DO PROGRESSIVES EVER SUPPORT REPUBLICANS? A LOOK AT MI-07
I have a friend in DC-- let's call him Bill-- who is one of the few people in town who doesn't care about politics. But he loves to debate. Sensing (somehow) my obsession, he kept asking me all through lunch if I would ever endorse a Republican. In the end I said that although it is theoretically possible for a progressive to support a Republican, the reality is that even the best Republican-- given what the party has turned into-- is worse than a totally dreadful Democrat. This wasn't always the case of course. Although too young to vote at the time, I supported liberal Republican Congressman John Lindsay over reactionary Democrat Abe Beame when they ran for mayor of NYC. New York Republicans like Jacob Javits, Ken Keating and even Nelson Rockefeller has streaks of independence from right-wing ideologues and would stand up and fight the right wing tide that was starting to destroy mainstream Republicanism. (New York Democrats still seemed better than these liberal Republicans but one never got the sense that when these guys won, basic American values were being threatened the way they are today when Republicans win elections and get their hands on the levers of governance.)
After our lively debate I found myself in the office of a friend of mine who works at a progressive public interest PAC. The PAC seems to support progressive Democrats. He floated an idea by me in regard to Michigan's 7th CD, the south-central part of the state east of Battle Creek. The district had a moment of fame when the Republican incumbent, Nick Smith, got into a really vicious little intra-party contretemps with Tom DeLay. DeLay, as was his standard operating procedure as GOP Majority Leader and capo di tutti capi of the Republican Culture of Corruption, offered Smith a bribe if he would support the anti-consumer prescription drug bill. DeLay promised to raise $100,000 from corporate sleaze-merchants for Smith's son if Smith, who was retiring, voted for the bill and there was an implication that Smith's son would have his political legs cut off if Smith voted against the GOP mob. Smith voted against the bill and his son, Brad, was defeated in the Republican primary, as DeLay had promised. Six months after the vote, on the last day of September the House Ethics Committee admonished DeLay for his tactics, the last action of the Ethics Committee before DeLay fired the Republicans who had voted against him and replaced the Chairman with a corrupt, extremely compromised shill, "Doc" Hastings. The winner of that primary-- and the subsequent general election in the very red district-- was Joe Schwarz, a relatively moderate Republican. He had beaten Smith's son and several other Republicans including a far right wingnut named Tim Walberg.
OK, now everyone's up-to-date and Walberg is back to challenge Schwarz. This time Walberg is the only far right candidate and he's being pumped up by all the extremist hate groups that normally fund fringe and neo-fascist Republicans, from the Club For Growth to the Eagle Forum. So my friend at the progressive PAC asks me my opinion about them endorsing Schwarz in the Republican primary. He points out that he has already been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, HRC and Republicans For Choice.
It's a pretty red district. In 2004 Schwarz beat Sharon Renier, an organic farmer and musician who the Democrats ran (but didn't support financially), in every single county and overall 58%- 36% (with 5% of the vote going to independents). She ran considerably behind Kerry, who took nearly 45%. (Gore had taken 46%.) The right-wing loon who runs the Republican Michigander blog has a thorough and keen analysis of the district's politics from the Wingnutia perspective.
The organic farmer is up for another go-round, although her website has no positions or issues pages yet. There is also a Fighting Dem in the race and his website makes him look pretty progressive-- Fred Strack. If November turns into a tsunami despite Rahm Emanuel's tepid and lame, over-cautious, "Don't-be-afraid-of-us-We're-just-like-the-Republicans-in-most-ways" strategy, this is a district Strack can win. But, by all conventional measurements, Schwarz will be the congressman from MI-07 after the midterms.
So... should the progressive PAC help him? I was open to the idea-- until I started digging down into his congressional voting record. Apparently he was better as a state legislator a few years ago. But as a congressman, he's been absolutely, indefensibly horrible on every important issue. Progressive Punch gave him a zero on gay issues and his voting record on choice is nauseating-- as it is on Labor and anything else progressives care about. No doubt Walberg would be worse-- albeit easier for Strack to beat in November-- and... Schwarz is an F+ or, at best, a D-. So if Walberg is an F, what difference does it really make? Not enough difference to sully the good name of the progressive PAC, let alone to waste money that could be better spent on helping real progressives who are desperate for it.
Part 2 of this is going to be an exchange of letters between myself and Russ Feingold regarding a reactionary Democrat who he asked me to donate money to. I'll try to get to it today. (UPDATE: I did it but I did it a little differently than what I was planning. Check it out.)