I ASK YOUR FORGIVENESS
Yesterday I joined 3 or 4 other bloggers on a conference call with DCCC chairman, Chris Van Hollen. He was waxing eloquently about the importance of the D-Trip's Frontline Program when I asked him a simple question about faithless incumbents*. I wanted to know if he felt it was kosher for the DCCC to ask unsuspecting Democratic contributors to give to this program not knowing that their hard earned dollars would be going to Democrats like Jim Marshall (GA) and John Barrow (GA) who voted with the Republicans to sustain Bush's veto of the Iraq spending bill and like freshman Chris Carney (PA) who joined Republicans to vote against the Hate Crimes legislation last week. Chairman Van Hollen graciously suggested that it is up to the netroots to inform Democrats about where these congressmen stand on these issues. OK, let's take a look at Chris Carney (PA-10).
Blue America doesn't ask much of our prospective endorsees. On GLBT issues, for example, we don't ask them to promise to support a gay marriage bill; we just ask them if they will fight for gay equality, even if they have to exhibit some leadership in a tough environment. If they can't do that, we may still root for them to beat a much worse Republican, but we don't raise money for them. We expect the candidates we endorse and raise money for to support a woman's right to choice, to support serious campaign finance reform, to favor serious proposals to end the occupation of Iraq, to support gay equality-- and, like I said, to be willing to exercise leadership on difficult issues. I mean, sure, we want candidates who are for the minimum wage and who oppose the dismantling of Social Security, but those should be the easy issues for Democrats.
In the course of last year's midterms, I had several relaxed and pleasant conversations with candidate Carney and, unlike other netroots groups, Blue America endorsed him. We encouraged our members to volunteer for his campaign and to help raise consciousness in PA-10 about Don "The Choker" Sherwood... and to donate money to the campaign. 722 of our members made donations to Carney's campaign. We even made a 30 second spot sung by Rickie Lee Jones to help focus PA-10 voters on the issues at hand. And we were overjoyed when he won, convincingly, on election night.
We don't expect the men and women we support to necessarily support the same position we do on every single vote. But even in the short time Carney has been in Congress, he has moved further and further away from all the other Blue America endorsees who won seats. In terms of supporting progressive issues in general, he has established himself at the bottom of the barrel among the freshmen, along with candidates we chose not to endorse, like Jason Altmire (PA), Rahm Emanuel's Heath Shuler (NC), Nick Lampson (TX) and Brad Ellsworth (IN). Some of us were disappointed but none of the writers at DownWithTyranny, Firedoglake or Crooks & Liars chose to castigate Carney. And then something happened that has made us decide to speak up. We realized Chris Carney lied to us. When he wanted our support he told us he favors equality for the GLBT community, something he also made clear to the folks at Project Vote Smart, when he checked the little box that indicates he would like to "Require that crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability be prosecuted as federal hate crimes."
So weren't we in for a surprise a few days ago when Congressman Carney joined 13 of the most die-hard reactionary Democrats in the House-- near-Republicans who almost always support a reactionary social agenda-- to vote against the Hate Crimes bill. The bill passed 237-180 and all but 14 Democrats supported... well, supported exactly what Carney promised in his campaign he would support, "that crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, and disability be prosecuted as federal hate crimes." I felt betrayed-- like I had been kicked in the stomach. Based on my research and interview with candidate Carney, Blue America had endorsed him and hundreds of our members had donated effort and money to his campaign. Some of these donors are members of the GLBT community and others have friends and family who are part of that community and others just like to think that the candidates they contribute to will support equality as a core value. Chris Carney let us down, violently.
I requested an opportunity to speak with him and went back and forth with his office a few times until they finally sent me this e-mail:
Hi Howie, I have a short statement for you that I hope will be sufficient. This statement has been issued exclusively to you. Please let me know that you received it. Thanks.
Congressman Carney has not wavered from his original position of equality. Treating people the same is one of his core values, creating separate constitutional classes detracts from that goal. This was overarching legislation that created too many classes of people, and Congressman Carney could not support it.
This was a difficult decision and some of our supporters will disagree. As always, Congressman Carney voted with what he saw to be the best interests of Pennsylvania's 10th District.
I explained that sending me the Republican Party talking points -- which have long and routinely been used by the party of hatred and bigotry to try to please their rabidly homophobic base while covering their asses is not satisfactory.
So what do I want from Congressman Carney? Well, I'd like him to publicly apologize for a vote that encourages and enables the bigots and haters and I'd like him to return the 722 contributions he accepted from Blue America members. I have had dozens of complaints from members already and at least one has sent Congressman Carney a letter, copying me, requesting a refund:
Dear Congressman Carney:
Apparently, we had a misunderstanding with regard to your support for equal rights for gay Americans when you sought Don Sherwood's seat last year. I supported your campaign, through BlueAmerica on the advice of Howie Klein of DownWithTyranny.com.
Now that you have voted, with some of the most reactionary Democrats in the House of Representatives, against the Hate Crimes Bill, I have reconsidered my previous support of your campaign. I would like to have my contributions returned, please. I am disabled and on a fixed
income. I can only support candidates who support gay rights and, more importantly, keep their word to me and to those I trust to evaluate candidates.
I have provided my contribution information below and would appreciate your sending a check as soon as possible, as there are candidates who share my values who need my support. Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.
*Look at this list of Frontliners from last year; 9 of the 10 are reactionaries, most of whom desperately need help because they don't represent Democrats and are not more more than a gaggle of Republican-lite corporate shills. This year the list is way bigger, basically all the freshmen except grassroots purists Carol Shea-Porter (NH) and Nancy Boyda (KS)-- who asked not to be part-- plus unpopular reactionary holdovers from last year-- Barrow, Bean, Boswell, and Edwards, with the addition of arch-reactionary/warmonger Jim Marshall (GA), who nearly lost his seat for the simple reason that although he votes like a Republican, Republicans prefer to vote for actual Republicans and many Democrats actually prefer to vote for real Democrats, not fake ones like Marshall.
UPDATE: DONNELLY AND ELLSWORTH ARE AT LEAST WILLING TO TRY TO EXPLAIN THEIR VOTES
The two reactionary Dems from Indiana who voted along with Carney against the hate crimes bill will be blogging about their vote at Bilerico.com this week. Donnelly and Ellsworth will be trying to explain to the LGBT community why they bucked the party and voted against the bill. Donnelly will guest post on Wednesday and Ellsworth will guest blog on Thursday. Both Congressmen have agreed to respond to comments and dialogue with the community. Donnelly's entry will go live tomorrow morning at 8:30am, EST and Ellsworth's entry should go up around the same time on Thursday.
You have to admit, it's courageous for these two goofballs to face the progressive community knowing that most people won't be happy with their vote. It's a lot more than Carney did.