Archive for October 16th, 2006

Much has been made of Montana’s shift leftward recently, as evidenced most noticeably in Jon Tester’s lead over Burns in this year’s Senate race. But Democrats are winning out in other traditionally “red” states, as well, most notably in Kansas where Kansas Demcoratic governor Karen Sebelius is leading her race for re-election.

Why are Kansas Republicans making the shift, abandoning the Republican party to vote for Democrats? Steve Rose, chairman of Kansas’ The Johnson County Sun made a very eloquent case for switching parties. First, Rose’s paper is hardly a bastion of liberalism:

In the 56 years we have been publishing in Johnson County, this basically has been a Republican newspaper. In the old days, before the Republican civil war that fractured the party, we were traditional Republicans. That is, we happily endorsed Jan Meyers for Congress, Bob Dole for U.S. Senate, Nancy Kassebaum for U.S. Senate; virtually every Republican state legislator from here, with a few rare exceptions; and most governors, although we did endorse the conservative Democrats George and Bob Docking and John Carlin.

Nor is Rose himself a “Democrat” in the traditional sense:

But the shift, frankly, shocks me, because I have pulled the lever over and over since my first vote in 1968 for Republicans. If I was a closet Democrat, I must have hidden it well, especially from myself, since I always beat up on Democrats in my columns. I have called them leftists, socialists, and every other name in the book, because I thought they were flat-out wrong.

And, for the most part, I still do. I am opposed to big government. I have little use for unions. I never liked the welfare plans. I am opposed to weak-kneed defense policies. I have always been for fiscal prudence. I think back to the policies of most Democrats, and I cringe.

Sure, hardly a ringing endorsement for the Democratic party, and (I’d argue) mostly flat-out wrong. But, hey! We’re talking about a Kansas conservative here. That he’d even publicly announce his support for Democrats is a minor miracle.

So…why’s he backing the Dems this year?

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

What does to-the-right mean?

It means anti-public education, though claiming to support it.

It means weak support of our universities, while praising them.

It means anti-stem cell research.

It means ridiculing global warming.

It means gay bashing. Not so much gay marriage, but just bashing gays.

It means immigrant bashing. I’m talking about the viciousness.

It means putting religion in public schools. Not just prayer.

It means mocking evolution and claiming it is not science.

It means denigrating even abstinence-based sex education.

[snip]

That’s why, in the absence of so-called traditional Republican candidates, the choice comes down to right-wing Republicans or conservative Democrats.

And now you know why we have been forced to move left.

Nice summary. And he doesn’t even mention the fiasco that’s become Iraq, the increasing calls from “old-school” conservatives to change our Middle East strategy and our diplomatic endeavors with Iran and North Korea.

“Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest,” [former George H. Bush speechwriter Curt] Smith said. “Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none.”

Some partisan zealots argue that voting for Democrats puts the Democratic party in charge, that the party will roll back gun rights or foist “liberal activists” into judges’ seats (never mind that the job of nominating judges belongs to the executive, which is still in Republican hands). That is, a vote for a Democrat is a vote for a Democratic government.

But considering the state of the contemporary GOP, I’d argue that’s not a bad thing at all.

This year you’ve got a clear choice. Either you vote for the status quo in foreign policy (lots of terrorists and North Korean nukes), the further radicalization of our government, an increasing federal debt, expansive executive power, and the erosion of the middle class; or you vote for change.

And here in Montana “change” means Jon Tester, who has a strong record working with small businesses and the middle class under a balanced budget, and who promises to do more than pay lip service to national security while protecting our American values of liberty and justice.

The choice is clear.

As the election season counts down to its conclusion, the number of stories on the Senate race have increased exponentially. It’s so a hard-working blogger can’t keep up anymore. In any case, today I’m abandoning any attempt to parse these stories for you. Instead, I’m just going to offer you a smorgasbord of links, which you can freely discuss in the comments or pilfer for your own use:

Town Hall tries to whip up last-minute support for our corrupt and incompetent junior Senator by reminding conservatives he belongs to the Republican party. Yes, the old right-wing tactic of putting political party over…well…everything.

More debate packing by the Republicans? Pathetic.

The Washington Times subscribes to the meme that Burns’ appropriations are key to the race. Another observer might note that Burns’ pork spending projects don’t endear him to his conservative base.

The Great Falls Tribune profiles Tester in a good piece by Gwen Florio. It includes an attack by Bob Keenan on the Big Sandy farmer; Montana won’t forget you favored the unethical and incompetent junior Senator, Bob.

The Billings Gazette runs a bunch of “personality” questions past Jon. Ditto for Burns.

The title explains it all. “Sen. Conrad Burns: A buffoon fights to save his seat.”

Matt Gouras on the candidates’ fundraising: Tester’s raised more lately, but Burns has more overall.

Max Cleland is stumping on behalf of Tester today in Billings.

Mike Dennison scrutinizes the “radicals” in Burns’ ads and finds…people.

Burns: “Taxes!” He left out the terrorists who want to kill you in your sleep. *yawn*

Despite the rhetoric otherwise, Burns “remains a stout defender of the oil and gas industry.”

Links…

Schweitzer on Colbert!

GOP abandons Republican Senator Mike DeWine and “braces” for Burns’ defeat by sending money to more competitive races. That doesn’t mean it’s time to relax, though.

There’s lies, lies, and then there’s…well…not statistics. But more Burns tall tales and fantasies from his supporters. Guess wandering into delusion is easier than admitting you’re backing a crook because of party preference. Classy.

Tester calls for more transparency in earmarking.

Craig Sprout travels into the “belly of the beast” to get an insider view of the opposing camp. Part one.

An American citizen was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court despite a judge wanting to dismiss all charges because of a complete lack of “material evidence.” So why the death sentence? Because U.S. officials said the dropped charges were “unacceptable.” Politics trumping law. This is your future under the torture bill.

Contrary to what conservatives would have you believe, today’s brand of vitriolic partisanship started with Newt.

So, is Iran Bush’s “October surprise”? Probably. Wheee. I suspect this may backfire. Do we really need another war right now? Watch as all h*ll breaks loose in Iraq.

Bush Sr. buddies air harsh criticism for Junior: “Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest. Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none.”

Which might explain why James Baker’s policy recommendations for the Mid East will be duly ignored by the Bush administration. Apparently the view from up Bush’s *ss is just fine.

More views from up *sses.

Nice piece on Bush constantly revising justification for Iraq – only two years late.

Bush to replace Iraq’s elected government? So much for democracy.

Speaking of Iraq, check out Friday’s episode of NOW, which featured an American filmmaker whose Iraq documentary is being used as a training tool for US troops. Great clips available; definitely a must-see when the full-length feature comes out.

Another “family values” conservative turns out to be a hypocrite. Surprised?

Another Republican legislator in trouble with the law over ethics. Had enough?

“It was as if the Kerry of 2006 were channeling the Dean of 2003.” Ugh. Nothing like being three years too late. Does he really think he has a chance in ’08?

In Connecticut’s Senate debate, Republican Alan Schlesinger stole the show. That’s good news for Lamont, as you’d expect CT GOPers to head back to the fold.

Here’s a simple way you can help get the vote out on election day.

It’s not just a gut feeling! Middle class families are much more vulnerable now than they were a generation ago!

Well, at least one positive thing came out of these last six years…an emerging Democratic generation.

Mark T reminds us of Ghandi’s seven deadly sins. A nice reminder of what’s important.

Sometimes I get down on all this political mumbo-jumbo. The issue of the day. The squabbling. The fight for meaning and spin and message. It seems petty some days, too focused on the minutiae. And the blow back is discouraging. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it. You’ve seen the others complain. The disdainful and hypocritical denunciations of partisanship. The bloggers threatening retirement or calling for moderation.

I get tired, too.

Take the squabble over the Hamilton debate. I watched in disbelief as Senator Burns deliberately and maliciously impugned his opponent’s reputation by casting baseless accusations about his ethics. It was gut-wrenching, those lies. To see a man baldly attack an honest man in front of a crowd! And I was glad he was called out by the crowd. At last! I thought. Accountability! But then the local media made the boos the story, and not the lies that spawned them.

What’s the point? The left blogosphere works so hard — I work hard – to present the issues and the facts and weigh the coverage, and it got all p*ssed away by some thin-skinned reporters with a bizarre sense of impropriety – blatant lies intending harm made by a U.S. Senator are acceptable, but not the subsequent outraged reaction. Aren’t these jaded beat writers the ones knocked senseless by years on years of dirty politics? You’d think they’d applaud some genuine anger from genuine people for low-brow campaign tricks. But I guess they need to slip loose pent-up frustration on someone, and it’s easy game attacking people you don’t get press credentials from, isn’t it?

It was demoralizing, first Burns’ negativity, then the press’ indifference to the Senator, and then the ill-placed outrage at the people.

Vacation didn’t help. Bunkering in with food and family relaxed me. Ignoring the outside world was just fine. It’s easy. Painless. No disappointment. What was the point, again?

But just before I left, I received a copy of Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas’ Crashing the Gate, which I had agreed to read and review here on my blog. I’ve been meaning to get it for some time; it is, after all, the handbook for the burgeoning online grassroots activism written by two of the most influential bloggers on the planet. Armstrong (MyDD) and Moulitsas (Daily Kos) attract millions of readers (compared to my hundreds); they serve as the information and fund-raising centers of the activist wing of the left blogosphere. What nascent left-blogger wouldn’t want to see the big plan the big guns were working by?

Expecting an instruction manual or blueprint for Democratic party success, I got much more than that: I got a reminder of why we’re in this fight, why blogging matters, why the Democratic party matters, why politics matter, why people matter.

You know, it’s not really a ground-breaking book. It presents a very simple and at times simplistic view of the current political situation. There’s a quick chapter lumping conservatives into a handful of “types,” then a lament on how single issue groups have disorganized the Democratic party and the left, and a scathing indictment of the Democratic insiders and leadership. Moulitsas and Armstrong urge progressives to adopt some conservative tactics – like, say, paying people to work in their organizations instead of expecting them to volunteer or work for next to nothing – to ditch the passive Democratic consultants who keep on losing elections, and to present a unified and grassroots-based front to redefine the Democratic party and reconnect to voters across the country. And, yes, Montana plays a leading role in the book.

The indictments against conservatives are prejudicial and sweeping, and the natural advantages of the left is understood, not proven, so it’s sure to throw those conservative nit-pickers into a frenzy! Which is, of course, another reason to buy and read the book.

So it’s a cheerleading book, and that’s one of the things that I found inspiring, the simple message that the left is the political wing of the people, interested in protecting, serving, and representing the traditions, culture, and sheer numbers of Americans. We believe in equality of opportunity, of individual liberties, and the democratic process. It’s not about issues, it’s about identity.

Another good point was the reminder that the current Democratic leadership does not currently represent these ideals – they’re still issue-driven, vacillating, unable to effectively stand up to the Bush administration as a bloc, and too subservient to big-money corporations and special interests.

And to stand up to the Republicans and insider Democrats, there needs to be a partisan — but not ideological — bloc that presents a clear alternative to big-money and Christian fundamentalism. 

That’s where the netroots and its political allies come in – we (that is, you and I) are redefining the Democratic party. We’re fighting to free politics from the sway of business and moneyed interests, and back on track to represent us. Americans.

That’s why we back Jon Tester.

By the way, I’m not telling you this as a paid operative of a political party or PAC or interest group. I’ve always followed politics, thrown money at candidates, but stayed aloof, as if my semi-neutral status protected me from the corruption and idiocy that currently plagues Washington DC. But that ended when the Bush administration started actively curtailing our liberties, started tapping our phones, logging our phone calls, created databases of our Internet activity, suspended habeas corpus, and tortured. That’s why I started blogging. That’s why I’m actively supporting Jon Tester and a myriad of other netroots candidates.

It’s because I believe in Jon’s character and ability. And I believe in his patriotism to the real America – not to business tycoons and fundamentalist preachers and faux-foreign-policy ideologues who have us invading countries willy-nilly to prove their potency – but to the principles on which this country was founded. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And that’s the truly inspiring thing about Crashing the Gates, is that it’s a reminder that I’m the one – and all the everyday folks like me – who’ll define what the Democratic party is all about. I’m the one – and all the everyday folks like me – who’ll win back America for Americans, who’ll boot the incompetent and corrupt out of power. I’m going to kick those b*stards out of DC, and you are, too.

So, yeah, I’d recommend the book, especially for every left-leaning person wanting to make a difference, and especially for you lefty bloggers out there. It will remind you of why you blog and what we’re trying to achieve, and that will make all the pettiness seem…well…petty.




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