Saturday, January 27, 2018

Alas, Beltway Types Don't Value Authenticity-- Maybe We Really Do Need Term Limits


Last cycle I begged the Congressional Progressive Caucus to not throw south Texas progressive Sonny Palacios under the bus by endorsing hard-core conservative crook Vicente Gonzalez. But most members didn't care about the border district and others were impressed with all the money the very Trump-like Gonzalez self funded into his campaign ($1,850,000). They endorsed him and he almost immediately went on the radio to make fun of them and their ideas. As soon as he got to Congress he eschewed the Progressive Caucus and joined the Blue Dogs. Embarrassing, isn't it? They then learn a lesson? Not at all. The Caucus just endorsed wealthy New Dem-- former lobbyist-- Angie Craig. One if them told me she's a married lesbian so how could they not? I wanted to throw up. They also endorsed Liz Watson in Indiana's 9th district. Like them-- but not like the people in IN-09-- she's a creature of the Beltway... and a liar. Because Bernie won IN-09 so big (40,186 to 31,803) she's suddenly calling herself a Berniecrat, despite the fact that she contributed to Clinton during the campaign and not to Bernie. That's a legitimate choice... but lying about it isn't. She's just another status quo careerist, not the real thing. The CPC should be looking for cues like that. They don't.

Like in the case of the Vicente Gonzalez race and the Angie Craig race, there's an actual progressive running in Indiana, Dan Canon. It's too bad the Progressive Causes folks didn't read the Vice feature on Dan. "The progressive civil rights attorney," wrote Michael Powell, "is one of the most fascinating midterm House candidates in the country, a longtime advocate for causes ranging from gay marriage to immigration to cannabis who spends his free time acting in community theater, playing in bands, and marching in protests. If he can get into Congress, it'll be proof for a lot of leftists that yes, their preferred candidates really can win." But not the loches at the CPC. Dan "has his work cut out for him: In 2016 Donald Trump won the district by 27 points and Republican Congressman Trey Hollingsworth beat his Democratic opponent by 14 after moving from Tennessee in 2015. But with the prospect of a nationwide 'blue wave' coming in this year’s midterm elections, Canon could actually win. If he does, it will serve as a flashing beacon that the Republican Party is in serious trouble-- just as the 2015 victory of Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Matt Bevin, a Tea Party outsider, was, in retrospect, a forerunner of Trumpism."
The incumbent Hollingsworth has one advantage over any eventual Democratic opponent-- he’s one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with almost $60 million in assets. Canon says his advantage will come through optics and lived experience. “You have people like Trey Hollingsworth who come to a district as an outsider millionaire with multi-generation wealth and doesn’t understand living paycheck to paycheck, doesn’t understand making the choice between paying for health insurance and paying the rent, or scrounging for change in the couch to buy a Big Mac,” Canon told me. “These are things that I’ve actually experienced, and I think gives me a point of identification with lots of other people. Very few if any candidates at an office this size understand those very real problems because of the prevalence of money in politics… It’s difficult for working-class folks to run for office.”

Now that an orthodontist with a massive and well-documented video game collection has dropped out the race, Canon’s most prominent opponent in the Democratic primary is Liz Watson, an attorney from Bloomington who spent most of her professional life in DC. Canon, by contrast, has always been based in the Ninth District, which stretches from Indianapolis’s conservative, affluent southern suburbs down to Louisville’s middle- and working-class northern suburbs 110 miles away. It includes the hip liberal college town Bloomington, vast swathes of farmland and rural communities, small factory towns, and a city whose opioid crisis is so extreme it led to one of the largest HIV outbreaks in US history.

Before he was a candidate, Canon was a civil rights lawyer on behalf of nearly every liberal cause under the sun. Most notably, he represented a gay couple in Kentucky denied a marriage license, a case that advanced through the court system and merged with others to become the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that gave same-sex couples the right to marry.

Canon is currently representing a group of protesters-- Kashiya Nwanguma, Molly Shah, and Henry Brousseau-- who say they were attacked at a Louisville Trump rally in March 2016 and are suing the president for allegedly inciting the violence by telling his supporters to “get ‘em out of here.” Judges have yet to decide whether the suit, which was brought before the election, can go forward; Canon and the other attorneys are attempting to get Trump’s tax returns during the discovery process and want to depose the president, saying in a motion that “as of this writing, Trump has played golf 20 times since his inauguration. He has the time for a deposition."

The suit also targets one of the alleged assaulters, Indiana resident Matthew Heimbach, who supposedly riled up other Trump supporters. Heimbach is the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party and promoted the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. “It’s about bankrupting the Nazis and smoking out the keyboard warriors,” Canon told me.

...Canon has already grabbed endorsements from multiple Democratic Socialists of America chapters and unions like the Teamsters Local 89. He seems to have a way of inspiring what Democratic operatives might call the “base.” Dustin Collins, his campaign manager, is a 27-year-old Air Force veteran and cancer survivor who married his minister husband thanks to Obergefell and cut his teeth in politics as an organizer for Barack Obama in 2008, helping to turn Indiana blue for the first time since 1964. “[Canon] stirred a passion in me that reminded me why I got involved in politics in the first place,” Collins told me, “a passion that we as a party need to reignite so we don’t continuously come in last in voter turnout.”

...Mary Hellen Ayres is a campaign volunteer and Bloomington resident. “Authenticity counts for a lot, especially outside of Bloomington,” she said. “He’s been living in this district most of his life-- he could’ve moved to Louisville or DC, but he didn’t. That means something.” Ayres said she and other activists in the Ninth will support whoever wins the primary, but Dan “has an ability that’s not shared by [Watson] to connect in a real way with people here,” she said. “We know the only Democrat that’s going to flip this district is the one who can get a lot of people to the polls.” Ayres, a midwife of 25 years, has some grassroots experience “working on a campaign to change midwifery laws in Indiana,” but said she never expected to work on a congressional campaign. “But I didn’t expect to find someone as exciting as Dan either,” she added. “He reminds me of a Paul Wellstone,” the legendary Minnesota progressive.

Canon is the sort of candidate leftists dream of—an actual populist, with unimpeachable credentials and even a sense of humor. He’s unwavering in his support of universal universal health care, decriminalizing marijuana as a means to tackle the opioid crisis, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and other progressive benchmarks. “Dan is unafraid to say what he believes, and the party really ought to be saying [the same thing],” Ayres said.

But his delivery stands out, especially in comparison to some milquetoast technocratic Democrats. "This is an act of incredible cruelty done for no other reason than to appease the lowest common denominator: Trump's white nationalist base,” Canon said in his statement condemning the Trump’s administration's to end protected status for 200,000 Salvadorans in early January. That's the sort of aggressive language Democrats have traditionally been hesitant to embrace, especially in red states like Indiana. “New candidates equals new rhetoric equals new party,” he said.

Canon’s response to the GOP tax bill was a press release marked up in the margins with handwritten notes like the actual tax bill. Canon is also very entertaining on Twitter, and has conducted novel fundraising stunts like #DineWithDan, where donors at the $25 level and above have a chance to eat a meal cooked by Canon at home.

“There’s this dual pressure in this part of the country that you have to be authentic and inauthentic at the same time,” Canon said. “[The Democratic Party wants] you be natural and real and yet dance around your principals.”

There are certainly shades of 2016’s election at play-- with Canon playing the passionate, insurgent Bernie Sanders and Liz Watson as the measured insider from DC. Canon himself doesn’t endorse that kind of talk, though. “People are looking for an excuse to re-litigate 2016, but I’m not because I don’t want to create a rift in the party,” he said.

Canon has raised more money than Watson in the last quarter but is still at a disadvantage compared to Hollingworth. Despite that disparity, a one-term incumbent who underperformed Trump in 2016 and voted for the massively unpopular healthcare bill is a textbook target for Democrats.

“We’ve got two good candidates, what a luxury,” said Ayres. “But [in the Ninth] the race is won by being yourself, and Dan being Dan, with his bold record in court, is a pretty winning proposition.”

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At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Voters ARE the term limiting function of the Constitution. But considering how little difference there is between the average GOP dope and DINO-Whig anymore, I can see where voters would stick with the devil they know as opposed to taking a chance on someone who could prove to be worse.

At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Face validity, that old slam bang quickie whammy way of judging people that is knee jerk and skin deep, is not a good way to choose candidates. A lesbian? Oh, she must be progressive. B.S.!! Lesbians have a range of political views, just like everyone else. The Progressive caucus should surely do a more in depth analysis before backing anyone.


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