Sunday, November 22, 2015

Be Careful With Political Scorecards And One-Issue And Identity Politics Groups


Nanette Barragán

Yesterday, in a post about food safety and how corrupt campaign financing can literally poison consumers, we listed all the Members of the House who had perfect 100% ratings on Food Policy Action's scorecard for 2015. There were lots of awesome congressmembers on there, people who are always fighting for the interests of ordinary working families, like Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Judy Chu, Ted Lieu, Donna Edwards, Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, Jerry Nadler, Keith Ellison and Mark Pocan. But there were also some pretty unsavory names on that list of members with perfect food safety records: disappointing New Dems like Ann Kuster and Elizabeth Esty and power-mad corporate sell-outs like Steny Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen. Good on food? Yes? Good on other issues? Sure, some. Good all around like Grayson and Edwards and Lee? Nope, not even close.

Even one of my favorite single-issue groups in the world, Climate Hawks Vote-- the best of all the groups when it comes to the environment in general and climate change specifically-- can inadvertently lead progressives astray. Last cycle they endorsed San Diego multimillionaire New Dem Scott Peters, then one of the overall worst Democratic freshmen, a total Wall Street whore and someone who tends to vote with the Republicans a great deal on almost any issue involving economics, although no one was surprised to see him among the 47 cowardly Democrats who joined the GOP Thursday to vote to equate the vetted Syrian refugee families with the terrorists they were fleeing. Peters always rolls like that. Today, partly because of Climate Hawks, Peters is still in Congress. He won a very tight race by less than 6,000 votes out of nearly 200,000 cast. According to ProgressivePunch, Peters' lifetime crucial vote score is 50.94, meaning he votes with the GOP against progressive legislation approximately half the time. They rate him a very low "F." Good on Climate though.

This year, Climate Hawks' first endorsement was Nanette Barragán, a great all-around choice:
We’re excited to announce our first endorsement of 2016-- Nanette Barragán, issuing a bold primary challenge to Big Oil in California’s 44th Congressional district. Last week during a critical vote on a fracking bill, state legislator Isadore Hall, III was sitting on the sidelines and chillin’ with his friends at Western States Petroleum Association as the vote count seemed to stall at 19 (it needed 21 for passage). He told them his voting strategy-- he would abstain so as to not cast the deciding vote, but if two others voted for it he’d have to go along so as to not hurt his reputation with the greens. Fortunately for Hall’s entirely undeserved reputation, two others voted yes, so he cast vote no. 22. He’s the #2 recipient of oil money in the state legislature last year.  His biggest legislative achievement was trying, but not succeeding, to require porn actors to wear condoms in shooting their films in California. Now he’s running for Congress in south Los Angeles. By sharp contrast, Nanette Barragán fights Big Oil. As mayor pro tem of Hermosa Beach, she stumped for “No On O” to keep oil exploration out of her city and off Los Angeles-area beaches, and won in a landslide. She’s been endorsed by Congressional climate hawks Ruben Gallego and Raul Grijalva as well as local green leaders like Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz... She’s equally passionate about bringing good jobs to working class folk of her district. Lots of green groups call for diversity. At Climate Hawks Vote, we act. Barragán is the 12th child of Mexican immigrants, a fact that matters in a district that is 70% Latino.
And that brings us to a different kind of single-criterial group. EMILY's List is one of the most corrosive groups passing itself off as part of the progressive movement. They endorse-- and work for-- Democratic women. Period. It doesn't matter if the woman is horrible or if her male opponent is better on women's issues. In the CA-44 race, they're on the same page as Climate Hawks (and Blue America): Nanette Barragán. So Nanette finds herself on a page that includes the most right-wing Democrat in Congress (Gwen Graham, who votes more frequently against progressive legislation than several conservative Republicans; Monica Vernon, a so-called "former" Republican; Anna Throne-Holst, Steve Israel's gal-pal, another candidate who isn't even a registered Democrat; and a corrupt lobbyist married to MSNBC's most wretched host, Chris Matthews. Nanette's great but what do these candidates all have in common? Yeah...

Yesterday EMILY's List was sending out multiple emails to raise money for Arizona New Dem Ann Kirkpatrick, who is making long-shot race against John McCain. She;'s a cowardly conservative who isn't fit to be in Congress and, as bad as McCain is on most everything, the few times he gets something right, make him worth more than Kirkpatrick's brand-killing excuse for being an elected Democrat. But she has what EMILY's List is looking for.

Just as bad as EMILY's List, is the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, at least this year when it is being run by one of the 3 or 4 most corrupt members of the House, Gregory Meeks. This cycle they're endorsing someone who may even make Meeks seem less corrupt in comparison: Barragán's opponent, oily Isadore Hall, the California legislature's most corrupt member. But he's the right race. There's nothing else to recommend him whatsoever, just another version of Ann Kirkpatrick.

BOLD Pac is the electoral arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They have also endorsed Barragán but, like any single-criteria group, they have endorsed some horrible people, including right-wing Blue Dogs like Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), the 3rd worst Democrat in Congress, and Pete Gallego (TX), who lost his seat last year in one of Texas' only swing districts-- although with a 71% Hispanic population-- because Democratic voters just couldn't pull themselves to go out to the polls and vote for someone who voted the GOP party line so frequently. BOLD Pac has also endorsed Kirkpatrick for Senate as well as a couple of excellent House candidates-- progressive champions Joseline Peña-Melnyk (MD) and Salud Carbajal (CA)-- as well as some pretty terrible ones, like Blue Dog Jim Costa, California's worst Democrat in Congress and reactionary Illinois Blue Dog Cheri Bustos.

It's all about the criteria-- or criterion. If all that matters is simplistic identity politics or a single issue, there's probably a group for you. Are you gay or a lesbian. Last year the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund contributed money to 8 candidates running for Congress. Two, Carl Sciortino (D-MA) and Mark Takano (D-CA), were an all around progressive champions. The rest... well, two of Congress' absolute worst Democratic members, albeit LGBT ones, were on the list Sean Patrick Maloney New Dem-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ). They also gave money to a serious young man very much like Maloney and Sinema, multimillionaire Sean Eldridge, who lost to a Republican in a nice blue upstate New York district. And let's not forget the two Republicans they contributed to, Richard Tisei (MA) and Dan Innis (NH), each of whom was running-- unsucessfully-- against Democrats with impeccable records of support for the LGBT community. But they were straight.

Groups like DFA, MoveOn, PCCC and Blue America actually try to get behind candidates who are good on gay issues, women's issues, Black issues, Hispanic issues, food issues, environmental issues, issues of war and peace, issues of campaign finance reform, issues of economic equality... and each group also vets candidates for personal integrity. Be careful how you spend your contributions. Just because someone is gay or a woman or Black or good on food issues... doesn't mean you'll necessarily agree with them on anything else.

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