Bennet Faces “Conservadem” Guilt By Association

To hear the Fort Collins Coloradoan report it, kind of a rough night for Sen. Michael Bennet:

Sen. Michael Bennet met with about 100 Larimer County Democrats on Monday night at New Belgium Brewing and frequently wound up giving them answers they didn’t come to hear.

Facing a respectful but clearly skeptical audience of party activists, Bennet spent 90 minutes in a free-flowing discussion that ranged from local issues such as Glade Reservoir to national issues such as the economy.

Several questions dealt with the decision by Bennet and fellow Colorado Sen. Mark Udall to join a group of 15 Senate Democrats calling themselves “The Moderate Dems Working Group.” Rachel Maddow of MSNBC tagged them the “conservadems.”

“I’d like to have you talk about the ‘conservadems’ group of senators, and I think there are a number of us troubled by that,” Ann Molison of Fort Collins said to applause.

Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter in January when Ken Salazar was appointed secretary of the Interior, said the idea behind the group was to help push through President Barack Obama’s budget plans.

“The reason this group came together was to help Kent Conrad, among others, who’s the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, with the very difficult task of getting a budget passed by the Senate that would support, not interfere with but support, the president’s objectives for his budget, which were the new energy economy, education, health care and deficit reduction,” Bennet said.

We scratched our heads a little over Bennet’s self-identification with the “Conservadem” working group, and it’s clear that public ridicule from media liberals like Rachel Maddow has done its work in terms of encouraging a skeptical eye. On a base-pleasing superficial level (which matters a little more right now, we’ll admit), Bennet didn’t do himself any favors with that.

But lost in yesterday’s tense questions over Bennet’s “membership” in the “Conservadems” and the identity politics spinning out of that cheesy discussion is the fact that Bennet voted for the Obama budget plan, along with Sen. Mark Udall, unlike much-vilified “Conservadem” leaders Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson. This matters far more to us than some informal meeting they have every other Tuesday–it’s what should matter to people like Maddow and others hoping to justify a primary challenge on the back of every wire story.

Like we said originally, it’s the votes that determine whether Bennet “deserves” a primary–votes on the Obama budget (passed), on climate change (the real vote that is), on whatever emerges from the current impasse over Employee Free Choice–the immediate fate of which is not in Bennet’s hands, talk-radio angst in both directions notwithstanding. We apologize if this throws cold water on anybody’s particular burning desire, we’re not really making a judgment on the larger related questions you’re all constantly chatting about. We’re just trying to keep the chatter, you know, based in reality.

33 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Barron X says:


    does he only represent Dems in Congress ?  

    Is he campaigning for the Dem primary ?  

    At what point, if ever, does he start to serve the State of Colorado ?


  2. Emma Anne says:

    I mostly agree that it is the votes that matter, but with a caveat.  The reason many  Dems hated Lieberman so much wasn’t because of his voting record.  Apart from war fever, he was a pretty middle of the road Dem.  He was hated because his schtick was going onto Fox news and slamming Dems.  He just loved the strokes he got for being contrarian and critical on every possible occasion.  This hurts Dems more than an adverse vote here and there, because it feeds the view that Dems are in disarray and that even other Dems can’t stand them or their agenda.

    If Michael Bennet decided to go this route (and I have no reason to think he would) I would support primarying him, even if he voted just like Udall (who I see as moderate but not undermining).

  3. dem83 says:

    this working group is getting such a bad name from Democratic activists. Nothing can get passed in the Senate without 60 votes. We need a group of people who are working to get us past that wall. If not, nothing will get done.

    It is also my understanding that the President supports this group because he recognizes that it is the only way to push his agenda through on everything from the stimulus package (it worked)to health care reform (hopefully it will work).

    I am glad that both Mark Udall and Michael Bennet joined this group. I think it means that Coloradans are being represented well (and does not mean that they are being any less progressive).

    Also, FYI I saw this event posted as open to the public in several places. I think it is just that the Democratic base are the people who tend to attend these types of meetings.

    • Emma Anne says:

      it is what gaf says below – it looks like Dems are negotiating with themselves.  Watering down their plans before the negotiations with the Repubs even begin.  

      If this isn’t the case – if concession are wrung from Repubs and not just Dems – I bet a lot of the suspicion goes away.

  4. gaf says:

    Pols, what you just can’t seem to get as you frequently bash “strident” Dems, is this: I am not waiting until after Bennet’s votes to speak up. I want him to know my opinion now. I want to influence how he votes, not meekly wait and see.

    I am not calling, at this point, for a primary challenge. I am looking at the “larger related questions” and the whole picture. I know it is a tough job and he is not always going to please me. But, Pols, do you really think that pushing Bennet hard now is not reality based? I think it is the only reality based thing to do.

    And the Kent Conrad thing: Dems again are negotiating with themselves and compromising before they even get to the Republicans. Bennet is buying into that. I believe the reality is that is a mistake. I am against that, and am saying so–now.

    • MADCO says:

      Knows more about federal budgeting and deficit management than …well, than maybe anyone.  Certainly he knows way more about it than Udall & Bennet.  (And way more than Gingrich and anyone at Fox and Rachel Maddow and just about anyone else complaining about the Conservadems.)

      You want larger picture? It’s negotiation so much as it is education.

      And you should speak your mind and he should hear it.  

      • Libertad says:

        I keep hearing the gross tax cut is $10-15/paycheck or $100/person for a 4 person household. It terminates at the end of the year, so it is not a permanent tax cut, unlike his tax hikes.

        Driving the tax obligations we’ll all be paying for over the next century, unless we go bankrupt that is, are the massive spending increases that have been called generational theft.  

        All because we don’t have the dignity to control ourselves … like an unemployed crack addict riding a ninja loan for a $500k home he has yet to make a payment on …

        NEW YORK ( — Sitting down? It’s time to tally up the federal government’s bailout tab.

        There was $29 billion for Bear Stearns, $345 billion for Citigroup. The Federal Reserve put up $600 billion to guarantee money market deposits and has aggressively driven down interest rates to essentially zero.

        The list goes on and on. All told, Congress, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and other agencies have taken dozens of steps to prop up the economy.

        Total price tag so far: $7.2 trillion in investment and loans. That puts a lot of taxpayer money at risk. Now comes President-elect Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, some details of which were made public on Monday. The tally is getting awfully close to $8 trillion.

        Obama’s plan would combine tax cuts with infrastructure job creation efforts. Economists say it could serve as an integral piece to the government’s remaining economic recovery puzzle.

        “This plan will be the first direct tool to make additions to disposable income,” said Lyle Gramley, an economist with Stanford Group and former Fed governor. “None of the other efforts have done that directly.”

        The fiscal policy tool of INFLATION, the new economies Eco Dev tool.

        Stimulus … your grandkids will be hittin’ the crack pipe hard.

      • gaf says:

        Kent Conrad

        Knows more about federal budgeting and deficit management than …well, than maybe anyone.  

        Maybe so. But you say:

        It’s negotiation so much as it is education.

        I agree. That’s why I think that while Sen. Conrad may be displaying his “education” when he immediately goes to where he thinks the budget should end up, that is not “negotiation.” It does not reflect the reality of how to end up where he thinks the budget should end up. It is a mistake for Bennet (or Udall or anyone else) to start with Conrad at Conrad’s endpoint.

    • redstateblues says:

      is one thing.

      Freaking out over the fact that he even joined a group that the President has come out in support of, is another thing entirely.

      When all is said and done, though, his voting record is going to be the determining factor.

      I agree with the overall sentiment of your post though. People should be putting the pressure on. There does exist a difference, though, however subtle it may be, between what you described and the primary teeth baring,.

      • wade norris says:

        he even joined a group that the President has come out in support of

        Obama is a shrewd guy and so is his team.

        Do you think he has any option other than supporting what people in his party do?

        If he was vocally against the senators joining this group – then he looks whiny, and weakens people in his own caucus – giving republicans an opening to pounce.

        heck, with even as much ire as Lieberman has deservedly gotten, Obama is still praising him as a leader in the Senate. (despite their heart to heart on the senate floor prior to the election)

        Having said that, if someone doesn’t make some noise on the primary soon, it is all a moot point.

        • redstateblues says:

          Obama is the President. He sets the agenda. If he thought this group was going to hamper what we elected him to do, he wouldn’t have come out in support of it.

      • gaf says:

        I think there are only a few of the “teeth baring” types, but Pols frequently seems to throw any critical comments into that category. I guess I am mostly reacting to that. I am not freaking out. I am not baring my teeth. I am not advocating a primary challenge. But Bennet–and Udall, too–are getting the hard sell from the right, and the hard sell from the moderates. They need hard pressure from the progressive side also.

        I can understand a moderate caucus. I can even see some benefits. But one led by Evan Byah, or at least one that is seen as being led by Byah? I just see nothing good (for progressives) coming from  that.

        • redstateblues says:

          and like I said, I understand where you’re coming from.

          What happened was that the teeth gnashers got their message out first. They also happen to scream the loudest on the progressive blog.

  5. Aggie says:

    I remember another party who was in power a few years back and began attacking their members who didn’t go lock-step with the party hardliners…..

    How did that work out for them?  The D’s need to realize that moderates are the key to success in CO.  Push the party to the extreme left and they will be replaced by more moderate R’s.

    • cdsmith says:

      In the short term, there aren’t a whole lot of moderate R’s left.

      • Aggie says:

        I am a believer in natural selection, especially in politics.  As the the R losses mount moderate R’s will begin to appear.  

        The question is just how many seats will be lost as the Republican adapts.  You are correct that they are rare now.

        Which is really my point, Dems should realize that they owe thier success to these annoying moderates.

      • gertie97 says:

        They voted for Ritter and Udall because the candidates their party offered were jokes. They’ve been marginalized by the wingnuts so they’re hunkering down, waiting for the GOP to come to its senses. Until it does, they’ll continue to vote for Democrats they perceive as moderates.

  6. Fidel's dirt nap says:

    You fail Rachel Maddows litmus test, however, you remain electable in Colorado. I like Rachel, but c’mon, we have a lot of independent voters in this state which lends itself well to a middle of the road dem.

    Wadhams is going to have to scrap his “Denver Liberal Michael Bennet” plan for now.  Back to the drawing board. Wonder what kind of brainstorming is going on at the Colo R party HQ now ?  Hell, sounds like Bennet has half of them as donors already.

  7. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    We need all of these different interest groups pulling on Bennet. The way left pulling him to the left, the moderates pulling him to the center, and every interest group trying to make their goal his number 1 priority.

    That’s what democracy is. We don’t all sit around and agree that a politician is doing everything perfectly. That would be awful. We’re all supposed to be complaining. Strident demands that Bennet (or Udall or Ritter or …) must immediately agree with us – that’s the system.

    And of course we’ll all insist that the road to his re-election runs through the policies we want to see enacted.

  8. Compromise and a willingness to negotiate passes legislation.

    I see nothing wrong with his positions.

    Matter of fatly, I applaude them The “liberal” wing of the Democartic Party come off further left than than the Christian Social Democartic Party in Germany.  

  9. BuggyQ says:

    I’m a relatively longtime lurker coming out of lurk mode.  I wasn’t able to attend the Fort Collins meeting, but had I been there, I would have liked to ask Bennet exactly how his association with Bayh, et al. benefits Coloradans?

    As I see it, we would be much better off with him acting independently.  He could vote as he sees fit whether he associates with Bayh or not.  But aligning himself with the conservatives seems to me to make it more likely that in situations where his vote would be courted, folks doing the courting would approach Bayh as the “head” of that group.  Had Bennet remained unaffiliated with them, he might get more attention and more political bang for his voting buck.  That would, in my view, be better for us.

    We all know the horsetrading that goes on behind the scenes.  How does Bennet expect to get more for us by making this choice?  This just seems to me to be a politically naive action.

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