Endorsement generally don’t mean much these days, particularly when they come from newspaper editorial boards. The fact is that people have too much access to a variety of news sources and they’re perfectly capable of making up their own minds. Further, too many endorsements are entirely predictable, falling on the same side of the party divide cycle after cycle. In fact, the only time one of these accolades makes any news at all is when someone crosses the line and breaks ranks with their usual followers. That’s precisely what’s happened with two very liberal organizations this year, as a human rights organization and a gun control group have predictably shunned Donald Trump for president, but are tossing their support to a couple of Republican senators. (The Hill)
Two major liberal outside groups have endorsed Republicans in Senate races, frustrating Democrats who see the majority as within their grasp.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which advocates for LGBT rights, and Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), which supports stronger gun control laws, are typically aligned with the Democratic Party.
But they crossed party lines this year to reward vulnerable Republican senators who have fought for their issues. Both groups endorsed Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.), and ARS additionally backed Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.).
Liberal critics of those endorsements question why the groups would help any Republican senators, given that the GOP majority has been opposed to their policy goals.
While I’m sure they’re not the only ones, Daily KOS was frothing at the mouth over the news, arguing that the first thing both Kirk and Toomey would do is cast a vote to keep Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader. But what did you expect them to do? Toss a vote to Chuck Schumer?
More interesting was the KOS political director’s rationale for trashing the endorsement.
“Parties govern, not individuals, so endorsing a Republican senator is the same as endorsing Republican control of the entire Senate — and if groups like these don’t understand that, they’re committing political malpractice.”
That’s a fascinating, if typical liberal argument. In any other circumstances they would be arguing the relative merits of the individual candidates and lauding their progressive bona fides while bashing the conservative positions of their opponents. But when it comes to holding or retaking the majority, the identity and positions of the individuals go out the window. Simply having an “R” after your name is sufficient evidence to complete the offense.
This may be some slight bit of good news for Kirk and Toomey, though I’m dubious as to how many people are on the fence to a degree where the Human Rights Campaign is going to push them over the edge. More interesting is what the reaction will be among their base. You can sort of see the conservative wing of their supporters not caring much one way or the other who the HRC endorses, but a gun control group? Illinois is a seriously gun grabbing state so Kirk can likely weather that label, but Toomey clearly doesn’t need an anti-Second Amendment ribbon when trying to hold his support in Pennsyltucky.
But the bottom line on the GOP end is actually more in line with the questions posed at KOS than anything else. The party is looking to hold on to that Senate majority and they’ll definitely need to keep these two seats. If this somehow helps them limp over the finish line in at least one of them, I suppose one in the W column is always better than a loss.