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Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Weekend of Events and Fighting Talk

This past Saturday was a busy time in Fairfax County, with all kinds of charity as well as political events going on. I got up at 5:30 in the morning to help a service club host one such charity event, a pancake breakfast at the Lincolnia Methodist Church (although the church was gracious enough to allow us to use its facilities, it was not a Methodist-related event). I won't mention the charity here because this is going to be a political post, and this service organization (like most of them) is distinctly non-partisan and not political. So, out of respect, I don't want to drag their name into a partisan diary.

Anyway, because I spent the better part of the day helping to serve pancakes and then clean up the fellowship hall, I only got to Dave Marsdens' kickoff and not Brian Moran's Hometown Kickoff. After Marsdens' event, I went home and pretty much crashed.

But Dave Marsden's kickoff was well attended and enthusiastic. Both David Bulova and Brian Moran spoke up in support of Marsden, urging Democrats to work hard to send back this valuable ally to the Virginia House of Delegates. Although Marsden is currently favored to win, he has opposition this time. The audience was urged by all the speakers not to take victory for granted.

Other local electeds in attendance included Chap Petersen, and Ilyrong Moon. I know Sharon Bulova planned to attend, but if she got there, it was after I had left. I did see her at the charity event in Lincolnia.

Blogger Kenton Ngo was there, with far better coverage than mine and gorgeous photos. He put together a slide show on New Dominion Project that is worth checking out.

Meanwhile, I regret missing Brian's event, but you can get coverage of it over at Left of the Hill, where Bryan Scrafford has put together video of Brian's speech. It reminds me of why, despite all the unnecessary shenanigans of some of his campaign staff, I am proud to be supporting Brian. The populism rang true in his remarks.

Remember, I was a long time hold out for John Edwards in the presidential primaries. Not that I'm comparing Brian to Edwards; Brian is his own man. But I think that in this economic climate, where citizens have seen the blatant double standard in the way Wall Street has been treated in the bailout, there is palpable anger.

Although much of the bailout was designed by Hank Paulson in the Bush administration, Obama's Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, and Connecticut senator, Chris Dodd, hurt the Democrats with their decision not to block AIG's bonuses to the same top executives who caused the meltdown in the financial markets. Most people easily saw that these top executives neither deserved a reward for their performance, nor needed an incentive to be retained. In fact, they should have been fired. You and I would have been axed for far less in the way of failures.

I think John Edwards would have gotten that. I suspect Brian would too. Don't misunderstand me, I like both Terry McAuliffe and Creigh Deeds, but Brian seems to be the most willing to fight for ordinary workers, women, gays, and blacks. He's the one who appears most comfortable truly standing up for the dispossessed in society. That doesn't mean he's never taken money from wealthy donors or large corporations, every successful candidate probably has, including John Edwards and even Barack Obama. Nor does it mean that he's never voted for something I disapprove of. Heck, I even disagree and disapprove of some of my own husband's opinions. Humans can't agree on everything.

But of all the candidates in this particular election cycle, he is the most progressively populist.

McAuliffe and Deeds are right to keep the focus on jobs. And Terry has a million creative ideas, some of which might even work. But we need more than just jobs. We need well paying jobs and a commitment to laws that protect workers from unsafe environments, unfair labor practices, and punitive laws that prevent them from organizing. We also need laws that protect the environment, promote green jobs, and protect the rights of gays, minorities, and women's reproductive freedom. Again, Brian is unambiguous in his pledge to do so and to fight for those who often can't fight for themselves.

The zeitgeist might be against fighters. But frankly, too much centrism and too much moderation could actually endanger the progressive agenda. Right now, it's allowing conservatives to tap into the populist rage and get out in front it to lead people in the wrong direction. That's something I'll have more to say about in future posts.

Of course, people are angry at the bailout, which, so far, they perceive as helping the fat cats. Meanwhile, the little guys are nervous about losing jobs and falling behind. They don't see relief for themselves just yet. It's coming, but by the time it gets to them, the narrative could already be set and the winds could be in our faces rather than behind our backs.

That is essentially what happened in the Clinton administration when Newt Gingrich was able to tap popular anger and turn it against the Democrats. In 1994, the economy was turning around, after the Bush I recession. But because jobs are always a lagging indicator, both going into and emerging from a recession, the unemployment rate was still high and people were under the impression that the economy was not yet rebounding. In addition, the Clinton administration had just gotten a tax increase on the wealthy, which helped balance the budget, end the Bush I deficit spending, and give the country a $236 million surplus. But the Republicans exploited that modest tax increase on a small segment of society to convince voters that their taxes too would go up (sound familiar?). Of course, that's a simplified, but accurate, view of what went wrong for Democrats in the midterm election then.

The best way to prevent that kind of midterm loss of Congress is to start aggressively making the case for progressive ideas. Right now there is a historic moment when Republican ideas about the free markets and globalization have failed and everybody can see that failure.

But if we don't press our ideas of economic fairness, wage parity, racial equality, and tolerance, we stand in danger of losing that moment. That's why, this time, I want a fighter to lead the Democratic Party. So far, Brian is making the best case as a fighting progressive.

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