Photo via Senator Claire McCaskill, Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Will Someone Please Defeat Claire McCaskill?


The Senate map is very good for Republicans in 2018, and that is in large part due to the plethora of winnable Democratic seats. One such seat is held by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

A friend of mine, who really (really, really) dislikes McCaskill, sent me this video recently, which I had never seen before. This is McCaskill on Stephen Colbert’s show “jokingly” telling men to sit down and shut up:

Hello, I’m Senator Claire McCaskill. As one of just 20 women currently serving in the Senate, it’s important to me to encourage more women to run for office, but equally important is encouraging more men to sometimes just shut the hell up! It’s not that women don’t value your thoughts, it’s just that we don’t value all of them. The world doesn’t need your opinion on everything. For example, what women do with their bodies? Hush. Who the next James Bond should be? Zip it. Whether or not it’s pronounced GIF [hard g] or GIF [soft g]? Shut up!

So as a public service, I made the following list of things women no longer need to hear men’s opinions on. Please take a moment to jot these down. Star Wars, pant suits, selfies, Shonda Rhimes, curtains, carbs, millennials, body hair removal, religion, gluten, Harry Potter, nut allergies, Star Wars again, all art in general, whether or not to brine the Thanksgiving turkey, and ethics in gaming journalism.

If you can control yourselves and hold back from further expressing your opinions on any of these topics, we’ll let you keep weighing in on marijuana legalization. But that’s a huge, big ‘if.’ Thanks so much.

I don’t know about you, but I cringed. Wow. That was nasty. We have a real-life Tumblr-feminist social justice warrior filibustering in the U.S. Senate. Yikes.

The good news is that McCaskill is very vulnerable. While she may be a hero to #TheResistance movement, that’s not going to do her a lot of good in a state Donald Trump won by almost 19 points a year ago. Missouri continues to trend a deeper and deeper shade of red.

But despite her troubling electoral reality, McCaskill has shown no interest in moderating her positions or changing her tone. She continues to boast about her victory over Republican candidate Todd Akin six years ago, a candidate she helped fund in the GOP primary. She opposes the President on every critical agenda item, and she prefers catering to limousine liberals in Hollywood over engaging with her constituents.

It’s time for Claire to go. Could a strong GOP candidate challenge her and send her packing?

We sat down with Austin Petersen, an entrepreneur, business owner, and former presidential candidate, to talk about this race. Petersen made waves last year as a pro-life, pro-religious freedom young upstart Libertarian who nearly defeated Gov. Gary Johnson in the 2016 Libertarian presidential primary. Now, Petersen is back in his home state of Missouri, where he is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Here’s some of what he had to say:

On why he’s running as a Republican:

I ran for President as a Libertarian and took second place, and now I’m running as a Republican. I did that because I spent about two months on the phones with my supporters asking them for their advice, and 100 percent said run and 98 percent — maybe a little more — said run as a Republican because they really want to beat [McCaskill], and so do I. And since they’re the ones who donate all their time, money, and energy and put all their hopes and dreams in these campaigns, they deserve a good chance to win — not just to play spoiler or to make a stand on principle, but to make a stand on principle with a chance to win.

That’s what I’m fighting for, for those same principles. Nothing has changed, only the letter after my last name. That’s why I’m running to beat [McCaskill] as a Republican in Missouri.

On McCaskill:

Claire is vulnerable. I believe whoever wins the Republican nomination will be the next Senator from Missouri, and frankly, I plan for that to be me. I think the opportunity is there for a variety of reasons.

Claire McCaskill voted against Neil Gorsuch. One of the best things that Donald Trump has done was to nominate a staunch, rock-solid conservative in Neil Gorsuch — probably saved the Republic single-handedly there — for everything else you worry about, you can’t complain about that!

She’s also not big on Second Amendment rights, and even Democrats in Missouri like their guns. She was the architect of Obamacare. She was one of the first people in 2013 to endorse Hillary Clinton. Hillary lost by nineteen points in Missouri. Big mistake. She voted present on single-payer universal health care. That’s disappointing. The progressives deserve to know if Claire is standing with them on that issue!

I think that’s why I’ll beat her because when I speak to progressives on college campuses, they take a look at her record on things like criminal justice reform and they say, well, this Republican is actually better on things like mandatory minimums, civil asset forfeiture, and criminal justice reform than Claire is! So I think I’ll be able to not only win all the Republican votes, lots of independent votes because of my background in third party politics, not being owned by the Republican machine… I think there’s an opportunity here.

On being an outsider in the Missouri GOP:

I have reached out to all of [the establishment Republicans in Missouri]. I actually went to a fundraiser recently… with the senior leadership of the Republican Party. They were all very cordial. I think they were nice because they all see me as a threat. I’m more than happy to work with them all. Of course I’d love all of their support, but I just don’t expect it. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing — we want to beat McCaskill. If I lose fair and square, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that she loses.

I hope that the Republican leadership understands that another reason I chose to run as a Republican and not a Libertarian is because I would have pretty much guaranteed McCaskill’s re-election. We did some internal polling and we looked at the numbers. We believe we would have gotten around 11 percent. We get a lot of conservative support. I just did not want to be the person who guaranteed another six years of McCaskill because at some point you really do have to put principle above party, and I wouldn’t want to do that to my fellow Missourians.

On religious freedom:

Religious liberty is very important in this country. It’s the first thing that the Bill of Rights mentions. When I discovered that my [Libertarian opponent Gary Johnson] had a view that was more authoritarian than Bernie Sanders on the issue, I was like, well, here’s an opportunity…

I set a bit of a bear trap for [Johnson during one of the Libertarian Debates]. In order for him to be logically consistent, I knew that he would have to follow through with his motives when saying that he would force a Christian to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. I asked him if he believed that a Jew should bake a cake for a Nazi wedding, and he said yes. So he doubled down there. And then he tripled down actually at a later convention when he was asked by an African-American gentlemen, do you think I should be forced to make Klan robes? And he said yes!

But in essence, he started to hedge it by saying, well, they should have to sell you the cloth, but they shouldn’t have to sew the material on there, so it’s like you have to sell them the cake, but you don’t have to decorate it, right? Which is what the Supreme Court may end up deciding… but it’s about the freedom of contract. So if I believe in private property for people to say that they should be able to refuse service for any reason, then I have to logically argue that people should have the freedom to contract privately in terms of relationships because I’m trying to be consistent — I’m trying to protect people’s individual liberty.

On being pro-life:

When I lost [to Gov. Gary Johnson], I didn’t lose hearts and minds. I won hearts and minds. I got people interested in these ideas. I changed more people’s minds on abortion than I even expected. I’d ask, is it a human? Yes. Do all humans deserve the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Yes. And approaching it from that standpoint was disarming. I’ve seen so many people come to me and say, I never thought someone would change my mind on that issue. So that’s a victory. Those are the victories that I grab a hold of and say, it was worth it.

There are quite a few secular pro-life advocates out there… Christopher Hitchens… it flows out of the argument that, if you believe in evolution, and the purpose of evolution is to protect life and for us to propagate our species, is culling a quarter of our population the best plan for us to do that? It smacks of eugenics, and I think the arguments that the “pro-choicers” make … it’s not really pro-choice, I don’t like that word because the child doesn’t have a choice … are that they essentially dehumanize the child. It’s the same type of thing they did with Charlie Gard. It’s this strange type of paternalism that comes from the Left that the government will determine what’s in the best interest of the child. Well, other than the pro-lifers, who is standing up for the child?

On the issues Missourians care about:

Jobs, taxes, health care, government spending — those are the big issues. People are worried about the loss of jobs. And I think we’ve misdirected the argument away from regulations and high taxes to being worried about people taking our jobs, that there’s unfair competition. Competition is what we want.

I’m a big free trade guy, but we need to make it where we stop incentivizing the businesses to leave by making an environment where entrepreneurs are encouraged to compete. The truth is the big corporations don’t care about the competitive environment, they don’t like capitalism because they know that it means that they could fail. They like ‘too big to fail’. They want those things.

When it comes to jobs, government can’t create jobs, but it can do a lot to stand in the way… We need to cut taxes, cut spending, cut regulations, and in some sense, I think President Trump is an ally on some of these things and Congress is not, which is incredibly maddening.

This is a race we will continue to follow in the months ahead. Whether the GOP nominee is relative outsider Austin Petersen, who appears to be a very impressive candidate, or another Republican hopeful, this should be seen as a priority race for conservatives headed into 2018.

Photo via Senator Claire McCaskill, Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Jon Schweppe

Jon Schweppe is the Director of Government Affairs for American Principles Project. Follow him on Twitter @JonSchweppe

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