Political Spoilers from the Left

campaign1Baltimore  Ok, the Tea Party is full of known whacks.   We all know that.  We can all agree that they were dead as a doornail as a mass-based organization.  Recently, they staged a series of rallies during the recess that had to be scrubbed, because nobody came.  Everyone agrees that they are totally off the chain in threatening even to shutdown the entire federal government soon in their obsessive fixation with the evils of Obamacare, yet somehow they continue to drive the Republicans crazy and push them farther and farther to the right.  How do they manage to do so much of this with so little?   I think part of their answer is simply that unlike the left, they are willing to be spoilers on the right.

            Tea people are now running in Republican primaries in Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee for example.   Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader from Kentucky, can’t be confused with a moderate and Alexander and Graham might only be seen as moderates in the polarization of contemporary politics.  Yet, the willingness of Tea people to run against them is chilling to the Republicans, and of course the fact that Tea people are also running against sitting Democrats in Louisiana, Colorado, and North Dakota and for open seats in Georgia, Iowa, and South Dakota, also sends a clear message.  These races move votes and legislation to the right, win, lose, or draw.

            Yet we are still unwilling to challenge even conservative Democrats from the left for fear of being spoilers, despite the abundant evidence of how successful the strategy continues to be for the Tea Party.  It seems that the Achilles heel for liberals, unlike the Tea Party people, is that they are unafraid of losing or being embarrassed, while too many potential challengers from the left want to be guaranteed victory before running rather than embracing the Tea Party and Mao’s maxim of “dare to struggle, dare to win.”   I’m heartened by Bill de Blasio’s race for Mayor in New York City, where he is unabashedly willing to parade his principles and is seeing them resonate.  I’m rooting for Wendy Davis in Texas to begin rebuilding a base from the left, rather than ceding this great state and its people to the right. 

            I’ll probably vote for Mary Landrieu again when she runs in Louisiana.   I always have.  Nonetheless, I will always cherish the day I met with her on a mission from SEIU and then President Stern several campaigns ago to deliver the message that no contributions would be coming to her campaign form the union, because “if we wanted to give to Republicans, we would donate to them directly.”  But, despite the fact that I will vote for Mary again in the general election, I would love to see a left challenger in the primaries to move some of her votes farther away from the oil and gas empire, the shot-to-kill gunners, and some of the others. 

            It seems clear that we have to have candidates that speak to us and our issues, even though we may lose a lot of elections before we win as many as we will, and that means embracing our inner-Tea Party and being willing to sometimes spoil, even if a moderate or conservative Democrat might lose, in order to finally see victory for progressive politics and politicians in the future. 



Tale of Two Cities Moving Voters

Bill de BlasioBaltimore   There’s something happening in New York City as candidates enter the last stretch in the primary elections for Mayor there.  Contrary to most expert assumptions and conventional wisdom, voters across all age groups, races, and political persuasions are responding to a candidate who is willing to say there needs to be more equality in the city and is willing to fight to make that happen.   The candidate is Bill de Blasio, currently the elected Public Advocate, and this is suddenly makes this election worth watching for politicians everywhere in the country and gives voters across America hope.

            De Blasio is not new to this argument after 8 years on the City Council representing the left coast of New York City around Park Slope in Brooklyn and throughout his career DeBlasio had many friends for his willingness to stand tall with unions and community organizations including ACORN and the Working Families Party.  He also has real skills rather than just a rap, having managed Hilary Clinton’s race for the US Senate for New York as well.

            Running for Mayor, De Blasio has campaigned on consistent messages on two issues that have caught fire.  One is the “tale of two cities,” where he has finally been willing to speak of the 800 pound gorilla in the city, where the rich and superrich on Manhattan have benefited wildly from the Mayor and his pro-Wall Street policies and billionaire bias.  New Yorkers are responding to his calls for more affordable housing, taxes on the rich to pay for improvements including pre-school and after-school policies for everyone.  Furthermore his aggressive, strident opposition to the Mayor’s stubborn support of racial profiling through “stop-and-frisk” policies which the court has now ruled unconstitutional have given him majority support among African-American voters even with a serious African-American candidate in the race.   Running for the 99% against the 1% is getting traction.  Running for equality and against privilege has meaning.   Running for affordable housing not tax breaks for McMansions is picking up votes. 

            The race is not over yet, but politicians beware.   Take notes and learn something.   The voters are ready for fighters like Bill DeBlasio and Wendy Davis, the Texas filibuster.  As Jim Hightower used to say, there’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead armadillos.