Sunday, June 11, 2006



Marcy Winograd did the only thing someone who loves her country and loves democracy the way she does can do in our electoral system. She decided to hold her representative's feet to the fire and to make that complacent-- some would say arrogant-- representative, Jane Harman, answer for her conduct in Congress. The district, CA-36 (San Pedro, Venice, Redondo Beach, Torrance), is safely Democratic and the whole ball game, were there to be one, is the Democratic primary. So Marcy took up the daunting, next-to-impossible task of challenging a well-financed, nationally-prominent, entrenched congresswoman.

Marcy organized around the unpopular Iraq war and occupation-- which Harman has steadfastly supported-- and spread out from there to make sure voters in the 36th knew that support for the Republican position on the war was not an aberration. Over and above her bragging that she is the "best Republican in the Democratic Party"-- a remark Joe Lieberman might take umbrage to-- Harman has a voting record that is out of sync with her district and out of sync with any semblance of progressive thought. Of the 202 Democrats in Congress, her voting record is the 39th most conservative overall. The only California Democrats with worse records, Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa are both reactionaries from districts that have far more Republicans to worry about in them than Harman's.

Marcy, a grassroots peace activist, got nearly 40% of the vote after a short but intense campaign. She managed to raise $125,000 in less than 3 months to challenge a multimillionaire who is beloved by many large corporations that deal with the government, someone with a bottomless campaign fund and a slick, professional staff.

I called Marcy on the phone right after she had called Harman. Marcy wanted to congratulate her on her victory and she wanted to make sure Harman knew that she appreciated that the primary battle between them was fought on issues and not of personal attacks. The battle had been tough but never dirty-- from either side. I was calling Marcy for an entirely different reason. I knew I would soon be talking to another candidate who would be trying to pull off the same type of thing Marcy had just tried: challenging an incumbent Democrat in a primary in a deep blue district, an incumbent who had decided to sell out his constituents and play footsie with Bush, the Republicans and Big Business. I wanted to ask Marcy what her experience had taught her that could help Donna Edwards take on Al Wynn in Maryland's 4th CD.

Marcy gave me some advice for Donna (duly passed on the next day) and a lot of it had to do with the time. "I wish we had started phone banking earlier," Marcy told me. "We did a lot of door-to-door canvassing; you reach a lot more people on the phone. And I wish we had had more visibility with yard signs earlier on." Virtually everything should have started sooner, including Marcy's (and Donna's) strongpoint: working with a disparate and diverse network of organizations.

But rather than go through the ins and outs of cable buys, media strategy and internet viral campaigns, there's a whole other reason I decided to write about Marcy today. (Tuesday is Donna Edwards day for me, by the way.) Marcy has no intention of going away. She knows that Harman will never again brag-- at least not publicly-- about being the best Republican in the Democratic Party and she knows Harman will be watching her Ps and Qs now. But will she-- can she-- change her stripes? Marcy is prepared to challenge her again in 2008 if she doesn't shape up and start reflecting the Democratic values of the district in her work in the House.

And it goes beyond that. Marcy served notice on all the corporatists and war-oriented reactionary Democrats who try to run as progressives and then get to DC and vote with Republicans. And Marcy is thinking through an idea for a "shadow congress" for CA-36. PAC36 will be u and going and doing its best to keep Jane Harman moving in the right direction. And if that doesn't work... now time is on Marcy's side.

There is a lot at stake in Congress, a lot of money for a few people and, with no one watching closely, people like Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter, Bob Ney, John Doolittle, become the rule, not an aberration. Big Business interests will do everything and anything it takes to keep the gravy train flowing. Right now there is a grave imbalance between public interest and private interest. The Bush Regime and the DeLay/Frist/Santorum Culture of Corruption have tilted so severely towards private interests that the entire edifice of our democracy is in worse jeopardy since FDR had to step in and save capitalism from the unbridled greed and avarice of the capitalists. (That was the subject of the very first blog I ever wrote here at DWT.)

So what's an aware, awake, motivated citizen to do? I'm glad you asked. Public spirited citizens like Marcy-- as well as Jerry McNerney, Christine Cegelis, Ned Lamont, Rick Penberthy, Donna Edwards-- are not running for office for the reasons people like Bob Ney and Tom DeLay and Rahm Emanuel run for office. They are not power-mad egomaniacs. They are not looking to enrich themselves at the public trough. These men and women believe in making the country a better place through collective action. It isn't "me, me, me" for grassroots populist and progressive candidates.

I've mentioned David Sirota's incredible new book several times, but I never write out the whole title: HOSTILE TAKEOVER-- HOW BIG MONEY & CORRUPTION CONQUERED OUR GOVERNMENT-- AND HOW WE TAKE IT BACK. Reading it would be a good start and getting your friends and family and colleagues to read it would be a giant step. The people and organizations out to rape and pillage the public treasury are very determined and very powerful. Six years of Bush and his rubber stamp congress have made the barriers against them feeble and crumbling. The Jane Harmans, Steny Hoyers, Rahm Emanuels, Al Wynns of the Democratic Party are not going to save us. Either prepare to bend over or prepare for a real battle. As I hear more about Marcy's shadow congress, I'll be reporting it here at DWT. Tuesday the battle moves to Maryland.


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