Florida contest typifies fight for US Senate control. Reagan has big stake in such races as Graham vs. Hawkins
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The House of Representatives, currently made up of 252 Democrats and 180 Republicans, already supports liberal policies on nuclear issues, says Mr. Hartz.Skip to next paragraph
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``We went through a series of votes in the House just two or three weeks ago which basically had a clean sweep for disarmament,'' he notes. ``We won on nuclear testing, on SALT (strategic arms limitations), on star-wars reduction, on the antisatellite moratorium, and on chemical weapons.''
But in the Senate: ``We lost on star wars by one vote, we lost the chemical-weapons vote on a tie, we were only able to pass nonbinding resolutions on nuclear testing and strategic-arms limits. And on another issue we work with, Central America, we lost by three votes,'' Hartz says.
A Republican defeat in November would ``completely change the way things have been going here for peace and arms control,'' Hartz asserts.
Those sentiments are echoed by Robert Borosage, director of one of Washington's largest liberal think tanks, the Institute for Policy Studies.
Mr. Borosage says one of the first results of a Democratic victory would probably be a pullout from Nicaragua, where Reagan has been aiding the contras against the communist government. US aid to rebels in Angola would also screech to a halt, Borosage predicts.
There would be other results: rejection of ``extreme'' Reagan nominees to the federal courts, more emphasis on civil rights, less attention to ``social'' issues like abortion and school prayer.
Further, a Democratic victory would help rebuild that party. Borosage sees a new, liberal populism emerging within the Democratic Party, a populism that draws its strength from grass-roots, citizen-action groups like those which helped elect Sen. Paul Simon (D) of Illinois and Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa in 1984.
These new populists would emphasize issues like corporate responsibility, control of toxic wastes, progressive taxation, and the environmental protection, which have gotten little attention from Republicans, Borosage says.
Brookings Institution scholar Stephen Hess, author of ``The Ultimate Insiders: US Senators in the National Media,'' says Reagan would lose more than just votes if the Senate goes Democratic.
Senate Republicans have brought a heavy dose of pragmatism to the White House. They've told him what is possible, and what isn't.
``They've worked well for the President . . . even when they seem to be opposing him,'' says Mr. Hess. ``They've been able to tell him things he should know, in terms of sensitivity to the countryside [and] what people are really thinking about.''
Reagan still has much to achieve, Hess says, but it will be ``far more difficult if the Republicans lose control.''
However, political veteran Richard Scammon, director of the Elections Research Center, cautions against overstating the results of a Republican loss.
Mr. Scammon concedes that Democrats may well take over the Florida Senate seat, for example. But is it really that important? Scammon asks: Will a new Democratic senator from Florida really vote that differently from the old Republican one? He doubts it.
Scammon doesn't deny that a Republican loss would be important. But he suggests the White House may be overblowing the stakes.
``All the party people tend to look at these things much too much in party terms,'' he says. ``We all know that the majority of senators are either Demicans or Republicrats. [That is, part Democrat, part Republican.] In other words, they are representing their states, and they are going to vote the way their states tell them to.''
Scammon concludes with one final thought: Perhaps the worst thing that could happen to the Democrats this year is to win. If Democrats hold both houses of Congress, they will be blamed for everything. Then President Reagan can revive the spirit of Harry Truman in the White House, railing at the ``do-nothing'' Congress without restraint. If Reagan handled it right, a Republican loss this year could be turned into a huge Republican comeback in 1988, Scammon says.