The Easy Way Out Was to Vote for That War And Look the Other Way

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin appeared on WNYC’s “On the Media” last week (the title’s a quote from Sen. Durbin), talking about how he and others who voted against the Iraq war resolution have repeatedly made statements about the administration’s lack of evidence in their case for war, both since the war began and before the vote on the authorization to use military force. He mentioned to host Bob Garfield that it’s only his most recent speech on the floor of the Senate that’s garnered attention, via The Washington Times in a sleazy attempt to portray him as having kept quiet on the matter, and that when he and the 22 other Senators who voted against the war did speak out contemporaneously, they were “…not greeted as heroes when we went home. Many of us paid a price for it. In fact some may have lost an election over it.”

There is no doubt that the (mostly) Democrats who voted against the war have been vilified by Republicans and often marginalized by war hawks in their own party, but as much as it may have felt like the world was against them, as I’ve pointed out before, the Democrats in the Senate who voted against the Iraq war haven’t lost a seat because of an election in the three cycles since the vote. Here’s the list of Senators who were smart enough not to be fooled by George Bush.

Daniel Akaka (HI) reelected 2006
Jeff Bingaman (NM) reelected 2006
Barbara Boxer (CA) reelected 2004
Robert Byrd (WV) reelected 2006
Kent Conrad (ND) reelected 2006
Jon Corzine (NJ) elected Governor 2005; succeeded by Robert Menendez (Democrat)
Mark Dayton (MN) retired 2006; succeeded by Amy Klobuchar (Democrat)
Dick Durbin (IL) reelected 2002
Russ Feingold (WI) reelected 2004
Bob Graham (FL) ran for president, did not run for reelection 2004; succeeded by Mel Martinez (Republican)
Daniel Inouye (HI) reelected 2004
Ted Kennedy (MA) reelected 2006
Patrick Leahy (VT) reelected 2004
Carl Levin (MI) reelected 2002
Barbara Mikulski (MD) reelected 2004
Patty Murray (WA) reelected 2004
Jack Reed (RI) reelected 2002
Paul Sarbanes (MD) retired 2006; succeeded by Ben Cardin (Democrat)
Debbie Stabenow (MI) reelected 2006
Paul Wellstone (MN) died in plane accident between vote and 2002 election; succeeded by Norm Coleman (Republican)
Ron Wyden (OR) reelected 2004
Lincoln Chafee (RI) defeated 2006; succeeded by Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat)
Jim Jeffords (VT) retired 2006; succeeded by Bernie Sanders (Independent)

Wellstone did lose an election, but was dead. Since the tragic crash that killed him also killed his wife (and others, including his daughter) there wasn’t even the possibility for something like what took place in 2000 when Mel Carnahan posthumously unseated Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, with Carnahan’s wife Jean taking over the seat (Sen. Carnahan voted for the Iraq AUMF and was defeated in 2006 by Republican Jim Talent).

The only other case where a Democrat who voted against the Iraq war lost an election was in the Democratic primaries. Bob Graham didn’t try to simultaneously run for president and senator. Republican Lincoln Chaffee did lose an election, but not because he opposed the war.

It’s a shame none of the Democratic Senators running for president this year are off this list.