Saturday, April 01, 2006

Do the Fairfax Democrats Know They Could Win?

It's a good question. At least, you've got to wonder about the insiders and party regulars. By their choice of candidate, Harris Miller, it almost looks like a kamikaze desire to re-elect conservative Republican George Allen to the Senate and seal his presidential nomination in 2008.

You know, even if Harris Miller didn't morally offend me by his support for outsourcing at a time when American jobs and our whole standard of living are in serious peril, I would still argue from a strictly cold-blooded, objective, and rational point of view that he is strategically a dumb choice for the Fairfax County Democratic Party to support.

One of our biggest issues right now should be the connection of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff to Tom DeLay and his closest operatives Tony Rudy and Mike Scanlon, both of whom pleaded guilty to corruption charges and are planning to testify and name names in Congress. The Washington lobbying scandal is not only not going to go away, it's just starting to heat up.

And while I don't mean to suggest that Harris Miller is any where near as corrupt as they are (in fact, I have absolutely no reason to think he is anything less than honest), at a time when Democrats should be out there with both fists swinging at corruption and lobbying abuses, Harris Miller just can't do that. He may be deserving of a shot at a Senate seat, but this isn't the year for it.

If timing is everything, the timing for his candidacy just isn't now. Why would the Democrats pick him when it would be shooting themselves in both knees and handicapping one of their best issues, which is precisely cleaning up a corrupt Congress that has become beholden to lobbyists run amuck and special interests?

Personally I don't believe that all lobbyists are the bad guys. Point of disclosure, I've been a lobbyist. When I went to visit my Congressman in Washington to get him to oppose the war in Vietnam years ago, I was lobbying him. When I went with church social action groups to lobby for support for programs that aid poor people, for affordable housing, and for a living wage, I was doing just what a professional lobbyist does. I was trying to influence my elected officials on behalf of a cause.

True, I didn't throw around millions of dollars or lavish skyboxes at Nationals and Redskins games on them. And that's where the problem lies. It's not in the legitimate lobbying activities, which are, after all, every citizens' rights, it's in all that money that appears to buy access. And quid pro quo.

And even though the vast majority of lobbyists don't approach the level of an Abramoff, this is just not the year for a lobbyist - and one who lobbied for Diebold at that - to run for office.

In addition, with so many Americans being laid off, this is not a time to run a candidate who was the poster child for both outsourcing and guest worker programs. Miller was a big supporter of the H-IB program, which brings over 60,000 highly skilled computer programmers, technicians, and other high tech employees into this country each year. Back in the 90s the argument was made that this program was needed because there was a huge shortage of skilled high tech employees, which was threatening the economy and the ability of businesses to expand. Miller, lobbying for the tech industry, claimed that jobs were going vacant due to lack to qualified applicants.

And in the heady years of the high tech bubble it might have been true. But that bubble burst years ago. Many high tech jobs are no longer also high paying jobs. Many in that industry have faced several layoffs and despite the fact that large corporations like Microsoft have gotten back on their feet, a glut of skilled workers in this field has led to lower wages - it's simple market economics, the supply of highly qualified workers exceeds the demand for them. So, importing even more workers makes no sense unless it's because you want to keep wages depressed. And guess who would benefit from an overcrowded market of workers and lower wages and cutbacks in benefits for workers? Yup, investors and corporations. H-IB is nothing more than a cost cutting scheme by greedy businesses that care more about their record profits than about paying a decent wage.

With layoffs of companies from the airline industry to GM and Delphi to the continuing stagnation of wages even in highly profitable industries, outsourcing and guest worker programs are another natural Democratic issue. And Democrats usually do come out on the side of protecting workers' interests. Unfortunately, this is another issues that Miller can't use to his advantage. And it already shows.

At a Fairfax County annual St. Patrick's Day party, held by Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Gerry Connolly, Miller lost a straw poll to James Webb, his challenger in the primary.

Although Miller, a former chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC), had the support of all the party insiders, including many normally progressive state senators and delegates, the grassroots activists gave overwhelming support to Webb, much to the consternation of the insiders.

That's because they just don't get it. This is not the year for a Democrat to support a lobbyist whose primary efforts have been to lobby for outsourcing and guest worker programs and also one who has been a supporter of the war in Iraq but who never served in the military himself.

That's another issue. Many people believe that the Republicans have far too many chicken hawks in their ranks, who think it's fine to send somebody else's child to die for a war of choice. Here we could have a decorated military man, a former Secretary of the Navy who turned his back on the Republican Party because he's disgusted with their mismanagement of the war in Iraq and the economy. Instead, Fairfax's Democratic insiders want to pick somebody who is virtually indistinguishable from those Republicans?

Geesh, where's Bob Shrum when you need him? Even he's smarter than that.


Stomp Allen said...

This is a very well thought out and strong blog piece.
I think it should show up on!
Great job!

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thanks. I'm not sure how I would get it to but obviously I'd like to see as many people as possible at least consider the ideas. This could be the year Democrats retake Congress. I'd hate to see Virginia buck what could be an important national trend. And if it's close, a Democratic win here could tip the scales in favor of a Democratic Congress.

And another Democratic victory in Virginia helps Mark Warner's chances in 2008. My verdict is still out until I see who else is running and what they have to say, but I'm certainly interested.

Stomp Allen said...

I may be wrong - but I think you submit your blog to - and anything relevant to VA will be added to the blog roll.

You should definitely try it!

I agree about this being the year the Democrats can retake congress and the good implications that would have for Warner.

Go Webb!

thegools said...

Thanks for getting that on Lefty blogs. I am glad to read it.

J.C. Wilmore said...

Great blog. Welcome to Lefty-Blogs!