For us, the choice in the race between Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and her Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, resolves itself into a simple proposition: Issues matter, especially in the United States Senate.
Fiorina is intelligent, energetic and accomplished in the private sector. But on too many issues she reflects the doctrinaire conservatism that is ascendant in the Republican Party.
By contrast, Boxer has been a voice — if sometimes a strident one — for values promoted by this editorial page: individual rights, equality, environmental protection and constructive engagement by the federal government with national economic problems, including the crisis in healthcare.
We have criticized Boxer in the past for not exercising influence commensurate with her seniority. For example, as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, she has brought creative ideas to the process of crafting a six-year transportation bill, but she bears some responsibility for the panel’s failure to produce one — the legislation is now a year overdue. Part of the problem is an assertiveness that often is perceived as arrogance.
But the paramount responsibility of a senator is to cast the right votes for her state and her country. By that measure, the contrast between the two candidates couldn’t be starker.
Like us, Boxer believed that the government had to respond aggressively and creatively to the financial catastrophe that loomed in 2008. She supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Fiorina says TARP didn’t work. Boxer also supported the stimulus plan that has saved jobs even if it hasn’t been as successful as we or the administration had hoped. Fiorina has criticized it.
Boxer would continue the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for 98% of American families, but believes they shouldn’t be extended for the highest earners. Fiorina would extend all the cuts, costing the U.S. Treasury hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade, and has signed a pandering Taxpayer Protection Pledge that commits her to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses.”
Boxer supported the healthcare reform enacted into law over hysterical Republican objections about the evils of Obamacare, and helped secure a compromise in a dispute over abortion coverage that threatened to derail the legislation. Fiorina would repeal the reform. Though far from perfect, the new law lays the groundwork for improvements in the quality of care and its availability, while promising at least some cost savings.
Boxer favors comprehensive immigration reform and has criticized the Arizona statute that seems almost certain to lead to racial profiling by police. Rather than offering a plan that would deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants already in this country, Fiorina takes refuge in the mantra of “secure the borders first” and defends the outrageous Arizona law. (Fiorina does support a temporary worker program and the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for some undocumented young people who attend college or serve in the armed forces.)
Boxer believes in serious efforts to control climate change caused by greenhouse gases and has coauthored a cap-and-trade bill. Fiorina called the legislation “disastrous.” Fiorina also supports California’s Proposition 23, a regressive initiative being pushed by two out-of-state oil companies that would suspend the state’s global warming law until unemployment drops to 5.5% or lower for a full year (though she calls the proposition “a Band-Aid fix”).
Boxer supported the confirmation of President Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees. Although she said she probably would have voted for Sonia Sotomayor, Fiorina opposed the confirmation of the eminently qualified Elena Kagan. Her explanation — that Kagan was an unknown quantity and lacked experience as a judge — was unconvincing and raised questions about whether she would deal fairly with future nominees to the court.
Boxer supports California’s ban on assault weapons and the revival of a similar law at the federal level. Fiorina has criticized the federal law’s definition of assault weapons as “extremely arbitrary” and emphasizes other ways of combating gun crimes, none of which is a substitute for a ban. She also believes that travelers on the federal government’s no-fly list should be allowed to own firearms.
Boxer believes that women have a right to choose abortion. Fiorina describes herself as pro-life and opposes the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision. She says she doesn’t support the criminalization of abortion, but at least in some states that would be the likely consequence of repeal. Even if Roe vs. Wade weren’t overturned, Congress could continue trying to put obstacles in the way of women seeking to exercise their rights. Boxer can be trusted to resist such legislation.
Boxer believes that same-sex couples should be able to enter into civil marriage and supports repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Fiorina opposes same-sex marriage while supporting civil unions.
We have differences with Boxer on some matters, including her votes against some free-trade agreements and her support for the death penalty. We hope her fourth term will be marked by less bluster and more bipartisan achievements. But on the issues, she is right far more often than she is wrong. We urge her reelection.