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August 22nd, 2017

Insight

A chance to make the Senate better?

Jay Ambrose

By Jay Ambrose

Published Oct. 23, 2014

Sen. Mark Udall (D.Colo.) ponders his actions

Mark Udall is a pleasant man whose future has a lot to do with the future of the country, and it's therefore appropriate to note some other things about him. This Democratic U.S. senator from Colorado has been devoted to the ruinous druthers of President Barack Obama, sees massive iniquities where there are few, has waged an overstated reelection campaign against his opponent — and something else.

He has a problem with free speech.

I will come back to all of this after noting, first, that he is running for reelection against Cory Gardner, a House Republican, and the outcome is considered possibly pivotal in whether Republicans take the Senate from the Democrats. If they do, we could have still more stalemate or we could get something closer to the kind of effective, compromising engagement we got with another Democratic president up against two chambers controlled by Republicans, namely Bill Clinton.

For the best to happen, we would need the congressional Republicans to start trotting out a lot more positive ideas of their own, as Republican Rep. Paul Ryan did with his trial-and-error anti-poverty plan. And we would need Obama to focus more on negotiating than on delivering divisive fundraising speeches and issuing autocratically minded executive orders.

Udall is in at least slight trouble in the race as of now because Obama is in trouble. Much of the public has finally caught on that he has made one foolish error after another, and many Coloradans have caught on that Udall was there to help him. As Gardner points out about twice a minute, Udall has sided with Obama on just about everything. In 2013, he voted for positions Obama publicly said he favored 107 out of 108 times. And he was certainly with Obama on Obamacare in 2010. This vast, emblematic, vaingloriously inspired mishmash has done some things right. But its afflictions have been plentiful and there are more to come.

What Udall himself says twice a minute is that Gardner is a male chauvinist pig, and Gardner has clearly been anti-abortion, which may hurt him with many votes. Udall insists, however, that Gardner wants to deny women birth control when Gardner's campaign in fact has regular TV commercials stating he favors the right for women to buy birth control without prescriptions.

Udall also talks a lot about the need for women to get pay equal to what men get for equal work without saying current inequalities mainly trace to such factors as women entering less remunerative occupations. He doesn't mention, either, that he at one time was paying women on his staff 86 cents for every dollar he paid the men. Some researchers do say as much. Some also note that Gardner was paying women on his staff more than he was paying the men.

My own biggest concern about Udall is that he was one of the 54 Democratic senators voting in a failed first step to amend the First Amendment to permit Congress and state legislatures to limit spending meant to affect the outcomes of elections. Some say this was about spending, not speech, but controlling the means of speech is controlling speech. Some say it is just about spending by the rich, but it is also about spending by ordinary citizens of all income levels who turn to nonprofit associations to further causes they believe in.

Udall likes to mention Gardner's billionaire supporters without mentioning the billionaires who support him, such as Tom Steyer, a California environmental radical who no doubt loves Udall's opposition to the economically advisable Keystone XL pipeline verified as safe by scientific research.

I don't agree with Gardner on everything, either, but I know he is bright, articulate, cheerful and a natural leader who may or may not get a chance to demonstrate all of that in a U.S. Senate moving us toward better things.

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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.

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