Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Sore Loserman -- Why Lieberman Must Drop out
Last night, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman lost a hard-fought Democratic primary to challenger Ned Lamont. Despite campaign visits from party leaders like Bill Clinton and Barbara Boxer to boost the incumbent Senator's campaign, Lamont proved that Joe Lieberman is out of step with his party, his state and his country. More than any Democrat, Lieberman has consistently supported a failed war in Iraq that has hemorrhaged American lives, the American budget, and America's standing in the world. This election sends a powerful message to politicians of all parties that "stay the course" is the wrong strategy, and it shows Democrats in particular that they cannot continue to blindly follow President Bush's policies.
Lieberman was visibly angry in his concession speech, as he vowed to ignore the primary result and continue to campaign against Lamont in November as an independent candidate, draining away resources from the Democratic Party that would be better used elsewhere. He came off as a bitter old man, who after scolding his own party for being too harsh on President Bush, simply could not understand why Democratic voters would want to choose someone else. For an 18-year Beltway politician like Lieberman, losing a primary was a genuine blow that almost never happens. But it does happen occasionally, and the last time a long-time Democratic Senator lost his re-election in a primary should teach Lieberman a lesson or two about knowing when your time is up.
In 1992, Illinois Senator Alan Dixon had never lost an election in his 42-year career. Like Joe Lieberman, he was a conservative Democrat - but unlike Lieberman, he didn't delight in attacking and undermining liberals in his own party at every single opportunity. But a few months before his re-election, Alan Dixon voted to confirm Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court. This prompted Carol Moseley-Braun, a Chicago politician who was then Cook County Recorder of Deeds, to face the odds and take on an incumbent Senator in her own party's primary.
Political establishments always support their own incumbents, and just like how the Democratic Party leaders got behind Lieberman, they got behind Senator Dixon in the primary. But Carol Moseley-Braun defeated Alan Dixon. Unlike the Lieberman-Lamont race, Moseley-Braun's victory was completely unexpected and must have been an even greater blow to Dixon and his long career. Unlike Lieberman, Dixon had never said things to his fellow Democrats like: "in times of war, we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril" that would predictably cause a backlash. But on that night, Senator Dixon thanked the people of Illinois for electing him over 42 years, graciously conceded defeat, and vowed to get behind his party and support Carol Moseley-Braun in the general election.
I was in Eighth Grade at the time and living in Chicago, and it had a lasting impression on how I view politics. First, political incumbents - even if entrenched and powerful - can be vulnerable and held accountable for their actions. Second, grassroots insurgent campaigns can be won if chosen intelligently and handled skillfully. Third, if you lose an election, you accept defeat with class - even if you are vehemently angry about the outcome and feel that it was grossly unfair.
Joe Lieberman had threatened to run as an independent if he loses for weeks, saying that he did not want to be bound by a low-turnout primary election in August - when most voters are on vacation and the electorate is skewed towards passionate progressive activists. But Lieberman can't make that excuse anymore. While voter turnout had been expected to be around 20%, the Connecticut Secretary of State now estimates that it was about 50% -- the highest voter turnout for a party primary since 1970.
Lieberman has always been more popular among Republicans than among Democrats, and Connecticut has a large proportion of unaffiliated voters. Last month, Lieberman said that he wished to put his case in front of the entire people of Connecticut - not just voters in a Democratic primary. But if that were true, why not simply concede the primary to Ned Lamont, and run as an independent in November? Why insult the voters by putting them through a meaningless primary if you don't care about the outcome anyway? When Lieberman made his formal announcement that he would not be bound by the primary results, even his own supporters raised these questions.
Lieberman had attacked Lamont as a "one-issue" candidate (the war in Iraq), and said that he did not believe that Democrats should be subject to a "litmus test" on the issues. But Iraq was only the most serious of a long-standing litany of complaints that progressives have with Joe Lieberman. He has never supported universal health care, questioned affirmative action, supported school vouchers, and even supported the federal government's intervention in the Terri Schiavo matter. While he was the first Democratic Senator to scold President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, Lieberman derided the effort to censure President Bush for the illegal wiretapping program, because we should not "scold" the president. And while other Democrats supported the war in Iraq, Lieberman was the only one targeted for defeat because he has consistently attacked other Democrats for even questioning the war's motives.
In his concession speech, Lieberman used what he called a sports analogy - "we've just finished the first half and the Lamont team is ahead - but in the second half, our team is going to surge forward to victory in November." That's funny. I always thought that good sportsmanship meant that you don't change the rules in the middle of the game just because you are losing. If an NBA team loses the semi-finals, can they just decide not to be "bound by the rules" and compete in the final championship? Of course not.
Joe Lieberman needs to know that his time is up. Like Alan Dixon (and other Senators before him who lost a primary), he's got to accept the defeat and move on with his life. He only risks himself further embarrassment by staying in the race. After all, I'm sure that Fox News would be eager to give him his own show - just like Zell Miller.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
My "Crashing the Gate" Book Review
I don't get to read much these days, let alone write book reviews, but "Crashing the Gate" is a truly amazing book. If you're reading this blog, then you're probably already plugged into the Daily Kos and MyDD.com "liberal blogosphere."
But even if you're not, this book is a great, quick read about the state of the Democratic Party, and how everyday Democratic activists who care need to take it back if we want to save the party, save the country and save ourselves.
I tried reading it with a critical eye because I'm already such a part of the liberal blogosphere that I didn't want it to come off as a narcissistic puff piece.
But here goes ....
Incidentally, Beyond Chron was partially inspired by blogs such as Daily Kos. The SF Chronicle certainly isn't doing a good job monitoring the excesses of Gavin Newsom and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and somebody has to be out there speaking up for progressives in the media.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Democrats Show How Out of Touch Gavin Newsom and Bevan Dufty Really Are...
Here's an article I wrote for today's Beyond Chron:
Democratic Party Endorses Eviction Disclosure
by Paul Hogarth‚ Mar. 20‚ 2006
At last Thursday’s meeting, the S.F. Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) voted 22-4 to endorse Proposition B, the Eviction Disclosure Ordinance. At a time when more tenants are being evicted under the Ellis Act than during the dot-com boom, our local Democratic Party took the right stand on an issue that affects the heart and soul of San Francisco. It also showed how out of touch Mayor Gavin Newsom and Supervisor Bevan Dufty are with those who have supported them in the past – as well as how the City is changing.
Prop B will not cost the taxpayers a dime, and does not put any restriction on the right to own property. It merely requires real estate brokers at an open house to notify potential buyers that a tenant was evicted under the Ellis Act to make this property vacant. Because speculators have made millions out of targeting our most vulnerable tenants for T.I.C. conversions, and buyers have to pay more for a vacant property, the real estate industry should not hide their dirty little secret as they ruthlessly gentrify our City. San Franciscans pride themselves on being socially responsible consumers, and 85% have walked away from open houses when informed about an eviction on the property.
There are only two reasons why Prop B is even on the June ballot, and they are called Gavin Newsom and Bevan Dufty. After the Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 to approve this legislation, Mayor Newsom vetoed it. Supervisor Dufty refused to change his vote and override the veto, which requires 8 votes. Therefore, Supervisors Peskin, Maxwell, Daly, Ammiano and Mirkarimi had no choice but to put it on the ballot this June.
While one could expect some other Supervisors to oppose Prop B because they represent more conservative districts, Bevan Dufty’s district has a majority of tenants and has had more Ellis evictions than any other part of the City. Many of these tenants in District 8 (Castro and Noe Valley) have lived in the neighborhood for years, were pioneers in the gay rights movement, and are now dying of AIDS. In fact, the Castro has earned the dubious distinction as the “AIDS Eviction Capital of the World.”
The DCCC has generally sided with Newsom and Dufty in the past. In 2002, they endorsed Bevan Dufty – although there were two strong Democrats running in that race and the Committee could have easily remained neutral. In 2003, they endorsed Newsom for Mayor, although it was a non-partisan race and the majority of their constituents (i.e. registered Democrats in San Francisco) supported and voted for Matt Gonzalez. In 2005, when public transit advocates pushed for Prop D that would have weakened the Mayor’s control over Muni after two fare hikes, the DCCC overwhelmingly voted to oppose it.
Newsom and Dufty may try to distance themselves from opposing Proposition B, but the fact remains that it would already be law if they hadn’t stood in the way. Now that it’s on the ballot, the DCCC has shown how out of touch Newsom and Dufty are on this issue. For Bevan Dufty, it also shows how critically important it will be for progressives to challenge him with a strong candidate in November. It also raises the question: is there anything that Newsom and Dufty wouldn’t do to support real estate speculators?
Paul Hogarth is a life-long Democrat who has been actively involved in the Party for 10 years. He is a member (and former officer) of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
National vs. Local Politics
My blog may be a bit schizophrenic and confusing to some. I am constantly shifting between national politics (which most people pay attention to) and local politics (which is esoteric to even some long-time San Franciscans.) The reason I do so is simple -- both are incredibly important if you want to push a progressive agenda. Local politics, in many ways, is where the rubber meets the road, and government's service directly hits the people. As one local candidate once said, "the outcome of local politics makes the difference between an unmitigated disaster -- and just a regular disaster."
Which is not to say that national politics isn't any less important. When Bush and Schwarzenegger intentionally decide to starve the public sector, it creates real consequences at the local level -- and constrains what positive things government can do. Sure, local politicians can step in to make up the difference (and we can't let them get away with just blaming Washington and Sacramento), but the reality is there just isn't enough money locally to truly deal with our problems. As long as the rich get more tax cuts, and our federal money continues to get drowned into the massive abyss of our failed Iraq war, we will never truly deal with our systemic economic problems at home.
A few months ago, Randy Shaw complained to me about how people weren't paying attention to what's going on locally and he noted, "it's because George W. Bush is president." Which is absolutely true. When we're trying to put out fires at the national level, most activists simply don't have the patience or energy to fight Gavin Newsom when he vetoes legislation that could help keep thousands of tenants in San Francisco.
I've been involved in politics for 10 years -- and my interests in local vs. national politics have alternated over the years. In 1996, I was new to California and knew nothing about local politics. I was focused on the presidential race, but was angry at Bill Clinton for signing welfare repeal. After the election, I decided that the Democratic Party needed to stop co-opting the Republicans, articulate a progressive agenda, and help undo the Reagan legacy. Which led me to start the "Paul Wellstone for President" website that was my special project for the next 2 years.
On January 9, 1999, Paul Wellstone announced he wasn't going to run for President. Around the same time, Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean was re-elected by a 14-point landslide after scapegoating homeless people on Telegraph Avenue, opposing rent control for students, and red-baiting her progressive opponent. These 2 events catapulted me away from national politics, and got me to focus at the local level. I got more involved in housing issues, and in late 1999, I got involved in Tom Ammiano's historic write-in campaign for mayor.
By November 2000, I had been elected to the Berkeley Rent Board and was now focusing full-time on pushing a progressive agenda in both Berkeley and San Francisco. I helped recruit candidates for the Berkeley Rent Board, walked precincts for lefty candidates in San Francisco, and got involved in the coalition that convinced Tom Bates to run for Mayor in 2002 against Shirley Dean.
In November 2002, we knocked off Shirley Dean -- which I saw as a victorious accomplishment after 4 years of hard work. But just 10 days earlier, Senator Paul Wellstone died tragically in a plane crash. The Republicans re-took control of the United States Senate. And George W. Bush was hell-bent on taking us into an illegal, idiotic and unjustifiable war in Iraq. I suddenly realized that I had spent too much time focusing on local politics -- and had ignored the absolute devastation that was going on nationally.
Which brought me back full circle. In 2003-2004, I worked on Howard Dean's campaign for President, and have been more attentive towards the national political scene since. The lesson I learned, frankly, is that both are absolutely critical.
A final word for you who don't pay attention to local San Francisco (or Berkeley) politics. It's often simple to look at the local level and think "c'mon, they're all Democrats!! Gavin Newsom and Shirley Dean can't be all bad. I mean if they were anywhere outside of the Bay Area, they would be practically socialists!! I mean Newsom has now become the national spokesperson for gay marriage!"
Right? Wrong. It's true that San Francisco is a very liberal city -- and no Republican could seriously expect to get elected mayor. But local politics should be judged on local issues -- not on a politician's philosophical beliefs on national issues where they have little effect on creating tangible results.
San Francisco's a liberal city -- but it's also a very wealthy city. At the local level, the Chamber of Commerce, real estate developers, and landlords will fight hard for their bottom-line economic interest. So you have people like Gavin Newsom and Bevan Dufty who support fare hikes for Muni, oppose increasing the budget for public health care services, and refuse to stand up to downtown business interests. In other words, they are doing the same type of bidding for the rich and powerful that Republicans in Washington DC do on a daily basis.
So local politics is not a waste of time -- nor is it "divisive" to attack other politicians who may agree with us on national issues. I expect national politicians to be progressive on national issues, and local politicians to be progressive on local issues.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Justice Alito ... Don't Dream it's Over!!
I cannot over-emphasize how devastating it will be to our country if Samuel Alito gets on the Supreme Court. The precarious balance of power that has upheld affirmative action, abortion rights, environmental protection and worker protections will be thrown out the window if he gets confirmed. It's a truly frightening prospect, and as the mainstream media wants us to believe right now, it's pretty much a done deal.
But thank god for Dick Durbin (my former boss!) This week, Senator Durbin told the Chicago Sun-Times that a filibuster is still possible.
"A week ago, I would have told you it's not likely to happen," Durbin said. "As of [Wednesday], I just can't rule it out. I was surprised by the intensity of feeling of some of my colleagues. It's a matter of counting. We have 45 Democrats, counting [Vermont independent] Jim Jeffords, on our side. We could sustain a filibuster if 41 senators ... are willing to stand and fight."
So don't believe the bullshit you hear. Already, 2 Democrats who voted to confirm John Roberts (Max Baucus and Patrick Leahy) have gone on record saying that they will vote against Alito -- and if the Democrats stick together, we can prevent this catastrophe from happening.
It's not just a question of it being possible ... Given the stakes we're talking about, it's an absolute necessity!
Revolt of the Sane Republicans ...
One of the trends I've noticed this election cycle is that former Republican members of Congress are coming out of retirement to re-enter politics because they are fed up at how extreme their party (and politics in general) has become.
First Lowell Weicker announced that he may try to re-claim his old Senate because Joe Lieberman has moved so far to the right and has a maniacal devotion to George Bush and the War in Iraq. Of course, Weicker admitted that he's old and he'd rather see someone else run -- but said that he'd do it if nobody else will.
This week in California, we learned that former Congressman Pete McCloskey is running against Republican Congressman Richard Pombo because "this is no Republican Party I recognize today."
I admit that I had no idea about McCloskey's record before he expressed an interest in running against Pombo -- but after some quick research, wow!! He ran for President in 1972 on an anti-war platform, and he co-authored the Endangered Species Act. That sounds better than a lot of Democrats!! And this guy was once a Republican Congressman?? It just goes to show you how right-wing politicians have become when geriatric former Congressmen come out of retirement because they're upset at how conservative Republicans (and in the case of Joe Lieberman, Democrats!) have become.
It goes to show you that Tony Kushner's words couldn't be better put - what used to be called conservative is now called moderate, what used to be called moderate is now called liberal, what used to be called liberal is now called radical, what used to be called radical is now called insane, and what used to be called insane is now called conservative. You know what's even scarier?? Tony Kushner said that ten years ago!
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
VICTORY!! WE KICKED ARNOLD'S BUTT!!
Whoa this feels great!!! With 81.9% of the precincts counted, ALL of Arnold Schwarzenegger's propositions are headed for defeat -- which is where his re-election hopes are headed one year from now!!
I guess you don't exactly endear yourself to Californians when you call other politicians "girly men," lie to public school children, eviscerate higher education in this state, veto marriage equality for same-sex couples, and then brag about how you're going to kick nurses' butts. This time around, when Arnold wanted "DA People" to decide his right-wing agenda because Democrats in the legislature wouldn't put up with his political blackmail, California voters sent a message -- loud and clear -- that we don't want this bullshit.
Back when Arnold became governor through an unprecedented recall election, I had two conflicting predictions of what would happen. My Big Fear was that Arnold would be the next Ronald Reagan -- a B-rate movie actor who gets elected Governor of California and proves to be a charismatic leader who inspires a right-wing revolution whose intentional goal is to starve the public sector. My Big Hope was that Arnold would end up more like Jesse Ventura -- a plain-spoken celebrity governor who people voted for as a Joke, and then got sick of him when the joke got old.
Hasta la vista, Arnold!! And on that note, it's 12:30 a.m. and I'm going to bed.
Update: With 84% of precincts reporting, the closest initiatives (Prop 73 and Prop 75) are both down by 3 points.
But looking at the Secretary of State's website gives cause for even more optimism. Almost all the counties' tallies have been added except two -- (a) Los Angeles County, which is overall (but not solidly) a Democratic county, and (b) Alameda County, whose two largest cities are Oakland and Berkeley. In other words, folks, it's over.
If you want to get a chuckle, check out who lives in Arnold's neighborhood.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Kerry Admits He Was Wrong About Iraq
In a speech today at Georgetown University, John Kerry has admitted that he was wrong about voting to authorize the war in Iraq -- and that George Bush lied to him.
Knowing what we know now, I would not have gone to war in Iraq. And knowing now the full measure of the Bush Administration’s duplicity and incompetence, I doubt there are many members of Congress who would give them the authority they abused so badly. I know I would not. The truth is, if the Bush Administration had come to the United States Senate and acknowledged there was no “slam dunk case” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, acknowledged that Iraq was not connected to 9/11, there never would have even been a vote to authorize the use of force — just as there’s no vote today to invade North Korea, Iran, Cuba, or a host of regimes we rightfully despise.
As I said earlier about Gephardt, this is huge. Admitting that you were wrong does not make you a "flip-flopper." It takes moral courage to stand up and say you were wrong. Say you made a good-faith effort to believe the President, and then attack him for lying to you.
It’s time for leaders to be honest that if we do not change course, there is the prospect of indefinite, even endless conflict - a fate untenable for our troops, and a future unacceptable to the American people and the Iraqis who pray for the day when a stable Iraq will belong to Iraqis alone.
Of course, later on in the speech, Kerry says that we should not withdraw our troops immediately -- but at least this is a very positive step. Gephardt has now retired from politics, so his mea culpa was less significant. John Kerry, on the other hand, has presidential ambitions in 2008.
Are you next -- Hillary???