Friday, May 04, 2018

Diana DeGette Isn't A Terrible Congresswoman But Denver Deserves Better-- Meet Saira Rao


Last year in Colorado, the state's Democrats went heavily for Bernie over Hillary. He took 71,928 votes (58.9%) to her 49,256 (40.4%). Wasserman Schultz and the DNC had rigged the convention rules so that Colorado sent 40 Clinton delegates and just 38 Bernie delegates. Denver County was Bernie Country by a similar margin as the whole state's, but Congresswoman and super-delegate Diana DeGette didn't care what her constituents wanted and had voted for; she went to the convention and voted for Hillary-- a slap in the face to local voters. DeGette always knows better than anyone else. Her constituents were furious-- and haven't forgotten. Her primary opponent this year is a Denver progressive, Saira Rao, who we just endorsed this week. I asked Saira to introduce herself to DWT readers with a guest post. The confessional headline below is her own. The ActBlue congressional thermometer below is Blue America's... a place where you can help Saira make sure she has a chance to get her message out to Denver voters:

Corporate Democrat-Turned-Progressive Runs For Congress
-by Saira Rao

My name is Saira Rao. I am 43 years old. I am running for Congress in Colorado’s congressional district one. I am a recovering neoliberal corporate Democrat.

There I said it.

Goal ThermometerA step back to the fall of 2016. I did what I always did—this time, with the kind of passion typically reserved for an excellent chicken vindaloo. My efforts to get Hillary Clinton elected bordered on mania. We housed Clinton volunteers from Canada at our home for three months. My 8-year-old daughter took a break from soccer season to join me. We phone-banked, we knocked doors, we carved HRC jack-o-lanterns, we lit candles.

Then Hillary lost. Like so many other neoliberals, I wept, I mourned, I tweeted about the “Orange Cheeto,” I broke up with friends who had been lukewarm about Hillary.

And then I woke up. We can all recall the horror of the first Muslim ban, with planes landing, people arriving at airports only to be told they’d be sent back, families destroyed, hysteria, confusion, TRAUMA. One of my best friends, Neeti Pawar, founding President of the South Asian Bar Association, did what she always does-- she helped. Neeti spent her weekend at the Denver International Airport fighting for people’s civil rights-- and then attended our Representative’s one annual town hall of the year, held a few days after the Muslim ban at the-- wait for it-- police building. Guess who isn’t feeling so safe going to the police building in that climate? Neeti was one of a handful of non-white people in a crowd of roughly 1000. She asked about immigration and DACA protections. Her questions weren’t received well. Neeti kept at it. She was told to leave or remain silent. Neeti followed up and was told by staffers that civil rights weren’t the representative’s “issue.” Civil rights are life and death for people of color.

Look, America has had a love affair with white supremacy since the beginning, only it was largely closeted. Trump emboldened folks to come out, the KKK, Nazis, etc. That’s all the obvious stuff. Less obvious, but equally insidious, are the neoliberal, corporate Democrats who flood the streets with pink hats, rail against Donald Trump morning until night but then turn a blind eye to Black Lives Matter. A friend recently said: “Conservatives are boots on the ground white supremacists. Neoliberals shine their boots for them before they go to battle-- and then talk smack about them on Twitter afterwards.”

After this thing with Neeti, I got to thinking-- and I know many of you will roll your eyes, wondering why it took me so long to connect the dots-- why is it that we don’t have a Clean Dream Act when the Democrats were in power for so long? Why is it that prescription drug prices soared on the Democrats’ watch? How is it that we have the greatest income inequality in nearly one hundred years? Why doesn’t Flint have safe drinking water four years later? Why are we allowing our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico suffer and suffer and suffer?

Corporate Money In Politics

Again, I realize you knew this all along. But this was a big awakening for me. And I have to say, the fact that it took me as long as it did, makes me deeply concerned about how asleep most Democrats continue to be. This dirty money isn’t a sideshow, it’s the main event.

If the Earth had a super pac, we’d stop trashing it. If Dreamers were rich and white, we wouldn’t be deporting them. If Democrats weren’t taking MILLIONS from Big Pharma, insulin wouldn’t have gone from $1.80 to more than $300 a shot in a few years.

We will never be able to have nice things-- healthcare, education, racial, social, environmental equity until the corporate money is out. It’s not rocket science: Eli Lilly cuts you a check, you answer to Eli Lilly. AETNA funds you, you answer to AETNA.

How is it that we give corporations a $1.4 trillion dollar tax cut, but we can’t figure out a way to eliminate student loan debt, which incidentally is $1.4 trillion dollars. The money is there-- our priorities are completely out of whack. We choose profits over people. We choose profits over the planet.

There’s a saying in the book business, of which I’m in in my normal life: “If you don’t see the book on the shelf you want to read, go write it.” I look around Colorado. All 9 members of our congressional delegation are white. There’s a ton of corporate PAC money lining coffers here, there, everywhere. We don’t have much time to turn this ship around, and I decided to stop hoping and praying a true progressive, not beholden to corporate money, would show up and run. So I did it myself.

The primary is June 26th but Colorado is a vote by mail state and the election will start when ballots drop June 4th! Let’s prove to America that we can do this and do it right. That we can choose people over profits. I don’t like talk of taking our country back. Let’s take our country forward.

UPDATE: Democratic Establishment Needs A Lesson From Voters

Today, Denverite published an article by Esteban Hernandez showing how the Democratic establishment tries to undermine grassroots progressives like Rao and Levi Tillemann.
An email sent out by the district and provided by Rao’s campaign shows only DeGette was given a speaking opportunity during a primary candidates forum. While the state district falling within the CD1 boundaries, only DeGette was listed as a speaking candidate.

After Rao’s campaign pointed this out, the committee organizers invited her the day before the event. But Rao decided not to go because it was such short notice. Rao said the party has gone out of its way to put up “institutional roadblocks” and treat her like “a second-class citizen.”

“It’s constantly this, ‘You should be grateful for what you have,'” Rao said.

Together with Levi Tillemann’s complaints against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in CD6, it raises the question of whether the Democratic Party has moved on from its 2016 divisions as it hopes to ride its “blue wave” to this fall’s election.

“Those wounds still are raw,” Tillemann said. “What I tend to talk about is the fact that I did support Bernie, and I contributed to his campaign, and I was inspired by Bernie.”

Tillemann added he volunteered for Clinton’s campaign after she won the party’s nomination.

Rao, though, was a Clinton supporter. She bills herself as a progressive who’s running to help get the party back to its roots and to ensure the party has a robust primary process. There are areas where Rao said she differs from DeGette, including her supporting a single-payer healthcare system and keeping corporate money from politics. She also said she got into the race because it’s time for new leadership.

“We keep electing these same people over and over again. It’s obviously rigged in their favor,” Rao said.

DeGette, in contrast, has previously questioned support for single-payer healthcare and has taken donations from PACs.

...DeGette didn’t seem interested in discussing the Tillemann meeting with Denverite; when asked if the meeting had been cordial, DeGette declined to answer yes or no. A DeGette campaign spokesperson said DeGette told Tillemann she saw her role as a senior Democrat as someone who should stay neutral and ensure races stayed positive.

But Tillemann said his conversation last summer with DeGette had some similarities with the conversation he had with Hoyer.

“It didn’t go well,” Tillemann said, before continuing, “It ended rather abruptly at her discretion.”

DeGette said she doesn’t think it’s appropriate for the DCCC to be involved in “weighing in” on candidates, which she expressed to the committee. She said she hasn’t endorsed any candidate in the race and that Hoyer’s suggestion that Colorado’s Congressional delegation picked Crow over Tillemann didn’t include her. Tillemann said he was surprised to hear DeGette said she was being neutral.

DeGette was willing to share this about the CD6 race: “I find it deeply disturbing that a candidate, that anybody, without the knowledge of someone, secretly taped a conversation with a senior member of the House.”

Rao said she hasn’t been approached by DCCC members, but wasn’t surprised by the recordings. She called out U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, another long-time incumbent, for defending Hoyer after the recordings were made public.

“It sounds like the mob,” Rao said. “Nothing about that surprised me.”

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At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those who believe the party can be reclaimed from within should be reading Esteban Hernandez exposing how the party is undermining progressive candidates, and then look for the many others even here on DWT. This is what you face as opposition, and until you admit that you are up against this, you aren't going to win.

I personally don't see how you are going to overcome entrenched economic elites by playing their game with their rules on ground of their choosing. This is why I advocate for leaving and creating a new option.

Those who disagree can go prove me wrong.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From die-hard Clinton supporter to new found progressive. Seems like a conversion of convenience. I wonder what it would take to turn her back into a Clinton superfan? An endorsement from the Clintons?

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "democrats" tend to follow the example of the Republicans. The GOP is reportedly rigging the 2020 primary to ensure that Trump wins.

Watch for the "democrats" to do similar things to ensure that HER! gets HER! Turn!

At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrt 8:37, the rnc has the dnc to thank for showing them how to rig a presidential primary... DON'T THEY Donna Brazille and Saira Rao? You guys were there and saw how the DNC totally ratfucked Bernie and his voters (noted herein how the DNC superseded the wishes of CO voters).

"the fact that it took me as long as it did, makes me deeply concerned about how asleep most Democrats continue to be. This dirty money isn’t a sideshow, it’s the main event."

Ok. Let's give you the benefit of the doubt that your epiphany is genuine and not just a gimmick issue.
The money isn't just the main event. It's the ONLY event. Has been since about '82. And someone working as hard as you evidently did to get the worst democrap candidate ever elected should have known this all along. Yet the Bernie ratfucking wasn't enough. The $hillbillary record of spreading death and misery all through central America and the Ukraine to the benefit of us corporations wasn't enough. The rigging of several state primaries and caucuses wasn't enough. The existence of superdelegates, sworn to be faithful to $hillbillary before a single state primary had been held, wasn't enough.

The issue isn't that you never learn. It's that you don't learn until it's much, MUCH too late.

But the biggest issue is that YOU'RE STILL A DEMOCRAP!

After your epiphany, if it is genuine, one would expect you to eschew the organization who is as corrupt and crooked as has been so clearly described in Brazille's book, DWT and by the naked eye (the open ones, anyway).

As a democrap, even a left-of-Pelosi kind, you will still be impotent to affect anything AT ALL with Pelosi and friends ruling the house caucus as tyrants to the benefit and at the direction of corporations and billionaires. AND YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS.

I wonder how long THAT epiphany might take.


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