ideology “doesn’t matter at all,” Cruz punched back swiftly—pointing to this prior case that Netburn presided over in which Justine Shelby—a male who claims to be a woman—pled guilty to raping a nine-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl. (He was convicted years later for distribution of child pornography.)

“I don’t believe you, and I think this case demonstrates that you are willing to subjugate the rights of individuals to satisfy your political ideology,” Cruz said. “This individual,” Cruz continued, “six-foot-two, biologically a man, a minute ago, you said that when this man decided that he was a ‘she,’ you said this individual was—I wrote it down—‘sober and entirely a female.’ That phrase struck me as remarkable. Did this individual have male genitalia?”

Though Netburn insisted she had meant to say Shelby was merely “hormonally” a male, Cruz fired back—questioning her commitment to upholding the rights and protecting the safety and basic dignity of female inmates. “It is clear on your record your political ideology matters a heck of a lot more than the rights of those women that you endangered,” he concluded. “I think you’re a radical, and I think you have no business being a judge.”

Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana also took aim at Netburn. “Miss Shelby said, ‘I don’t want to go to a male prison. I want to go to a female prison,’” Kennedy said. “And the Board of Prisons said, ‘What planet did you parachute in from? You’re going to a male prison with this kind of record.’ And you sent him to a female prison, didn’t you? You said that the Board of Prisons was trying to violate Miss Shelby—former Mr. McClain’s—constitutional right, didn’t you?” Kennedy concluded: “You’re really a political activist, aren’t you?”

As the Senate prepares to vote on whether to advance Netburn’s nomination and ultimately confirm her as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, it will be endangered swing state Democrat Senators who will ultimately greenlight her nomination. And although they may not realize it now, their expected approval of Netburn’s nomination provides a political goldmine for their Republican challengers.

Of course, Senate Republican consultants are famous for losing races by opting to talk about Karl Rove-style personal attack points uncovered by opposition researchers instead of making the extremism of the Democrat Party and the liberal voting records of the incumbents apparent to voters. From the left’s proud embrace of gender ideology to its militant record of anti-Catholicism, its longstanding assault on our nation’s democratic institutions, and persecution of political opponents, the radicalism of the left is crystal clear. If Republicans truly hope to win back control of the Senate next fall, the GOP consultant class must quickly act to expose it.

The conservative group Frontiers of Freedom has provided an effective blueprint for just such an ad campaign. In the months leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, the group ran a highly effective ad blitz taking aim at the left’s extremism.

The ads, which targeted five incumbent Senate Democrats in New York, Arizona, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Nevada, brought the “extremism” theme to the forefront of midterm campaign rhetoric. The ads displayed an image of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other members of “The Squad” with the headline “CORRUPT BARGAIN,” suggesting that the far-left wing of the Democrat Party and its billionaire donors have scared Senate Democrats into pivoting further to the left than their constituents wanted. Labeling each candidate as Joe Biden’s “key enabler” who votes with the president nearly 100 percent of the time, the ads castigate each incumbent as the “deciding vote in the Senate” who had the power to stop any number of Biden-induced disasters but refused to do so.

“It’s very important to control the word ‘extremist,’” said George Landrith, president of the group, when the ads were released. “The ‘extremist’ charge really cracks the code against Democrats… for the simple reason that it’s the truth and the truth actually works in politics.”

“Democrats’ voting records,” Landrith continued, show that they “care more about the approval of the media and the left-wingers who threatened [them] with a primary than that of [their] constituents.” These figures, despite how hard they may try, “can’t claim to be moderates,” Landrith insisted.

As the ad suggests, Democrats’ leftward lurch in recent years can be largely accredited to the subtle primary threats issued by Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left progressives, who have made it their mission to intimidate rank-and-file Democrats with the prospect of a brutal primary if they buck the hardcore left’s extreme agenda.

Also important is the broader influence of the Democrat Party’s far-left wing on Schumer and the entire Democrat Senate caucus—as seen when Ocasio-Cortez herself famously did not rule out a 2022 primary challenge against the Senate Majority Leader. In the opinion of many, this led a frightened Schumer—who knew how many of his fellow New York Democrats have fallen to progressive challengers—to subsequently embrace the no-holds-barred extremism that has come to define the Democrat congressional agenda.

Given that opposition to the media and the extremism of the national Democrat Party remains one of the most unifying issues among Republican primary voters, failure to tap into these narratives would be a significant missed opportunity—especially as the party seeks to oust vulnerable Democrat incumbents like Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

Certainly one encouraging sign was the determination of GOP candidates Bernie Moreno in Ohio and Tim Sheehy in Montana to take it to Brown and Tester, who are used to Republican opponents who let them hide from their voting record and support for the Democrat Party’s extremist agenda. Almost as soon as the Trump verdict was announced, Moreno was challenging Brown to rescind his endorsement of Biden. Just a few days after the verdict, Sheehy also released a stunning ad implicating Tester in Biden’s lawfare against Trump.

Even though Donald Trump remains the polling favorite in the general election against Joe Biden, a second Trump term would be vastly less effective without solid GOP majorities in both the House and in the Senate.

Republican consultants and their candidates frequently wilt under the well-financed media attacks Democrats launch in key states. Instead, they start running defensive spots about how nice the GOP candidate really is rather than realizing the race is not actually about themselves but about the issues that move votes.

Moreover, the fact is that the public gets attached to incumbent officeholders and tends to vote for them unless they are given a reason why that politician can no longer be trusted in public office. Explaining how every Democrat officeholder is now held hostage by the far left under penalty of an expensive primary fight gives ordinary voters a way to understand that the “extremist” label for Democrats is not just another political charge, but the reason their senator votes religiously for the Schumer-Biden far-left agenda.

If GOP candidates follow the lead of Senators Cruz and Kennedy and opt to drive this point home and wield the “extremist” charge heading into the summer, they could find that their majorities in the House and Senate in January will be far greater than they expected. But if they continue to refuse to make key strategic changes, they shouldn’t be surprised if Republicans underperform this November.

Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.

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