Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Republican Could Never Defeat Mike Honda-- So A Democrat With A Republican Economic Perspective Is Primarying Him



Writing at BlueTheNation, Jonathan Nathan makes the point that "One of the most important races of the 2014 election cycle is one you’re not likely to hear an awful lot about, at least not from the sort of pop-politics talking heads one finds on the news networks and cable channels and major blogs. That’s because it’s an intra-party race between two Democrats. Seven-term incumbent Mike Honda is being challenged by Ro Khanna, a techie, a professor, and a former member of the Obama Administration." Here at DWT, of course, we've been covering this race carefully, primarily because Honda has been such a crucial and effective leader of the Progressive Caucus.

Honda has been a strong fighter on behalf of regular American families-- the ones that don't have the resources to hire their own slick K Street lobbyists or to bribe congressmembers with huge campaign contributions. Virtually the entire California Democratic House delegation has joined President Obama and California's two U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in endorsing Honda. Nancy Pelosi led the way as soon as Ro Khanna announced he was running:
"Congressman Mike Honda's life has been a tribute to the quintessential American ideals of equality and opportunity for all. From a childhood spent in an internment camp, Mike has risen to the heights of American leadership-- as one of the top Democrats on the powerful Appropriations Committee and a critical voice for fairness, the rights of LGBT couples and all families. Mike is a bold and effective leader who understands the needs of Silicon Valley and the 17th District, ensuring American competitiveness and fighting for American manufacturing, comprehensive immigration reform, STEM education and technological innovation. We need his continued leadership for our nation in the House of Representatives, and I am proud to endorse him."
Obama, for whom Khanna worked at one time, was also very clear about who he's supporting in this primary: "Congressman Mike Honda is the right leader for the 17th district. Together, we’ve worked hard these last four years to bring meaningful, positive change to our nation, but there is much more to do. As we continue rebuilding our economy from the middle out, we know expanding educational opportunities is critical. Congressman Honda's lifelong commitment to education and fierce advocacy for innovation and technology is exactly what this nation needs as we continue to move America forward. We need Congressman Mike Honda in the United States Congress, and I urge you to vote to keep him there."

What's especially interesting about the Obama and Pelosi endorsements, is that Honda is considerably further left than either of them. A representative of Silicon Valley with it's giant tech corporations, he's always been an unstinting champion of working families and ordinary Americans, not of tech multimillionaires and billionaires, which is something Khanna is trying to take advantage of. Honda, who was the principal author of the Progressive Caucus budget in 2011 and one of the authors of their budget this year, has been an outspoken critic of Chained CPI and has pledged to oppose it (and all cuts to benefits for seniors and veterans). He signed the Grayson Takano No Cuts letter and can be counted on to help counter the extreme right... rather than compromise with it's predatory designs-- which is what Khanna and his backers believe in as an article of faith.

Endorsement from President Obama or not, Honda has been adamant that he's not buying into the arguments that Obama, Boehner, McConnell and Ro Khanna have made for cutting Social Security by using a scheme called Chained CPI.
"I believe, as millions of other Americans do, that our deficits are a problem that deserves our attention, but Social Security spending is not the cause of our deficits. Any attempts to draw down our debt should be done in a sensible, responsible way, and not on the back of those who can least afford it-- struggling American families, seniors, veterans-- including our 3.2 million disabled veterans, individuals with disabilities, and children on survivors’ benefits.

"I'm eager to see what protections the President’s proposal has for vulnerable populations, but I am wary because every chained CPI proposal I’ve seen would affect veterans, people with disabilities, seniors on fixed incomes, and would institute compounding benefit cuts that would hurt future retirees harder as time goes on. The average annual Social Security benefit for retirees amounts to a very modest $15,000, yet one-third of seniors rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their income. These seniors cannot afford any reductions. As we face a looming retirement security crisis, with the majority of our workforce lacking private pensions and over one-third of all workers unable to save any money at all for retirement, we should be working together to make Social Security stronger, not weaker, to make our future retirees more secure.

"Americans all over the country depend on every single dollar they get from Social Security for the food on their table, and the roofs over their backs. At a time when so many of our Americans are already struggling, I strongly oppose benefit cuts to Social Security and will work with my colleagues to ensure that our government fulfills its promise to its future retirees."
Nathan presents 5 solid arguments regarding why everyone should care about Honda overcoming the financial odds and beating Khanna.
1) Ro Khanna has never occupied an elected office.

One of the narratives that Khanna and his team are already spinning is that of “the Washington outsider.” They’re styling Khanna as the San Francisco Bay Area’s very own miniature Barack Obama. Americans love that whole song and dance about “outsiders” in politics for the same reason they love the one about how you can’t trust the experts. During the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, Bill Richardson famously hit back at Obama’s “outsider” narrative by asking the pointed question, “When did experience become a leper?” As in, why is it now a bad thing that somebody has dedicated his or her life to doing something well?

Ro Khanna has been a government official and a professor, but he has never been an elected policymaker. There’s a reason most politicians start with the state legislature. Obviously it’s not a required prerequisite, but if you have the choice between an experienced policymaker that hasn’t done anything his constituents don’t like and a guy who’s never been elected to anything, don’t you pick the first guy?

2) Khanna is the tech industry’s man.

The tech industry is just the worst. They’re a bunch of Ayn Rand cultists who have passed themselves off as progressives because they support progressive viewpoints on social issues. But they are very very very bad news on fiscal issues. They support immigration reform but only for skilled tech workers. They want to deregulate everything in the name of “market disruption,” never mind that regulations keep people from dying. They’re destroying public transportation infrastructure with private buses. They’re a nightmare. Ro Khanna will be the tech industry’s Congressman, which means he will not be a progressive. He will be what we in the Bay Area have politely agreed to call a “moderate Democrat.” What that means is that anywhere else, he’d be a Republican who doesn’t hate gay people, but for political expediency he’s calling himself a Democrat.

3) Khanna’s campaign is a waste of valuable campaign resources.

Much has been made, in Khanna’s media and marketing blitz, of all the big “gets” for his campaign. He’s assembled quite a dream team of former high-ranking Obama campaign staffers. So why are these people wasting their time trying to oust an incumbent Democrat, and a progressive one at that, rather than defending a vulnerable Democrat or working to unseat a vulnerable Republican? How many seats in Congress will we lose–or not pick up–because these brilliant minds were wasting their time? Why are they doing this?

The answer is depressing, but predictable. Again, Khanna is the tech industry’s man and the tech industry worships “disruption.” So, too, do many of the folks who worked for the Obama campaigns. To them, attacking the establishment is what matters, not the substance of policy. Larry Grisolano, an Obama campaign strategist and Khanna supporter, told Bloomberg Businessweek that they gravitated toward Obama because nobody thought he could win. “But we thought we could build a movement around his personal story and vision for the future. That’s what attracted us to Obama. These people don’t come around every day. But we all have an excitement about races that have that possibility. I think that in Ro, there’s the sense that he’s that kind of candidate.” Notice that there’s no discussion of who Ro Khanna would be as a Congressman. No appeal to vote for him because he’s a progressive or because he’s a moderate or because he’ll push for this thing or he’ll push for that thing. It’s just a devotion to the idea of sticking it to the man. It’s childish. But as anyone who lives in the Bay Area can tell you, no word describes the tech industry–from top to bottom–better than “childish.”

4) Khanna is a big-money candidate who just wants the seat for its own sake.

It’s 2013. The primary isn’t until June of next year. But Ro Khanna raised a million bucks for his campaign warchest in the second quarter of this year. That’s unprecedented for a House race, and certainly for a House primary. This is a guy who just wants to be a Congressman because he thinks he ought to be, because he thinks the tech industry ought to have a guy in Congress, because he thinks his money and connections can buy the seat for him. You see it in the way people talk about him; specifically, that they talk only about him, not about issues. Negative campaigning against an opponent isn’t great, but puffing yourself up is no better. It still represents an unwillingness to actually engage with the voters on a serious level. Ro Khanna has nothing to say, at least nothing the Bay Area would want to hear. He just wants to be in Congress for the sake of being in Congress.

5) Mike Honda is the guy elected seven times by the voters of the district.

Mike Honda is a seven-term incumbent Congressman with a strong progressive record. His constituents like him. That should speak for itself. Unfortunately, money can be a powerful tool in a campaign. Constituents who like Mike Honda today might not like him after Khanna and his powerful friends spend their money. We saw it happen in 2012 to Pete Stark, one of the great liberal lions of the House, who was unseated by Eric Swalwell, a Blue Dog who rode a wave of Republican and conservative campaign contributions to victory.

This intra-party contest will not garner much national attention, but it represents just as much of a struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party as the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination battle will represent a struggle for the soul of the GOP. Will the Democrats be the party of people like Mike Honda, true progressives with a positive mission? Or will they be the party of people like Ro Khanna, disinterested libertarians who care only about power and influence and disruption for their own sake?
Khanna has been a fundraising machine and is far outraising Honda. In July, Politico reported that he already had $1.7 million in his warchest (compared to $375,000 for Honda). Help DWT even up those financial odds at bit... right here. This morning while I was writing this post, I asked a colleague of Mike Honda's, Alan Grayson, who many of us have come to respect and admire, for a comment on Honda's character as he experienced it. Grayson, aside from being a political leader, is one of my favorite American poets. But he told me he's like to use one of his favorite poets, William Wordsworth, to express his thoughts on Mike Honda:
Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
         That every man in arms should wish to be?
         --It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
         Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
         Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
         Whose high endeavours are an inward light
         That makes the path before him always bright:
         Who, with a natural instinct to discern
         What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;
         Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
         But makes his moral being his prime care;
         Who, doomed to go in company with Pain,
         And Fear, and Bloodshed, miserable train!
         Turns his necessity to glorious gain;
         In face of these doth exercise a power
         Which is our human nature's highest dower;
         Controls them and subdues, transmutes, bereaves
         Of their bad influence, and their good receives:
         By objects, which might force the soul to abate
         Her feeling, rendered more compassionate;
         Is placable-- because occasions rise
         So often that demand such sacrifice;
         More skilful in self-knowledge, even more pure,
         As tempted more; more able to endure,
         As more exposed to suffering and distress;
         Thence, also, more alive to tenderness.
Let's keep Mike in Congress. You can help out here.

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At 2:52 PM, Anonymous me said...

...President Obama and California's two U.S. Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in endorsing Honda. Nancy Pelosi led the way...

That's a mark against him in my book. I distrust the judgement of all those people.

At 2:58 PM, Anonymous me said...

The tech industry is just the worst. They’re a bunch of Ayn Rand cultists who have passed themselves off as progressives because they support progressive viewpoints on social issues. But they are very very very bad news on fiscal issues.

Take Google, for instance. "Don't be evil", my ass! They are now giving money to scumpublicans, in particular that moron from Oklahoma.

I have lost all respect for Google, and I now actively seek alternatives to Google Search, Android, and every other of their services.

At 1:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please stick to the facts. Ro's taken a very clear position against CPI and for eliminating the payroll tax on his website.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger DownWithTyranny said...

Khanna's a weasel. When asked by a reporter about Chained CPI, he reached right for the Republican Party talking point:

“I don’t think we ought to be cutting benefits that have been promised to current seniors,” Khanna said.

"A popular talking point, 'keeping promises to current seniors' is what most Democrats say when they don’t want to be held accountable for wanting to cut social insurance benefits.

"A majority of the country favors preserving social security and trusts the Democratic Party more with entitlement programs over Republicans, who want to severely privatize them at the expense of society’s most vulnerable.

"If you think that the Social Security issue does not affect you because you are far from retirement, think again.  If you are a wage earner, you are paying into the system and basically putting money into a fund that will hopefully be there for you in the future."

At 5:04 PM, Anonymous me said...

I don’t think we ought to be cutting benefits that have been promised to current seniors

Yup. You can't get any weaselier than that.

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Paul Smith said...

If you keep submitting well written articles just like this then I will always keep returning back to your blog. Really good material.

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