New Jersey Suburbs: A Blind Rabbi Takes On A Right Wing Extremist
A few days ago when a Democratic ad pointed out that McCain is so out of touch with the current century that he still doesn't know how to send an e-mail, the manipulative lobbyists who run his campaign immediately shot back with the standard answer for any and all criticism: he was tortured in Vietnam. He seems to have learned how to do quite a few things since getting back from Hanoi, divorcing his wife and marrying into a mobster-connected family swimming in ill-gotten wealth. But figuring out how to send an e-mail didn't rank as high as figuring out how to suck up to big donors while creating a baseless image of being a maverick and reformer.
Today's New York Times, in passing, compares a Democrat with a far greater handicap than McCain-- he went blind before he reached the age of 15-- to McCain. I have marveled at how easy it always is to communicate with Dennis Shulman online. I rarely remember he's blind when I'm communicating with him. Other traits come to mind sooner-- brilliance, compassion, sense of humor, wisdom...
Today's Times piece is a human interest story about an exceptional candidate for Congress. The Blue America community first met Dennis early last November when he spent two hours live-blogging with us at Firedoglake. Since then he has turned what many thought would be an impossible task into a real horserace. He's running against the last full-fledged reactionary in the entire Northeast, Scott Garrett, northern New Jersey's accidental congressman. On Friday Garrett was in the news because he was the only New Jersey congressman-- from either party-- who voted against funding the Highway Trust. The 28 others were a motley crew of mostly far right Confederates who oppose the very concept of government playing a positive role in citizens' lives-- like in maintaining bridges and highways. Garrett is often at odds with mainstream notions about the role of government and he is often found voting alone with a small handful of radical right kooks from Georgia, Texas and South Carolina.
Dennis would offer a very different vision to New Jersey residents than Garrett. He is motivated by a sense of service, not extremist ideology. “Look, my story is not a gimmick; it’s my life,” he told the Times. “And my whole life, going blind as a child, growing up poor in Worcester, Mass., going to Brandeis and Harvard, how I do the things I do, has all been about solving problems. It’s the same way with my work as a psychologist and a rabbi. The major critique I have of Garrett is that he’s an ideologue; he’s not a problem solver. I am.”
The story of how Dennis embraced technology and became computer literate-- to put it mildly-- might be an inspiration for a willful codger like McCain, but if McCain reads the story I'd much rather him grasp an other aspect of Dennis' inspirational message-- how he came to politics and what he hopes to accomplish:
He figures you do not need eyes that work to see what a nightmare the Bush years have been. His wife said that instead of wanting to throw his shoes at the television set, he should do something about it. So he decided to take on Mr. Garrett, who has represented the district since being elected in 2002 and has amassed one of the most conservative voting records in Congress. Mr. Garrett earned a rare 100 percent rating through 2007 from the American Conservative Union — with votes against stem cell research, against the reauthorization of the voting rights act and against aid to Katrina victims.
“It’s so out of step with this district,” Dr. Shulman said. “This is not the most conservative district in the United States of America. He speaks from the Republican playbook, and Americans are sick of the party playbook. I don’t have a playbook. Maybe they don’t put it in Braille.”
...Garrett came to Washington saying his candidacy was based on “a basic and simple idea”: The district wanted someone “to stand beside our president.” That’s not the most popular platform these days.
Dr. Shulman also figures that having David A. Paterson as governor of New York could help people feel comfortable with his candidacy.
“He’s been very supportive,” the rabbi said. “When I won the primary, he called to support me, and we agreed that blindness is the new gay.”
Dennis is running in a tough district for Democrats. It was specifically gerrymandered to elect Republicans. But 2008 is not shaping up to be a Republican year. Residents in the northern New Jersey suburbs are taking a second look at Scott Garrett, who isn't very well known in his district and whose record is very foreign to people who live there. Blue America has made this race a major priority for our PAC and we want to urge progressives to consider donating to Dennis' campaign so that he can bring clarity to voters in NJ-05 regarding what he and Garrett actually stand for. Special interests have lavished nearly a million dollars on Garrett, a guaranteed vote for every corporate rip-off that has come up in Congress since he was elected. So far Dennis has managed to raise $750,000, putting him in a competitive position. But with "donations" from Big Oil, the telecoms, lobbyists, commercial banks, and the insurance industry flooding into Garrett's campaign coffers, Dennis needs help from regular Americans looking for better and more honest government. This is a winnable race, an opportunity to exchange the very worst for the very best.