Former Senator Claire McCaskill reflects on the way forward for Missouri Democrats


After After taking office from 1982, former US Senator Claire McCaskill said she now enjoys being a political commentator on MSNBC.

She said she was initially worried about what she would do with her time after losing to Republican Josh Hawley in 2018, adding that her life in politics felt like a “hamster wheel” with a timeline and commitments without. stopover. But the former Democratic official said she was busy and happy.

“What they really do is they pay me to talk about something I love and to be incredibly candid – and hopefully be able to make complicated things easier for MSNBC viewers,” he said. McCaskill said. “And that was awesome. Hope people will know how much fun I am having. I am much happier than I thought.

McCaskill was also honest in a recent nearly hour-long interview with St. Louis Public Radio, touching on a multitude of topics regarding his political career – and his take on social media and former President Donald. Trump. She spent much of the conversation talking about Missouri’s transformation from a swing state where Democrats frequently won statewide elections. to a bright red outpost.

While noting that she’s used to criticism and has “thicker skin than a 200-year-old oak tree,” McCaskill said she didn’t particularly care about “this ridiculous notion that seemed to be taking hold. After the 2018 election that she would have beaten Hawley if she were more liberal.

“All you have to do is look at the numbers. We rang the bell in Kansas City and St. Louis, ”McCaskill said, adding that she did better in the Democratic regions than in her 2006 race against GOP Senator Jim Talent. “It was not a problem of participation in progressive areas of the state. It was not a problem of margins in black communities or in any other community. We have far exceeded our numbers. These are people who have totally embraced Donald Trump. “

Hawley invaded McCaskill in the historically democratic exurban and rural counties. And places like Northeast and Southeast Missouri did everything for the former president in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

“He was talking like they were talking in VFW Hall having a beer and a hunter. And he really appealed to the grievances people have about the way their lives have gone, ”McCaskill said. “At the end of the day, people worked harder, they worked longer, they still can’t afford to retire. They still cannot afford to send their children to university.

Carolina Hidalgo | Saint-Louis public radio

McCaskill, speaking in October 2018, believes Missouri Republicans could overtake and deter suburban and suburban voters.

Democratic leadership

McCaskill sharply criticized Trump for cheering his supporters on by claiming he did indeed win the 2020 election, though many election officials and judges found that no irregularity would have reversed a result in a state President Joe Biden needed to win.

She also said the “big lie” that Trump really won the election complicated the statewide GOP primaries.

Listen to Jason Rosenbaum’s interview with former Senator Claire McCaskill

McCaskill discussed a multitude of topics, including the way forward for Missouri Democrats after several declining election cycles.

“I’m going to tell you that standing up to the Big Lie would cause problems for Republicans in Missouri in the primaries,” McCaskill said. “And I would even tell you that right now in Missouri, someone who lies and wins a primary in most legislative ridings will still be able to win their election.”

But she added that if Republicans in Missouri continue to play with the “cheapest of seats” and engage in positions like not expanding Medicaid, they will begin to lose support in suburban and exurban neighborhoods.

“And when that starts to happen, that’s when you’ll see some sort of moderation of the crazy stuff they do in Jeff City,” McCaskill said. “But for now in Missouri… that primary calculation will work for them.”

McCaskill said Democrats have a chance of winning the U.S. Senate race next year, especially if someone like former Gov. Eric Greitens is the GOP candidate. Among Democrats seeking a Senate nomination are former Jefferson City Senator Scott Sifton Lucas Kunce, Kansas City entrepreneur Tim Shepard and St. Louis businessman Spencer Toder.

Toder said Democrats can make the race competitive if they aggressively seek voter support.

“When people running realize that they have to talk to people like humans, and like intelligent humans, which they are – I think we’re going to bring a lot of people on board,” he said. he declares.

And Shepard said it was crucial to champion the cause in areas of the state that have leaned towards the GOP.

“I have been to Hannibal. I’ve been to Nevada and Joplin, ”he says. “And having these events and the ability to discuss policies that benefit them is really the name of the game.”

The Democratic field may not be fully defined, as Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Senator Brian Williams have made overtures to run for the United States Senate. And former Gov. Jay Nixon, who hasn’t returned a message asking about his intentions for 2022, could also show up, as McCaskill noted – and could bring positive attributes to the table.

“The coalition that you have to put in place in Missouri, it’s very difficult because you just have to hang the moon in the progressive blue areas of the state. And then you have to cut the margins in rural Missouri. I think Jay can cut the margins in rural Missouri, ”McCaskill said. “I think he has work to do to make sure the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is excited about him.”

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill shake hands after Thursday night's Senate candidate debate in St. Louis.  October 18, 2018.

Photo file | Carolina Hidalgo | Saint-Louis public radio

McCaskill sharply criticized his successor, US Senator Josh Hawley, for opposing Joe Biden’s electoral college victories after the insurgency on the U.S. Capitol.

Sharp words for Hawley

McCaskill will no longer be running for the US Senate or any other office. But she didn’t hesitate to criticize Hawley – especially about her decision to oppose the Pennsylvania and Arizona constituency votes.

She said Hawley “should get credit for chatting on Jan.6,” referring to the riots that took place on the US Capitol because he was the first senator to announce he would file an objection. She claimed Hawley “broke ranks to play grassroots and play with the Trump people.”

“Josh Hawley did it and did it for clearly political reasons,” she said. “The excuse was, ‘People want us to look into the matter because there were irregularities.’ No. People wanted you to look into it because they had been lied to. And these guys all know it. So it’s really amazing to me that they continue this.

McCaskill was referring to Hawley’s claim that he should oppose because the people of Missouri were “outraged with the way some states have run their elections.”

“Hey listen, I’m not going to give anyone a problem to be ambitious. I was a very ambitious young woman and that served me well for decades in politics, ”said McCaskill. “But his ambition is so blinding that he’s gone so quickly from swearing at politicians to being the most power-hungry politician – perhaps in Missouri history.” In fact, he believed that doing what he was doing would put him in a good position to run for President. I don’t think it’s done.

Hawley’s office declined to comment on McCaskill’s remarks.

Senator Claire McCaskill speaks to reporters at Lona's Lil Eats in St. Louis on August 30, 2018.

File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | Saint-Louis public radio

McCaskill says she has no plans to run again – and added that she would have ignored the candidacy for a third term had someone else been able to run a competitive campaign.

Blunt, social media and what it lacks

McCaskill also discussed his relationship with US Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican who is retiring in 2022 after two terms.

At first glance, it wouldn’t appear that Blunt and McCaskill get along, based on past political history. McCaskill raced against Blunt’s son, Matt Blunt, for Governor in 2004. And McCaskill’s mother, Betty Anne McCaskill, raced against Blunt’s father, Leroy Blunt, for State Representative in 1978. But McCaskill noted that the two respected each other, likely because she and Blunt have a similar political trajectory.

“We both made a county government. We both made state government. We both believe in getting out, hearing and being in front of the people we work for, ”said McCaskill. “He spent a lot of time traveling his district as a congressman and statewide as a senator. I did the same. So we bonded. And we loved each other as people.

McCaskill noted that she would not have stood for a third term in 2018 “if there had been someone else”, adding that she felt “a duty to run.” Blunt, she says, doesn’t have this problem, as many Republicans want to succeed him.

“He’s been in Congress long enough to see, and I’ve seen him too, and it’s really bad now: people who didn’t know when to leave,” she said. “There are a bunch of people out there who should be gone. They are far too old to do what they do.

One of the things McCaskill doesn’t regret is the way she used social media platforms like Twitter to get her message out to voters. Unlike other lawmakers, McCaskill wrote all of her own tweets – and took “a lot of ribs” about what she wrote.

“I used to go into caucus and people would start laughing at me,” she said. “I remember Dick Durbin saying, ‘Hey Claire, are you going to tweet what you had at Taco Bell yesterday?’ I tried to explain to them that it was like a public bulletin board. And if you want to communicate with people, just consider putting it on a public bulletin board. “

When asked if there was anything missing about her tenure, McCaskill cited collegiality and time spent with fellow senators. She also said she missed the personal interactions that come with politics, even “walking into a town hall knowing 90% of the public would see me riding a broom just as soon.”

“But on the list of sides of things that I miss and the list of sides of things that I don’t miss, the don’t miss is much longer than the miss,” she said.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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