Archive for February 24th, 2022

Danforth’s folly

Former U. S. Senator Jack Danforth recently suggested that a well-funded center-right independent could win the 2022 U.S. Senate contest in Missouri. The announcemnt came in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a left-wing fake-news outlet that is a defacto Democrat PR group. Danforth assured that he and other people he knew would see to it that the campaign would be very well funded.

Danforth’s whole argument relies on one unsound, unreliable poll that puts an unnamed center-right independent not ahead, but “within the margin of error,” against Republican Eric Greitens and Democrat Lucas Kunce. The poll was designed to maximize support for an independent by pitting him/her against the Republican candidate with the highest negatives and a Democrat who is unknown to most voters. I bet the independent would have fared much worse against Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler (or even Attorney General Eric Schmitt) and former Democrat State Senator Scott Sifton.

Generic polls like that have been poor predictors in the past. In 2000, polls this far ahead of the election showed wide support for an independent or third party alternative for president. Five such alternatives would appear on the Missouri ballot that year, including well known public figures Pat Buchanan (carrying the Reform Party banner of Ross Perot) and Green Party nominee Ralph Nader. Come Election Day, only 2.5% of Missouri voters (combined!) cast ballots for any of the alternatives. Instead 97.5% of voters flocked to the familiar, comfortable camps of the established parties. The alternative candidates for down ballot statewide offices fared even worse, even in the contest for U. S. Senator, where the ultimately successful Democratic candidate was dead!

Almost immediately, former Florissant mayor Thomas Schneider announced his candidacy for the independent slot. But he doesn’t fit the center-right Republican mold that Danforth has in mind. Schneider’s two election wins in Florissant were in nonpartisan elections. I doubt he would have won in staunchly Democratic Florissant by posturing as a center-right Republican.

Further, it appears that Danforth’s primary quest is to defeat the Republican nominee, even by a Democrat. A successful independent candidate would need to attract votes of both Democrats and Republicans. But by characterizing the candidate as a center-right Republican and asserting that the candidate would caucus with senate Republicans if successful, Danforth repels potential support from disgruntled Democrats. Schneider, who boasts support for organized labor, could attract some Democrats, but Danforth is unlikely to support or fund Schneider’s petition drive to get on the ballot. Danforth will finance ballot access for someone who fits his criterion.

The most successful independent statewide candidacy in the past was billionaire Ross Perot, whose self-financed populist bid for president in 1992 garnered 21.7% of the Missouri vote. It allowed Democrat Bill Clinton to win the presidency and Missouri’s electoral votes by pluralities. In the eleven presidential elections starting in 1980, Clinton’s two wins against a Republican and Perot were the only times a Democrat presidential candidate carried Missouri. This year’s independent-tarnished senate contest would almost certainly have the same result.

I write these remarks with great sadness. Danforth almost single-handedly made the Missouri Republican Party competitive in 1968, when he, then a 32-year-old lawyer, unseated Democrat Attorney General Norman Anderson. Missouri Republicans had not won a statewide race in 22 years (40 years for down ballot races). In office, he named an unsuccessful Republican congressional candidate even younger than himself, Christopher “Kit” Bond, to be his chief assistant. Boosted by this new gravitas, Bond then went on to unseat entrenched Democrat State Auditor Haskell Holman in the next election. From then on, Republicans needed to be reckoned with in Missouri. In the senate in 1991, Danforth was stellar in his sponsorship and defense of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. Conservatives owe Danforth a lot.

What has gotten into Danforth? The one-time 32-year-old wunderkind is now 85. That’s six years older than cognitively impaired President Joe Biden. He’s losing it. He recently called his 2018 support for now Senator Josh Hawley the “worst mistake” of his life, apparently forgetting his embarrasing and crucial 1978 senate vote to ratify President Carter’s giving away the Panama Canal. It’s actually not unusual for well-known party icons to make weird statements in support of the opposing party as they get really old. Conservative icon Barry Goldwater did so as he advanced in years. So did liberal icon George McGovern.

We would best preserve Danforth’s positive legacy by ignoring his lapses later in life.