Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

David D. Perlmutter

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Consumer Reports

Decision '02 may well be finalized on Dec. 7 | Control of the U.S. Senate may be decided on Election Day – on Dec. 7. That is, if one possible scenario develops.

This seemingly fantastic occurrence would be brought about by Louisiana's "open" election system. Today, Louisiana won't be choosing between one Republican and one Democrat for the U.S. Senate but, rather, from among a field of candidates that includes Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and three serious Republican contenders.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the two top vote getters will be scheduled for Dec. 7. And if the Senate races elsewhere result in a dead split, then all eyes will be on – and all coffers will pour into – Louisiana.

That is why, to many Louisiana Democrats, the decision of one major liberal Democratic women's fund-raising organization not to support Ms. Landrieu is, as one New Orleans pol put it to me, "flummoxing."

The group is EMILY's List, a 17-year-old political action committee that helps female candidates who favor abortion rights and that rivals the National Rifle Association in the amount of money it raises and distributes.

In 1996, EMILY loved Mary.

Ms. Landrieu's main Republican opponent was an evangelical, solid right-winger, with a 100 percent anti-abortion stance. EMILY ended up raising more than $100,000 for Ms. Landrieu's campaign. Her victory was paper ballot thin, fewer than 6,000 votes.

Ms. Landrieu understands political reality: She has principles but has no wish to be a martyr. So her voting record has been moderate. For example, when President Bill Clinton vetoed legislation banning a late-term abortion procedure (the so-called partial birth abortion), she joined the Republican Senate majority in voting to override it.

So this year, EMILY isn't supporting Mary.

The grumbling in victory-minded Louisiana Democratic Party ranks is subterranean but hot. "I don't get it," one Democratic consultant told me. "All of her opponents are 100 percent pro-lifers. Is that who EMILY wants in the Senate?"

When I called EMILY's List for comment, a spokesperson asked me to consult news stories on the subject. In short, EMILY isn't happy about the situation, but its leaders, after all, also are 100 percenters.

Funny, though, the only 100 percenters I meet are in politics. After the Sept. 11 attacks, it was clear that ordinary Americans wanted some form of a national unity government. Yet political interests couldn't bring themselves to abandon long-entrenched do-or-die positions.

So the attorney general caves into 100 percent gun interests on gun security checks. And Senate Democrats don't pass a homeland security bill in obeisance to 100 percent union interests. And on and on.

Yet, I was teaching a politics and media class on Sept. 11, and I recall asking my angry and tearful students what good might come of the genocide we had just witnessed.

One young lady, not yet cynical about the ways of Washington, said, "I hope that all of the big leaders will get together and solve the [big] problems, not just score points."

But that isn't how Washington works.

I don't know yet whether Ms. Landrieu will lose her re-election bid and whether that defeat would have anything to do with some money that EMILY won't give her. But I do know that the divorce between them is endemic of everything Americans hate about politics and politicians.

The 100 percenters run the country, and the rest of us can only shake our heads in weariness.

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JWR contributor David Perlmutter is an associate professor of mass communication at Louisiana State University and a senior fellow at the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs. He is the author of, among others, Visions of War : Picturing Warfare from the Stone Age to the Cyber Age. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, David Perlmutter