Friday, January 29, 2010

Sheila Dow-Ford: A Progressive Challenger To Reactionary Blue Dog Tim Holden (PA-17)


Tuesday John Morgan broke the news that educator and Harrisburg community activist Sheila Dow-Ford is challenging Pennsylvania Blue Dog Tim Holden, one of Congress' 39 anti-healthcare Democrats. Since Obama has become president, Holden has been crossing the aisle to vote with the Republicans far more frequently than he used to. In the past year, in fact, on crucial votes dividing the two parties where Democrats lost and he was needed, Holden has only been with the Democrats 45.45% of the time.

Last November, 64% of the voters in southeast Pennsylvania's 17th CD cast their ballots for Holden (whose name is on the ballot as a Democrat, not as a Blue Dog), and many of them have been disappointed with Holden's swing to the right since then. His vote against healthcare reform was the final straw for many of his constituents.

Yesterday I had an informal chat with Sheila, a well-informed, thoughtful and instinctively progressive woman who is taking on a gargantuan task in trying to oust a longtime incumbent in a primary. We applaud her efforts and plan to give you more information about her once the dust settles on her announcement. Meanwhile, though, I want to share this irreverent and feisty OpEd she penned for the local Patriot News at the end of November, after Holden disappointed so many of his constituents with his vote against healthcare reform.
As Thanksgiving approaches, one cannot help but focus on the similarities between our local congressman, Tim Holden, and the bird of the day: turkey.

I use this comparison to describe Mr. Holden’s shameful dodge around the national health care reform debate.

Congressman Holden didn’t hold one town hall, nor offer any statement-- spoken, written or otherwise-- with any semblance of a coherent thought on one of the most serious, far-reaching debates in the history of our country.

When the time came to cast a vote (he was one of 39 Democrats who voted against health care reform in the House of Representatives) and justify his decision, he gave some of the lamest rationales on record.

His vote against the national health care legislation was apparently threefold: the bill didn’t guarantee illegal immigrants won’t receive taxpayer funded health care; it contained drastic cuts to Medicaid/Medicare; he refused to be a pawn in a political game.

Here’s the problem: Mr. Holden’s rationales have all been proved untrue. He forgot people want to know the truth and sites such as are there to help, and, as appropriate, to call one out.

In fact, Mr. Holden’s “facts” have been found to be full of stuffing. As for claiming to be a political pawn, he sounds unjustifiably henpecked.

During the last several months, the congressman has appeared to deliver checks of various denominations to certain, well-chosen corporate and political constituents.

This is a Holden specialty, but the problem is that his presence was as rare as the dodo bird. It was as if Congressman Holden were, himself, nearly extinct.

On occasion, a gift would come floating from the heavens, earthward, to land at some special place of honor.

Here’s the problem: This isn’t congressional representation.

It is a cargo-culture drive-by hit. When the lives of ordinary citizens-- you, your children, parents or others-- are involved, we deserve and should demand more.

We don’t need checks dropped from the sky by an absentee congressman who the Allentown Morning Call reported visited 18 countries in the past 20 months at taxpayer expense.

We need a person who will show up, stand up and listen, even when it is hard, and even when his constituents are frustrated, angry and despairing.

No matter which side of the political divide you stand on, at least you are standing. Congressman Holden, sadly, has been sitting down on the job.

He ignored the estimated 10 percent (as of 2004) of his constituents who are without health care and who live across all the counties he represents.

On a par with the congressman’s mediocre excuses was his reaction to those constituents who protested his health care vote.

Speaking at a location away from the gathered group, the congressman, in a macho big eagle mien, told reporters that he had been involved with protesters during the Hegins pigeon shoot, and he didn’t like them.

There was not one iota of compassion for his constituents or their concerns, not even a hint of curiosity. How simple; how callous; how calculating; how cowardly.

On the eve of turkey day, I dedicate this column to Congressman Holden, with the following advice for the season: Vote your conscience, but tell the truth.

Never take a shortcut that compares constituents who are protesting your congressional vote on health care to those who protested a pigeon shoot when you were sheriff.

That makes us, your constituents, look like sitting ducks, and makes you look like a lame duck.

Blue Dogs like Holden haven't been supporting Obama's agenda and have been weighing in on the side of Big Business and Wall Street and their lobbyists rather than doing a job for the ordinary American working families who keep sending them back to Congress. Tim Holden doesn't deserve to be re-elected to his cushy job in Washington again. For the folks in PA-17, that doesn't mean they have to pick an even worse, more reactionary Republican. (Even Republicans find it hard to stomach Dave Argall, the shady GOP candidate this year.) Instead, people who have the right to and the expectation of more from their representatives in Washington can elect a real Democrat like Sheila Dow-Ford, who will stand behind President Obama when he's fighting for working families-- and help keep him on track when characters like Emanuel, Summers and Geithner nudge him off-track. This year, with rising anger against incumbents, there is a unique opportunity to clean the House out and get rid of dozens of Blue Dogs. Tim Holden should be one of them-- and Sheila is an excellent alternative. John Morgan at The Pennsylvania Progressive caught her at a meeting of the Kutztown Democratic Club a few weeks ago when she was still trying to decide whether or not to run against Holden. The two videos are worth taking a look at. Here's the first of them:

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At 7:40 AM, Blogger PA progressive said...

Great article Howie. I've met Sheila and she is a wonderful candidate. She will really connect with voters because she feels their frustrations and feels their pain. She speaks with them, not to them and in a way which makes you sure she understands your problems, your situation and is here to help.


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