Friday, April 20, 2012

Are Electoral Politics Worth The Effort? Norman Solomon & Glenn Greenwald Explain Why It Is... Sometimes


I wasn't even voting age-- nor had CNN come up with the red and the blue delineation's for Republicans and Democrats yet-- when I first understand that not all Democrats were any good. But in those days, there were occasionally decent Republican alternatives to bad Democrats. Republican John Lindsey was elected to Congress from Manhattan's "Silk Stocking" district (the Upper East Side) and he was progressive enough-- pro-civil rights, pro-civil liberties, pro-Medicare; he helped establish HUD, the department Romney is promising to abolish-- to win 3 terms and then to run for mayor of New York City against a Democratic Party conservative Machine hack, Abe Beame. I campaigned for Lindsey. Eventually he migrated away from the increasingly radicalized GOP, first as an independent and finally as a full on Democrat. Today there are no good Republicans, at least not in Congress. The closest is Walter Jones (NC), a decent and honest man who is easily the most independent Republican in Congress-- which can be attested to by Eric Cantor's repeated attempts to have him defeated. And there are a lot of really bad Democrats. But no good-- or even halfway decent-- Republicans running against them.

Today progressives have to contend with primary battles pitting Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt liberals against corporate shills. And the corporate shills are ascendant. The entire next generation of Democratic leaders in the House-- after the pitifully corporate Steny Hoyer comes a gaggle of Rahm Emanuel wannabe careerists: Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Steve Israel (NY), Joseph Crowley (NY), Allyson Schwartz (PA), Ron Kind (WI)... real dreck. The only counterbalance is the Congressional Progressive Caucus led by Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison. It's the corporate whores, steeped in corruption and oozing shady cash vs the advocates for working families. We can't give up. In the video above, Norman Solomon explains why we can't give up.

Norman is one of the Blue America candidates this cycle in a bright blue Northern California district. Conservatives and corporate lobbyists know they can't get a Republican elected there so they're pushing two people to beat out Norman-- a state legislator, Jared Huffman, who's already proven himself a pawn of special interests waving checks, and a wealthy airhead, Stacey Lawson, suddenly interested in dabbling in politics... and backed by the pathetic remnants of what was once EMILY's List.

Last month author and civil libertarian Glenn Greenwald, who never seems all that enamoured of electoral politics and of picking better lesser of two evils-- made the case for Norman-- and two other extraordinary progressive candidates facing tough primaries against corporate shills and DCCC hacks-- over at Salon. "Most Congressional contests are boring and largely inconsequential," he writes; "the vast bulk features certain victory by unnotable incumbents or open-seat races between Party-approved, script-reading, poll-driven, cookie-cutter challengers. But there are a few new candidates for Congress who are both genuinely exciting and viable, and thus very much worthy of attention and support." He singled out Norman Solomon, state Rep. Franke Wilmer in Montana and Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell in North Carolina. [All three can be found on the Blue America ActBlue page-- and all 3 definitely need some help in the contributions department.]
The long-time anti-war activist, co-founder of the great media criticism group FAIR, and author of Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State-- a critique of America’s decades of militarism and the role which its media plays in perpetuating it-- is about as close to a perfect Congressional candidate as it gets. He’s written 11 other books, including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death: the title speaks for itself. He’s running in the heavily Democratic California district being vacated by the retiring Rep. Lynn Woolsey. A newly released poll from an independent Democratic pollster shows him with a serious chance to win (there is an open primary in June, and the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will then face each other in a November run-off).

In 2002 and 2003, Solomon led three trips to Iraq to try to avert the war (trips that included former and current members of Congress), and was one of the most widely featured media voices during that period opposing the attack on moral, legal and prudential grounds. Though he was an Obama delegate to the 2008 DNC convention, here’s what he told us about President Obama’s civil liberties record, including the Awlaki assassination and the President’s signing of the indefinite detention bill (NDAA):

I am opposed to the expansion of White House authority to detain without charge or assassinate on presidential order. Here we have President Obama extending presidential power even beyond Bush. Many had expected Obama-– a constitutional law professor-– to rein in presidential authority, but that hasn’t happened. This is not the country we believe in. I would have voted no on NDAA, vehemently explaining my vote in a wide range of public venues. As for the Holder speech, it was deservedly mocked by Stephen Colbert: That “due process” doesn’t have to be a “judicial process”--  just any “process that you do.”

...Solomon demands diplomacy, not threats of military force, to resolve the current disputes with Iran. He decries the lack of criminal prosecutions for Wall Street defrauders and Bush torturers as a violation of the rule of law: “I thoroughly reject the convenient notion that we can’t look forward if we are also looking back to prosecute official crimes committed in the previous administration. On the contrary, our nation cannot move forward unless we address the crimes and abuses of the past.” He supports the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage,”significant” military cuts, and vocally opposed the Wall Street bailout before it happened. Simply on principle, he has refused to take a dime of corporate PAC money or accept contributions from lobbyists.

When it comes to Congressional candidates, it just doesn’t get any better than Norman Solomon. If you have any residual doubt, just look at this remarkable 2007 TV appearance he did on CNN with Glenn Beck, which he wrote about here, when he used the opportunity to detail and denounce the effect of corporate ownership of America’s establishment media (including CNN). He’s been doing this for 30 years and there’s zero chance he will change or compromise any of it if he wins. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to have Norman Solomon in Congress, but I’d certainly like to see it.

Better than imagining: let's make it happen... for Norman and the other progressives with the gumption to stand up against the Democratic Establishment and the Republican Establishment and run-- for ordinary Americans. It's a pretty thankless task. Please consider contributing to their campaigns.

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