Thursday, April 26, 2012

Norman Solomon-- No Coaxing Necessary


I spend a lot of time talking with candidates for Congress. Sometimes you have to coax good answers out of them. Some are just learning what it means to be progressive. Some even lie to you and tell you what they think you want to hear. The easiest question we ask at Blue America is about choice. It's our only "yes" or "no" answer. Is there any circumstance, we ask, that the government should tell a woman and her physician what she can and can't do about her reproductive health. If someone answers NO, they have a chance to get on this page. If they hem and haw and give a different answer than NO, they don't get on the page... even if we otherwise like them. That's the easy question with the easy answer. Questions about war and peace are far more difficult and sometimes more subtle and nuanced. And I'm not the only person who talks about these questions with candidates. My friend David Swanson does as well... a lot. This week he wrote about vetting and said it was ok for me to share it with you.
I recently wrote about a conversation I'd had with a fairly typical Democratic candidate for Congress (O.K. perhaps he was below average)-- a former military officer who claims to be for peace, but whose every solution involves war. I asked him to make commitments on what sort of things he would vote for or against, and he evaded every such question, while maintaining that he held a desire for peace somewhere in his heart.

The suspicion might arise in a reasonable reader that candidates simply don't make commitments and perhaps shouldn't. Every situation is unique. Candidates can't know the details of a future bill or the context in which it might be brought to a vote. They can simply tell you what values they hold dear, what accomplishments grace their resumes, and how utterly worthless their opponents are.  More than that one should not ask.

This suspicion can be set aside in one of two ways. The first would be a commonsense belief in democracy. How the hell can you elect people to do what you want done if they refuse to tell you what they'll do? If they won't tell you how they would have voted on past bills, or whether they would cosponsor existing bills, and if they consider looming wars that are constantly in the news to be "too hypothetical," you can bet they're hiding something, and you can bet that something stinks.

The other way to set aside the suspicion that candidates won't make anti-war commitments is to find candidates who do. I'd like to point out one who is probably at the top of the list. It's almost unfair to compare him with one of the worst candidates his party is fielding. Yet he is almost certainly the best example of a new candidate running for an open seat and making a commitment to peace a central part of his platform.

Norman Solomon's background involves decades in the peace movement. He's studied and written books and produced films about peace and war. He's traveled to war zones in an effort to prevent wars. It shouldn't be surprising that he would favor peace when he decides to run for office. Yet there is a widespread and growing notion that those who most favor peace and can best work for peace are members of the military, or retired members of the military. Electing these warriors for peace almost always leads to bitter disappointment, and yet the notion remains in the back of people's heads that the best peace makers are the experts on war. The idea that there might be experts on peace, that there might be value in the expertise that caused certain of those experts to draw the right conclusions about our current wars before they started-- this is all off the radar screen of our public discussion.

Norman Solomon, Democratic candidate in California's Second Congressional District (the north coast), is committed to supporting two bills that have been introduced by Congresswoman Barbara Lee of Oakland. One of them, HR 780, which has 70 cosponsors, would limit Afghan war funding to paying for troop withdrawal. The other, HR 4173, which has 27 cosponsors, would create diplomatic talks with Iran and forbid (with narrow exceptions) any unconstitutional attack on Iran not authorized by Congress. 

Solomon would not only have voted no on this year's National Defense Authorization Act and its provision of presidential power to indefinitely imprison, but Solomon publicly opposed it when it was up for debate.

Solomon would defund the current wars and has publicly lobbied Congress to use the power of the purse to defund immoral, illegal wars since the days of the war on Vietnam.

Solomon is committed to the struggle to restore to Congress its constitutional authority to declare and authorize war.

As you probably know, Norman Solomon is one of the candidates Blue America has endorsed and is working hard to help elect. As Glenn Greewald explained at Salon, "When it comes to Congressional candidates, it just doesn’t get any better than Norman Solomon." And he's in a perfect deep blue district that would easily sustain an outspoken and independent progressive leader like himself.Swanson went on in his post to quote several of Norman's most memorable declarations about war and peace, like "For decades-- as an activist, author and nationally syndicated columnist-- I have detailed how big money in politics promotes everything from war and environmental degradation to economic injustice and unfair trade treaties to media conglomeration and corporatization of healthcare. In my largely volunteer-driven campaign for Congress, I have implemented a grassroots approach to fundraising: raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from several thousand (mostly small) donors, while refusing to accept a penny of corporate PAC money. As a member of Congress, one of my top priorities will be to back legislation and a constitutional amendment aimed at removing money from politics."

And "Real national security involves shifting much of our perpetual military spending to programs that create sustainable jobs, expand education and opportunity, and rebuild our economy and our communities" and "As national co-chair of the Healthcare Not Warfare campaign (along with Congressman John Conyers and Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association), I support significant cuts in unnecessary military spending-- with commensurate increases in funding for healthcare, education and other human needs." Later today we have a long post about a Democratic hack from El Paso, Texas, an old time Military Industrial Complex shill named Silvestre Reyes. He may be a "Democrat" but he'll never understand what a progressive like Norman Solomon is talking about. Never.

In their effusive endorsement of Norman this week, the San Francisco Bay Guardian made it clear he wasn't just the best choice between a bunch of career politicians. They acknowledge that the "top two contenders are Norman Solomon, an author, columnist and media advocate, and Jared Huffman, a moderate member of the state Assembly from Marin." And then they explained why Norman is the better choice.
Solomon's not just a decent candidate-- he represents a new approach to politics. He's an antiwar crusader, journalist, and outsider who has never held elective office-- but knows more about the (often corrupt) workings of Washington and the policy issues facing the nation than many Beltway experts. He's talking about taxing Wall Street to create jobs on Main Street, about downsizing the Pentagon and promoting universal health care. He's a worthy successor to Woolsey, and he deserves the support of every independent and progressive voter in the district.

Blue America and Progressive Democrats of America are just finishing up on a fun fundraising promotion for Norman and fellow true-blue progressive, Dr. David Gill (IL). Someone is going to win a Barenaked Ladies autographed guitar as a thank you for helping out these two great candidates. Take a look-- and please consider helping us getting Norman and David into Congress. Here's the guitar:

UPDATE: New Polling Numbers Are Auspicious

The best polling firm in the nation, Lake Research, released a new poll showing that the corporate shill, Jared Huffman, will be in a runoff with Norman after the primary. The clownish self-funder that EMILY's List is pushing, Stacey Lawson, may be spending the most cash but she's polling just 5%... still better than the Republicans in the primary but not even in the top 3. What a joke EMILY's List has made itself in recent years!

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