PRIMARY SEASON IS THE TIME TO ROOT OUT COMPROMISED REACTIONARIES AND REPLACE THEM WITH STRONG PROGRESSIVES
How does anyone ever know who to vote for for school board or who to put on the local judiciary? And in states like California... sometimes there are a dozen or more propositions to ponder. I always make it my business to know about the candidates for statewide office and for my congressperson and state legislators. But beyond that... it gets tough. Sometimes I lean on the local alternative weekly's endorsements-- at least for a jumping off point. Today I read the L.A. WEEKLY'S endorsements and got sick. On two of the most high profile races on the ballot Tuesday they were ALL WET. They picked Westly over Angelides for governor and, far worse, Harman over Winograd in CA-36.
A far more intelligent way to look for electoral help would be to forget about flawed and superficial rags like these weeklies and pick up David Sirota's brilliant new book, HOSTILE TAKEOVER... and pay close attention. Using David's book as a guide you'll soon teach yourself how to tell a real progressive from a Big Business shill. He doesn't offer a guide to individual names, of course; instead he helps define the issues we all need to focus on when making our decisions about who to vote for-- especially in primaries where we have the luxury to vote our progressive ideals, without jeopardizing an at-least-they're-better-than-the-Republicans Democratic majority.
Between Tuesday, when voters pick candidates in California, New Jersey, Montana, Iowa, New Mexico, Alabama, Mississippi and South Dakota, until September 23, when Hawaiian voters pick their candidates, 37 states have primaries, including some of the states with considerable netroots presence like New York, Florida, Ned Lamont's Connecticut, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Wisconsin.
Like me, you probably read yesterday that Louisana's Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco has just announced that she will sign a ban on abortion (proposed by a Democratic State Senator, Ben Nevres). What do you do about something like this? Believe it or not, a Republican is sure to be worse. That's why primaries are so important. That's the time we can hold our elected officials accountable for their actions in office.
Let me go back to Sirota's book for a key example: the truly horrific bankruptcy bill passed by the current crop of senators and representatives. There are exactly 2 reasons why any Democratic would have voted for this monstrosity-- either they are too stupid to know any better (making them unfit for elected office) or they're on the take from the banking industry (making them unfit for elected office). The credit card companies showered the politicians with millions and millions of dollars in anticipation of the day Paul Wellstone would not be around to prevent passage of a bill specifically designed to financially destroy working and middle class families, most of whom may face bankruptcy for one reason: medical emergencies. (Crooked, make-believe Democrat, Evan Bayh (D-IN) who has greedily accepted around $300,000 in legal bribes from banking interests, got it ALL WRONG when he insultingly defended the bill by declaring that "people who engage in irresponsible behavior" go bankrupt and "impose their bad decisions and the cost of that on other people who behave more responsibly." This is a twisted Republican lie you could expect to hear from O'Reilly or Limbaugh or Hannity. And you were hearing it from Big Business' best friends in Congress, not just the owned-lock-stock-and-barrel Bayh but also from corporate Democrats like Joe Biden, Steny Hoyer and, of course, Lieberman. Yet this hideous bill penalizes far more victims of identity theft, and far, far, far more people who get laid off and lose their medical insurance than strawmen "who engage in irresponsible behavior."
Many of the Democrats in the House who supported this-- every single Republican did-- are the ones whose names we see again and again voting with Republicans on key bills where corporate bribes are at stake: people like Al Wynn (MD), Melissa Bean (IL), Ike Skelton (MO), Dan Boren (OK), Henry Cuellar (TX), William "$90,000-in-the-freezer" Jefferson (LA), Leonard Boswell (IA), Chet Edwards (TX), Jim Matheson (UT) and so on. Three are going for higher office and are soliciting out help for their career advancement: Harold Ford (Senate- TN), Ted Strickland (Governor- OH) and Bob Menendez (Senate- NJ). Unfortuately the alternatives to these people are even more dismal than they are.
Let's see if there are any races where we can make a difference, any where we can effectively target our anger. One obvious race is in CA-36 where Jane Harman can be beaten by Marcy Winograd Tuesday. None of the other California Democrats who joined the Republicans for this vote-- reactionaries and crooks Tauscher, Costa, Baca, Cardoza and Thompson-- have primary opponents.
In fact, most of the Democrats who joined the GOP on that fateful day have no primary opponents. Another one who does, however, is conservative, corporate-oriented Al Wynn in Maryland's 4th CD who is being challenged by progressive Donna Edwards and who is using Wynn's support of the bankruptcy bill as a key part of her campaign. I'll be covering Donna's Lamont/Winograd-like insurgent campaign in a few weeks as we get a little closer to Maryland's September 12th primary.
And, of course, the most important and high profile way to send a message to Democrats who ask for our campaign contributions and our votes and then act like Republicans is to defeat Bush's favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman, August 8th and replace him with a real and honest Democrat, Ned Lamont. In fact I leave you with another quote from Sirota's book to think about:
Never to be outshone by fellow senators in stiffing average Americans, Senator Joe Lieberman (D) joined in the fun. The Connecticut lawmaker, who has taken $267,000 from the banking industry in his career, sent out a press release trumpeting himself as a great defender of the middle class, pointing to his vote against final passage of the bankruptcy legislation. Yet Lieberman's press release conveniently omitted the face that just hours before his "no" vote, he cast a key "yes" vote that undermined courageous lawmakers who were blocking the bill. This procedural vote (called "cloture"), which Lieberman supported, was widely acknowledged to be the vote that actually passed the bill.
OK-- that made me think of a contest. Lieberman has liked this tactic of deception-- making sure to support his Republican allies where it really counts and then claiming to vote with Democrats when it doesn't. The 10 best essays or paragraphs with examples of Lieberman's duplicity along these lines will get a rare and valuable CD that can't be purchased in any stores and has music on it by a variety of ultra cool artists like The Ramones, Green Day, Body Count, Fleetwood Mac, The Smiths, Enya, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Depeche Mode, Wilco, Neil Young, Lou Reed and John Cale, Talking Heads, Armageddon Dildos and more (including some songs that are otherwise unavailable). Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org/
3:30 UPDATE: SPEAKING OF DEMOCRATIC WHORES, MAX BAUCUS IN AS BAD AS LIEBERMAN
David Sirota isn't the only person writing about this stuff. After I wrote the above, my pal Jim sent me a story from THE NATION by Bill Greider calling attention to the latest Democratic sell-out of working and middle-class families, this one being cobbled together, at the behest of his Republican allies, by Mad Max Baucus of Montana.
If left-liberal bloggers have any influence on the Democratic party, they should use their muscle right now to block a grotesque sellout--handing Republicans an odious victory on the inheritance tax.
Giving the GOP its way would hand a fabulous reward to the country's wealthiest families but, worse than that, create a $1 trillion hole in future federal revenue. If this happens, forget about universal health care or other major social reforms and public investment that Democrats are promising to pursue.
Yet leading the rush to appeasement is Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee and the party's number-one Quisling. Baucus tips over easily to outrageous deals with Republican tax-cutters. Back in 2001, he sold out on Bush's reactionary tax reduction package. Now he is working to organize a rump group of Democratic senators for "compromise" on the estate tax. That is, give the Republican sponsors most of what they seek and, in the process, cripple possibilities for the future.
Democrats do not need do anything about the estate tax at this point since the Bush version expires automatically in 2011. Let the next president decide what to recommend. For now, Dems merely need to hold the 40 votes to sustain a filibuster. The caucus overwhelmingly supports that position. The problem is the handful of potential deserters.
The first chore for activists is to bang on Baucus-- quickly and mercilessly-- because a Senate vote is expected next week. More to the point, grassroots Democrats need to bang on the handful of wobbly Democratic senators disposed to go along with Senator Sellout or flirting with the idea. These include the two Nelsons (Bill of Florida, Ben of Nebraska), Salazar of Colorado, Lincoln and Pryor of Arkansas and-- most shocking-- Washington's two usually progressive senators, Cantwell and Murray. Their state includes a bunch of techie billionaires and the family-owned Seattle Times that hammers them on the supposed injustice of the estate tax. They need to know a price will be paid for defection.
The second great task for grassroots Dems is to confront the party leaders on their own cowardly acquiescence. Why do they allow this one disloyal rogue to undercut the party's position and yet escape any punitive consequences? If Democrats should win back Senate control this year, Baucus will become Finance Committee Chairman again--free do more outrageous tax favors for his wealthy pals.
The Democratic caucus and minority leader Harry Reid ought to inform Baucus-- right now-- that, if he proceeds with this sellout, he can forget about ever being chairman again. [Empasis comes from DWT.] The legislative fight may sound like inside baseball and it is, but this is a central test of character for the party. If incumbent Democrats are unwilling to upset their "club" by punishing this wayward jerk on such a decisive matter, then maybe the "club" deserves to retain its minority status.