Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Political Transformationalism


Kyrsten Sinema ran for Congress last year as a progressive. She called me several times asking for money. But something in her story didn't add up. She didn't sound like a progressive; she sounded like a phony careerist who would say anything for a nickel. Even though I was on a board with her and everyone else was giving, I was turned off by her sleazy pitches and didn't contribute or put her up for a Blue America endorsement. She didn't pass the smell test even though the first time she ran for office, in 2002, she ran as a Green-- finishing last among 5 candidates and garnering only 8% of the vote. She soon switched to the Democratic Party and was elected to the Arizona state legislature.

Once she got to Congress last year, she joined the corrupt, Wall Street-owned New Dems and, more recently, the reactionary Blue Dogs. She managed to amass one of the 3 or 4 worst voting records of any Democratic freshman. Her ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is an abysmal 32.81, worse than moderate Republican Chris Gibson (34.56)! Grassroots progressives in her Tempe district, which also includes parts of Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler, won't support her again. The district has more registered independents than either Democrats or Republicans and she thinks voting for Wall Street's agenda will endear her to them. That's not what we consider independent-minded around here.

The DCCC selects candidates who Steve Israel feels will not be independent-minded, but who will leave everything to party bosses… like himself and Hoyer. As independent congressional candidate, Marianne Williamson explained Monday when addressing her frustration about the Keystone XL Pipeline, "Legalized corruption makes it almost impossible to truly take on the power of Exxon-Mobil and other oil giants that receive massive tax breaks from the government. Once again, until we deal with the issue of money’s undue influence on our political system, none of this will truly change." Her campaign is premised around several clear ideas that people in a high consciousness district like CA-33 will easily intuit. A lifelong Democrat, she doesn't want to run as a party person-- and in her district it isn't necessary. Anyone who wants the endorsement of either Party-- and the money that comes with that-- shows willingness to becomes part of and beholden to the corrupt system by which both parties maintain their  monopolistic stranglehold on our politics and elections. That's exactly what candidates transformational candidates like Marianne want to avoid. Most people would agree that Bernie Sanders, who never runs as a Democrat but caucuses with them, is better than just about every Democrat beholden to the party Establishment. I suspect that that is exactly what Marianne is striving to achieve in the House.

Last cycle we were enthusiastic about a progressive community activist who won a seat in Congress. That victory turned sour very quickly and when I approached the Member of Congress about the disappointing change from a progressive into a party hack, this was the reply I got:
I am happy to discuss my voting record with you anytime which has been 100 percent with the House Democratic Leadership recommendation for Frontline members.

I have no idea what your "expectations" were or even why you are so "let down." Perhaps you should run for Congress yourself?

Thanks for all your wisdom and guidance. Maybe [the teabagger opponent] will be your kind of guy!
Earlier today, we took a first look at the VA-08 seat Jim Moran is giving up. One of the better of the long and growing list of candidates is Patrick Hope, a founder of the progressive caucus in the Virginia legislature. Keep in mind what he said this morning: "I'm running for Congress because we need more progressives in Congress who are unafraid to stand up to the right wing influences-- even when they are within our own party." Candidates may even think they are progressive-- I mean they decided to be Democrats, not Republicans-- but will pressures (financial, career, political) transform them into what happens to so many, whether Sinema or the one who sent me the personal letter I just quoted from? You can be sure that while Keith Ellison, Alan Grayson, Barbara Lee, Raul Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky and John Conyers are laying out an idealistic policy agenda for new Members, Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Joe Crowley and that ilk, will be talking too them about how to raise money and how to get reelected.

Back to AZ-09 for a moment, where a very independent-minded progressive Democrat/Green Party candidate is mulling a challenge to Sinema, who herself started off, ironically enough, as a Green and as a Ralph Nader operative, and has undergone a transformation-- driven by political cowardice and over-weening careerism-- into a complete Wall Street shill and a shameless tool. That's not the kind of transformational political leaders we meant when we thought Obama would be one. I have a strong feeling Marianne Williamson will be. Have you read any of her books? They didn't all become best sellers-- 4 of which #1 best sellers-- because she had a shop-worn template. Cynics wonder if she's a candidate of substance. Her millions of readers don't. She's not a traditional politician-- and people all over CA-33 are rejoicing over that.

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