Tuesday, May 30, 2006

If Harris Miller Is Liberal, Then Liberalism Is Dead And Dinosaurs Still Roam

The early general consensus among pro-Webb bloggers this morning is that today’s Mark Fisher column in the Washington Post is damaging to Harris Miller because it leads off with the following quote:

“There are three kinds of Democrats remaining in this Republican-dominated land of ours:

One kind believes the Democratic Party lost a large portion of its support and a significant slice of its soul to Ronald Reagan and will never again be a majority party unless it lures back those folks who grew up admiring FDR and JFK but migrated to Reagan.

The second variety of Democrat believes Reagan was the anti-Christ but would never say that in public. They talk about rekindling their party's connection to Middle America, but they say this with so little conviction that no one pays them any mind.

The third kind of Democrat is still horrified by the concept of Reagan -- and says so. This set of politicians is generally assumed to be the suicidal wing of the Democratic Party.”

What got Lowell at Raising Kaine and Virginia Centrist so excited was that Fisher seems to be labeling Harris Miller as part of the “generally assumed…suicidal wing of the Democratic Party.” I like that quote too and hope it's the one that sticks in the June 13 primary. In fairness to Lowell, he also disputes the liberal label and points out that Miller is far more conservative than Fisher recognizes and Lowell spells it out clearly.

But if you read Fisher carefully, I think he actually likes Miller and his portrait of the candidate is not really unfavorable. In fact, the picture that comes across is of a warm, fuzzy unrepentant liberal who may be out of touch with Virginia voters but who is both authentic and is the candidate with an endearing integrity. He is what he is, Fisher seems to say, with apologies to nobody.

But you can only reach the conclusion that Miller is a liberal, as Fisher does, if you have absolutely no knowledge of what liberalism actually is.

If a liberal is simply an urbane, Northern Virginia yuppie who sips the best white wine with his quiche while supporting abortion rights, then Harris Miller qualifies. But if liberalism boils down to a handful of divisive wedge social issues that actually hurt the Democratic Party in Virginia general elections, then liberalism is as dead as a dinosaur and deserves to stay dead.

In fact, by Fisher’s definition of a liberal, Miller is more liberal than actor Martin Sheen, who’s been arrested more times than a gangster, for his anti-war activities. Miller would also be more liberal than the late and much revered President of the United Farm Workers Union, Cesar Chavez, or John Sweeney, current president of the AFL-CIO. All of them are (or in the case of the late Chavez, were) devout Catholics who oppose abortion.

Far from being an unrepentant liberal, Miller is a Democrat crafted in the image and spirit of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist group that got the magical insight that the way to defeat Republicans was to ditch the liberal label and seek the support of big business. These geniuses wanted to be considered moderates rather than liberals and their solution to the problem of the liberal label was to tack right by being stridently pro-business at the expense of the most loyal and liberal members of the Democratic base, organized labor.

Thus they supported NAFTA, CAFTA, outsourcing and guest worker programs. In fact, it could be argued that the DLC wing of the Democratic Party, along with their corporate allies in the Wall Street wing of the Republican Party, have done more to create an economy where the wages of the average worker are flat and declining at a time when large companies are posting soaring profits and corporate executives are gobbling up obscene bonuses.

Harris Miller has been the poster boy for this economy by supporting outsourcing and guest worker programs. He has stated in testimony before the House Small Business Committee on off-shoring white collar jobs, in October 2003, that off-shoring is creating downward pressure on American wages, which is an overall positive because it may help to keep more jobs in the U.S., albeit at much lower wages. In fact, he stated, “Indeed, American workers may have to get used to lower wages.”

Corporate CEOs, one presumes will be forced to get used to huge bonuses and other rewards for wrecking the American Middle Class to boost their own profits.

In addition, Miller’s organization, Information Technology Association of America, supported HR 1119, in 2003, a bill that would have taken overtime pay away from workers. All unions, most Democrats in Congress, even lots of Republicans, and most of the country opposed this legislation, which is why it ultimately failed. In addition, Miller’s ITAA has partnered with union busting law firms to further oppose overtime protections for workers.

Even more damaging, in a Virginia race, Miller supported efforts to kill an amendment to the FY 2006 Transportation/Treasury/Housing appropriation that requires public-private competitions before work performed by 10 or more federal employees can be awarded to a private contractor.

Every federal union, including the non-AFL-CIO Treasury National Employees Union (NTEU), supported this amendment. Most contractors, though, hated the amendment because the simple fact is that most private-public competitions are actually won by government workers. Until this year, 90 percent of these competitions have gone to federal workers who consistently come in with less expensive bids than the private contractors. It seems that if private industry can’t compete successfully they’d rather change the rules. And certainly, if they can’t win the contract, the whole argument that privatization and competition saves the taxpayer money gets thrown out.

The only reason for supporting a change in these rules is so that elected officials can reward their corporate and lobbying friends with lucrative contracts at the expense of both federal workers and taxpayers.

That’s not the sort of special interest a real liberal would support. Yet Harris Miller was right in there fighting for the interests of the wealthy over the worker. In fact, his whole career has been one long fight for the privileged over the ordinary citizen, even to the degree that he once declared that he loved Bush’s tax cuts, which clearly benefit the wealthiest one percent at the expense of the fiscal health of our country.

That’s not a liberal. In fact, Jim Webb, who was an early opponent of the war in Iraq, and who understands the need to rebuild the working class by supporting policies that level the playing field and make worldwide competition fairer is closer to true liberal and true Democratic values than Miller ever will be.

The real question voters need to ask – and perhaps political columnists too would do well to ask – in evaluating a candidate for the primary is not how long he’s been in the Democratic Party but how well he reflects the values of the Democrats. Take one social issue out of the mix – abortion rights– and Miller doesn’t even come close. And ironically, Webb also supports a woman’s right to choose and gay rights. That’s not even in contention. So which real Democratic values does Miller bring that Webb doesn’t other than years of flacking for special interests behind the scenes?


Virginia Centrist said...

I too disagree with Fisher's portrayal of Miller as a liberal.

Problem is - Miller is running in the primary AS a liberal. So he might as well be one...

J.C. Wilmore said...

I disagree VC: the fact that he is only posing as a liberal is yet another reason to not vote for him. Miller has been dishonest in the way he has portrayed himself and that is a separate issue from Miller's atrocious record on many key Democratic beliefs.

Fortunately we have someone like Jim Webb we can support, along with leaders like Don McEachin, who endorsed Jim this morning.

Info_Tech_Guy said...

The fact that Miller is so clearly a corporate shill has resonance far beyond angry Democrats who aren't enamored of the DLC's winning ways...

For example, anger and opposition toward offshore outsourcing is found on the Right, among people generally considered "conservatives". Some of these people may think of themselves and even describe themselves as "Republicans" or "Independents".

Yet, while corporate domination of the Republican Congress and Executive is obvious, it has sparked bitter divisions which authentically pro-American worker democrats could exploit. Harris Miller can never exploit this Republican weakness because he is such a creature of the corporate lobby and considered about the lowest form of life to those Republicans and Independents opposed to corporate dominated politics. In contrast, Jim Webb is well suited to galvanise a wide-spectrum alliance against the corporate dominated politics of today.

Fisher missed this matter entirely but AIAW did not. Fisher failed to discuss Jim Webb's disaffection with the Republican Party's embrace of offshore outsourcing and economic policies adverse to the best interests of middle and working class Americans. Jim Webb didn't just announce opposition to the Iraq war; he has announced his wider progressive democrat social and economic values in "Born Fighting" and other venues. (I'm shocked that Fisher missed it.)

Frankly, Jim Webb has the capacity to do more than attract Reagan Democrats; he could just as well pull in people who once identified themselves as "Reagan Republicans".

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

I was going to send a letter to the WaPo about Marc Fisher's mislabeling of Miller but truth be told, being considered a liberal could hurt a candidate in the general election and I didn't want to leave the impression that Webb was running as a liberal.

He isn't, doesn't use that label and when he wins the primary, he doesn't need to be saddled with it because of me.

And Info-tech-guy is right. Webb could galvanize a broad spectrum of support because people of all political stripes are getting concerned about offshoring issues. Unlike so many of the wedge issues, important as they are, these are issues that are genuine unifiers and can bring back Reagan Democrats and even Middle Class Reagan Republicans.

R. Lawson said...

Harris Miller is the poster child for what I don't want the Democractic party to become. We have a party that seems to consistantly side with business - they are called Republicans.

The Democratic Party needs to embrace labor as its traditional ally.

There is not enough room in the Democratic party for Harris Miller and myself. If Harris Miller represents the "New" Democratic party I'm going to see about finding a job in India or China - because that is where all the jobs are going.

Anonymous said...

google H-1b Harris Miller

read anything you like

liberalbanana said...

I know I'm more than a week late in commenting on this but I just found your blog through searching on Google for information on Webb and Miller in regards to their stance on abortion rights. Your post has given me the information I need, that I haven't been able to find elsewhere; I'm off to vote absentee right now. Thanks for your eloquent writing on the subject - I look forward to reading more of your stuff!

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thank you liberalbanana, I'm glad you found my blog. I am surprised it was googled. And I'm very glad you're voting for Jim Webb. That's the best news.