Monday, May 03, 2010

Important Elections This Week In Ohio, North Carolina, and the U.K.


Crappy political leaders screwing it up for the rest of us

I don't know why, but the British voters never drove a silver stake through the heart of conservatism-- maybe its because conservatism has no heart-- and now the Tories, as vile, repulsive and dangerous as ever, are back. The Conservative Party leader, David Cameron-- think John Boehner with a little class and without the orange spray-on-tan-- warns that "difficult decisions would have to be made on spending cuts, but insisted a Conservative government would protect frontline services." It looks like a plurality of voters, probably just over a third, may actually vote the Party of Greed, Selfishness and Elitism back into power. "Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward, who defected from the Tories in 2001, has launched an attack on David Cameron, warning voters are 'sleepwalking into a living nightmare'." Yesterday's Observer calls the election "unpredictable."
[T]his has been the least predictable election of any in decades. Disgust at, and distrust of, politicians associated with the old order has been one of its dominant features. "The level of disrespect has been shocking," a former Labour MP defending a relatively safe seat said on Thursday.

Twenty-four hours earlier, Gordon Brown had made his life even more difficult when he was recorded describing 65-year-old Gillian Duffy from Rochdale, whom he had met minutes earlier, as a bigot.

"It will be even more ugly out there today," the Labour candidate said. "I can hardly face going out campaigning now." Another added angrily: "There is no safe seat after what he said."

The anger has been evident on doorsteps up and down the country. Traditional loyalties to Labour and Tory have been eroded. People want change, but are no longer willing to see it delivered on the basis of a Buggins' turn attitude of Tories alternating with Labour.

Alec Shelbrooke, the Conservative candidate for Elmet and Rothwell, near Leeds, used a farming analogy to describe his battle to win over voters in what felt and looked like a Tory area.

"I am a firm believer that you can't fatten the pig on market day. I have been working this seat hard for four years," he said, implying that people should by now be ready to switch to the Tories.

Unfortunately for Shelbrooke, he was unable to muster any such evidence. The first woman to answer her door to him during a canvassing blitz in the town of Garforth was a single mother. She was furious about MPs' expenses and said she would check his claims (he is a local councillor) and those of the other candidates before deciding.

Another woman who saw the Tories advancing up the street groaned: "Oh no. The last thing you want after a hard day at work." As she headed inside she grumbled: "I wouldn't vote for any of those bloody freeloaders anyway."

...It is not impossible that Labour can rally in the polls. But there is real chance that the Lib Dems-- endorsed by this paper today and the Guardian yesterday-- will beat them into second place in terms of the share of the vote. That would be a stunning result for Clegg. Even Labour strategists accept that, in that event, it would then be all but out of the question for Brown to hang on for long. If Cameron is deprived of an overall majority, the prospect of a Tory/Lib Dem coalition would come into play.

But unless Clegg receives some indication that Cameron would move on electoral reform-- which the Tory leader wants to resist but will not explicitly rule out-- it is hard to see how he would sign up. The Lib Dem leader has also made clear that he would be opposed to a deal with Labour under Brown. But there would also be difficulties with a Labour/Lib Dem coalition, if there were a new Labour leader who, again, had not been endorsed by the country.

Would Clegg reject both, and be prepared to see the Conservatives form a minority administration that would have to grapple alone with the need to cut the budget deficit? Clegg could conclude that this might not be his moment, but that it would not be too long before the plug was pulled on the Tories and that it would arrive. Then his party, and Labour with a new leader, could unite and push ahead with voting reform.

Even before the Brits march into the polls and vote for a hung Parliament on May 6, we have two really crucial Democratic Senate primary elections here-- one in Ohio and one in North Carolina, both tomorrow.

In each state, an accomplished female Secretary of State-- Jennifer Brunner in Ohio and Elaine Marshall in North Carolina-- who is more progressive than the decidedly less accomplished male running against her looks like a better prospect against a far right Republican running in the November general election. Yet the blinkered and badly led DSCC has chosen to toss party rules to the wind and sabotage the efforts of both the progressive women in favor of far more malleable, wishy-washy men with virtually no chance to win the seats. It's almost as if DSCC Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has decided he's going for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most failed and incompetent party leader ever... anywhere. This is the brilliant strategist who lost the safest Democratic Senate seat in the country and is now tossing aside two extremely able and proven women for a couple of losers who will inspire no one to even bothering to vote.

North Carolina is likely to result in a runoff, although Elaine Marshall, despite Menendez's attempt to decide this race for North Carolina voters, is ahead. National Democrats have starved Jennifer Brunner's campaign of cash. She's getting huge grassroots support, but Menendez has managed to shut off all institutional money from her campaign, making it very difficult to get out her inspiring message. In North Carolina grassroots organizations like DFA and local bloggers like Pam Spaulding have endorsed Marshall. Meanwhile the clueless and divisive Menendez couldn't be doing a better job at re-electing Burr if he were on the GOP payroll. Last Sunday, despite the noises from Inside the Beltway, the Charlotte Observer also endorsed Marshall:
Marshall's story is one of an underdog who has made good. Marshall became the first woman elected statewide to executive office in North Carolina in 1996, when she defeated NASCAR legend Richard Petty in a race for secretary of state. She has won re-election three times since and is the only one of this bunch to have won statewide. In 2008, she won more votes in a contested race than anyone but Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Her 13-plus year performance as secretary of state has been impressive. She was instrumental in bringing about lobbying and ethics reforms. She brought organizational skills and technological upgrades that have vastly improved the performance of her department. She is recognized for her efforts to combat counterfeit goods and protect copyrights. And she has battled consumer fraud.

She did these things with never a whiff of the scandal that has plagued so many Democrats in state government during that time.

Before winning statewide, Marshall fought for women's rights as a rookie state senator. She also practiced law and taught public school.

Marshall is authentic, smart, experienced and public-service oriented. She has taken on special interests and won. At the same time, she is not the most dynamic campaigner in the race. She does not speak with passion about all the biggest issues the nation faces. And despite her electoral success, she finished a distant third in the 2002 Senate primary, behind Erskine Bowles and Dan Blue. Still, she has the personality, record and commitment to get elected and be an effective advocate for North Carolinians. [Cunningham] wasn't going to run unless the Washington establishment insiders committed to backing him. Cunningham decided against running last fall, and changed his mind only after the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pledged to help him win. We prefer candidates who are passionate and confident enough to run whether they have blessings from the D.C. brass or not. His challengers say his decision to run is not the only time he has flip-flopped, citing his stances on oil drilling, financial reform and unions (an allegation he disputes).

The Ohio blogosphere has largely gotten behind Jennifer Brunner both because she is more progressive on the issues and because she is far more electable in a general. And women's organizations feel very strongly about this race and about the DSCC's very strange positioning.

Jennifer sent this message, remarkable for the kind of issue specificity that cowardly Beltway hacks always advise candidates against, to Ohio voters as they sit down to make up their minds about tomorrow's election:
I love Ohio. And it's because of Ohioans. That's why I want to represent you and Ohio in the U.S. Senate. It matters to me what happens to my state and its people. This Tuesday, May 4th, we have the opportunity to take bold steps for Ohio and for the Democratic Party.

Our campaign has been like no other. "The Courage Express," our silver school bus we bought for $2050 on eBay, has taken me to every corner of Ohio. Our "Courage Campaign" has given me the opportunity to meet and talk with Ohioans in a personal way and for them to see the kind of Senator I will be--one who cares about people ahead of money-- and who will fight to end for them.

I don't take money from banks we bailed out with our tax dollars, because I know there is tough work ahead in ending the harmful financial schemes that put us in this grinding recession in the first place. Neither my primary opponent nor my general election opponent can say the same. And I believe the full culpability of these financial institutions has yet to be revealed.

As Secretary of State, I set four goals and accomplished them in two and a half years. Now, I want to move forward on jobs, banking regulation reform, bringing home our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and more reform in health care.

I've been described as "unscripted and uncensored" as opposed to a "retail politician," because I will tell it to you like it is. I'll answer you honestly and directly, explain my positions, listen to your perspective and work harder than anyone to improve the quality of life for Ohioans and Americans.

I've fought in this Democratic primary for a level playing field for Ohio women to see one of their own elected for the first time to the U.S. Senate. Imagine how I'll fight for you.

Blue America is running a kind of contest around the five May Senate primaries by which we're giving away an RIAA-certfied multi-platinum Barenaked Ladies award disc to the campaign that gets the most votes on this page, a vote being defined as a campaign contribution of at least one dollar. Front-runners have been Jack Conway of Kentucky and Bill Halter of Arkansas. The contest ends at midnight today, so there's still an opportunity to vote. Please do.

And this video? It's only for women and men who value women as people:

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