A Victory For Lee Rogers In CA-25, Is A Victory For Progressive Values Across America
If you missed me putting Buck McKeon's resignation from Congress into context for KPFK listeners yesterday, here's a short, abbreviated version above. This morning, Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, under the eye-catching headline, "A Dem Candidate Who Would Expand O'Care And Social Security," went beyond the Beltway conventional wisdom/claptrap and got to the heart of why the race in the Santa Clarita, Antelope and Simi Valleys (CA-25) is so important for progressives.
Yesterday, GOP Rep. Buck McKeon, a longtime member of Congress and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, announced his retirement. The move could pave the way for an interesting experiment, one that could provide a glimpse into how progressive policies play in a swing district that’s already very difficult for Democrats.In the past, we've written about DCCC Chairman Steve Israel's "mystery meat" candidates. Israel warns candidates to not take controversial stands on big issues, especially not progressive stands. When I asked one freshman who ran as a progressive and then joined the Wall Street-financed New Dems and started a distinct pattern of voting against the progressive agenda she ran on, she was very frank and told me she had followed the DCCC's instructions to freshmen "100%" and that that was how they told her she could be reelected (in her D+3 district that Obama won with 56 and 54% in 2008 and 2012).
The Democrat vying for the seat is Dr. Lee Rogers, who not only aggressively embraces Obamacare, but wants to expand it to achieve “universal” coverage, and even wants to expand Social Security. In an indication of what this candidacy might look like, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which supports Rogers, notes that he champions “Medicare access for all,” and in a PCCC email going out today, Rogers says:
“I’ll fight to allow people to buy into Medicare. I’ll push for Medicare to negotiate drug prices to lower costs. And I promise to help bring us closer to universal healthcare coverage.”…Make no mistake, this one will be a steep climb for Dems. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report doesn’t think Rogers has a shot, because a big chunk of the district is made up of Latino voters among whom turnout could drop off in a midterm election. “This district has unique voting patterns that more or less doom his candidacy from the start,” Wasserman says.
However, it could still be an interesting test of progressive messaging at a time when public worries about inequality and declining economic mobility seem to be rising. ”If he gets more than 45 percent than he got in 2012, maybe that’s a sign his message was effective,” Wasserman says.
Whatever his chances, the race is worth watching, partly for the simple reason that Rogers’ support for expanding Social Security is a relative rarity among Dem candidates. The issue is emerging as an increasingly important issue for progressives, one central in the debate over whether the Democratic Party should embrace a truly economically progressive platform. It’ll be interesting to see how expanding Social Security (and Obamacare) play politically, given that many Dems have shied away from such positions-- even as there is strong public support for protecting social insurance and the safety net.
Yesterday, when Israel was crowing about McKeon's resignation in a press release, he didn't even mention Rogers' name, even though Rogers beat McKeon in the Antelope Valley in 2012-- the fastest growing third of the district and an area McKeon had never previously lost, and even though Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the California House delegation, has been Rogers' most vocal and persistent champion. Israel: “Congressman McKeon is getting in a crowded line of Republican moderates who are abandoning John Boehner’s broken Congress so that they don’t have to defend their party’s indefensible priorities to the voters. Congressman McKeon’s retirement puts yet another Republican-held seat into reach for Democrats, as he joins the likes of Tom Latham, Jon Runyan and Frank Wolf and others in rejecting the irresponsible behavior of their party. In this competitive district, Democrats will stand behind a candidate who is dedicated to working across the aisle to solve problems for hardworking California families and who will put a premium on creating jobs and growing the middle class. Meanwhile, Republicans are already facing yet another divisive primary where they will compete in a brutal race to the right.”
Buck McKeon, a "moderate?" Only in a topsy turvey Beltway universe where "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel could be head of the DCCC. McKeon is a radical right ideologue whose political positions are very extreme across the board. He was the financial go-to person in the Mormon jihad against LGBT equality in California. He has consistently and unwaveringly voted against women's rights, against unions, against economic security for working people, against basic human rights, against environmental sanity… here's the startling voting record of what Steve Israel thinks is a "moderate." It helps explain why he's been recruiting such shockingly conservative candidates-- like Jennifer Garrison, "the Sarah Palin of Ohio," to run for House seats.
Sargent's point is well-taken. What would happen if grassroots Democrats like Rogers-- and like the rest of the Blue America endorsed candidates-- who espouse the actual values and principles of the Democratic Party, were the ones who were financed by the DCCC, instead of the conservatives Israel has dug up? For one thing, voters would have a real choice on election day, something conservative Democrats like Israel fear to the core of their being.
Down the road from CA-25, another major electoral battle is brewing, this time in a solid blue (D+5) district that Israel managed to hand to the GOP in 2012 by backing one of his conservative mystery meat candidates, Pete Aguilar. Aguilar, who is incapable of connecting with Democratic voters, was beaten by two Republicans in the state's jungle primary. Radical right Republican Gary Miller represents an Inland Empire district (CA-31) that Obama won with 57% in 2012 and 2008. So, naturally, Israel is again backing Aguilar, despite the fact that the progressive grassroots Democrat in the race, Eloise Reyes, is out-raising him-- and just posted an over $300,000 quarter. After Aguilar championed cutting back on Social Security benefits via Chained CPI in a newspaper interview, the DCCC ordered him to stop showing his cards. Reyes never stops showing hers-- and they are cards that are all about equality of opportunity for working families. That's not what Steve Israel's DCCC is looking for, not in CA-312, not in CA-25, not anywhere.