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Column: A Senator We Need

These are hard times. With 15 million Americans out of work and levels of inequality not seen since the gilded age, we have a political class unconcerned with our collapsing middle class and those ravaged by poverty. We can’t expect a Mitt Romney and the GOP (Guns, Oil & Privilege) to be seized with their plight. Their focus is lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and taking away health insurance from 30 million people. We expect more of Democrats. Progressives expect a lot more. We expect them to be champions of equity and fairness.

In Virginia, it is hard to find even Democrats who put their energy in furthering fairness and equity. Most Reston Democrats think Delegate Ken Plum is in fact such a champion. Take a look at his voting record and I think you’ll agree. But, try to name another with such a record. And, there are some, like Senator Mark Warner, about 180 degrees away. He has proven a consistent opponent of economic fairness and equity, the core values of the Democratic Party.

Warner likes to characterize himself as a centrist, bipartisan kind of guy who works "across the aisle" in the Senate. Sadly, this is only a disguise. On major issues critical to economic equity, Warner consistently works against the interests of working people. His role as a "deficit hawk" is a classic example. He partners with ethically challenged Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and a so-called "gang of six" promoting a two-part plan to wipe out that nasty deficit. The two parts consist of 1) an attack on Social Security, reducing its costs by increasing the age of eligibility for all and cutting benefits, and (guess what?), 2) a tax reduction scheme for corporations and the wealthy, supposedly offset by "ending many loopholes."

And what a friend to banks! He recently proposed legislation to delay the Volcker rule to limit banks’ gambling on risky derivatives, and opposed the Brown-Kaufman bill to limit bailouts of too-big-to-fail banks. He opposes real regulation of the financial sector, the very folks who drove our economy into the ditch. He similarly opposes environmental laws—e.g., cap and trade to reduce pollution--with any cost to big business. What about the costs to human health?

While silent on increasing the minimum wage and raising the FICA withholding ceiling to ease pressures on Social Security, he advocates a "market driven" approach to university education. "Market driven" will keep the right places reserved for the right people.

Remember the "Public Option," a key element of President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act proposal? It would have provided healthy competition to the oligarchic insurance industry and driven down health care costs to consumers. Warner played a crucial role in defeating it.

Senator Warner, who made a brief run that fizzled for President in 2006, will run for re-election to the Senate in 2014. In fact, he’s already building a huge stash donated by the very corporations and economic elites he serves so well. We Democrats who still share the core values of our Party need to screw up our courage and get behind an alternative. They are out there, some real good ones!