Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hawaii-- A Simple 6-Minute Video Shows The Difference Between Progressives And New Dems On Social Security And Other Issues


There may not be a more important Democratic primary this summer than the August 9th election in Hawaii as incumbent progressive Senator Brian Schatz faces a challenge from Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, a leader of the Wall Street-owned New Democrat Coalition, the predominant component of the Beltway's Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

They differ on a range of important issues, including the environment, war and peace and LGBT equality.

But it’s on Social Security where their differences-- and the differences between progressives and New Dems generally-- are perhaps most stark, as seen in a six-minute excerpt, up top, from a recent Schatz-Hanabusa debate. Last year Hanabusa voted for an amendment by Blue Dog Congressman Kurt Schrader that supported the Social Security-cutting recommendations of former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley board member Erskine Bowles.

As Schatz pointed out, Hanabusa was asked to vote against the amendment the day before the vote in a letter by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. But Simpson and Bowles asked her to vote for it. And, consistent with the New Dems’ post-2012-election announcement that "we’re ready to deal," Hanabusa voted for the amendment.

Schatz described it, simply and accurately, as a bad vote.

During the debate, Hanabusa defended her vote in three ways. First, she said the legislative process is confusing (implying she voted for it by mistake). Second, she made the surprising (and obviously false) statement that "there’s never been any threat to Social Security." Third, she claimed that “Social Security is dear to every Democrat’s heart” and it was therefore unfair to question her commitment.

Schatz noted many Blue Dogs and New Democrats have been eager to join Republican calls for Social Security "reform." Trusting her because she has a D after her name is dangerous. But he went further. He said it wasn’t enough to be for the status quo. He made an obviously well-researched and heartfelt case for expanding Social Security benefits, which he’s actually already proposed. His stance-- not standing pat, but wanting to do more-- is reminiscent of Patsy Mink’s famous quote on progressive leadership:
"It is easy enough to vote right and be consistently with the majority. But it is more often more important to be ahead of the majority, and this means being willing to cut the first furrow in the ground and stand alone for a while if necessary."
Of course, Hanabusa even has trouble with even the "easy enough" part of that, ranking in the bottom half of House Democrats in ProgressivePunch rankings, despite coming from a 70-percent Obama district. Schatz has been endorsed by feminist scholar Wendy Mink, who happens to be Patsy’s daughter, partly because of his progressive work on Social Security.

After the debate, Hanabusa sent Time Warner lobbyist Peter Boylan (on leave to work on her campaign) on a damage-control mission. Apparently enamored with her inane statement that all Dems are good on Social Security, Boylan helped her litter social media with a misleading graphic displaying the quote. And they flat-out lied about her vote for the Simpson-Bowles amendment authored by Congressman Schrader. Schatz precisely noted she voted for the Schrader amendment to H.R. 444; he said nothing about the final vote on H.R. 444 itself. Here’s the rash, duplicitous tweet (just another low-class moment in a scurrilous campaign in which Hanabusa can’t even bring herself to offer Schatz a genuine compliment):

Advocacy groups aren’t falling for her act:

Neither are Hawaii voters:

One can only wonder what an increasingly desperate Hanabusa will try in the primary’s final debate, Thursday at 7 p.m. HST (10 p.m. PDT). Watch the live stream at or monitor the debate via the lively #HIsen hashtag. But first, chip in to help Schatz get out the vote.

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At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're assessment of the Hawaii campaign is dead-on. Hanabusa is a Dem with a very, very small d. NCPSSM endorsed her in 2012 and bailed in 2014 because she is clearly not the best candidate on Social Security. Bowles-Simpson would've hurt her constituents tremendously, so she should be held accountable for that horrendous vote.

It's time Democrats understand they can't campaign as progressives back home and vote as business-backed centrists in Washington and expect the electorate to fall for it.


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