As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Putting The "Better" In More And Better Democrats

In 2006 we had a crop of Congressional challengers that was poised to win in tough districts and take back the House and Sente. It was a cautious list, at times a moderate list, and while there have been some excellent progressive lawmakers from that group (Steve Cohen, John Hall, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown come to mind), overall it was a list full of more Democrats instead of better ones. You never know what you're really going to get from a candidate until they're in office, but this year there are some promising signs that the class of 2008 is substantively better on several issues.

For one, there's the great news that every single Democratic Senate challenger with more than $500,000 in cash on hand has fully endorsed net neutrality. This was not necessarily a mainstream Democratic position just a few years ago, and now it's become standard. That's very positive. Furthermore, almost no telecom or cable money is going to the wide majority of these candidates, suggesting that they may not be as beholden to those interests as the current Congress. You can read the candidate statements at the link.

One of those candidates is Jeff Merkley, and he is unafraid to challenge his own Democratic leadership even while in the midst of a Senate campaign where he will probably need their help. We need less Democratic automatons and more lawmakers willing to speak their minds and even criticize their party when it betrays its own values and steps out of line.

But the majority of Merkley's interview with the Huffngton Post this past weekend was spent pinpointing areas in need of political improvement, even calling to task the Democratic-controlled Senate for not showing the requisite backbone.

"A major mistake has been not to force the Republicans to filibuster day and night on these issues," he said. "The public does not see that obstruction because they don't see on their televisions a senator on the floor of the senate going through the night reading out of a thick tomb of law, if you will, in order to block bills from being considered. We have to put that on show to the American public and show that it's unacceptable... And I am [prepared to start standing up]. FISA is a good example right there. I was proud of Senator Dodd and others for what they did. They lost the vote, but I'm proud of them." [...]

He even weighed in on one of the thornier issues facing Democrats today: what to do about Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whose surrogacy on behalf of McCain has been infuriating to many elements of the party.

"It is very disturbing," Merkley said. "I was there in 2000 as a delegate when he was our vice presidential nominee. I remember losing my voice for him and Sen. Gore and I am really disappointed in some of the stances he is taking and I understand he is addressing the Republican convention. Essentially we need him as a clear member of the team and I hope that we see it that way after the election."

He even criticized Sen. Obama for his FISA vote, as well he should. At a time when the progressive community is seeking to hold lawmakers accountable on FISA and civil liberties, it's great to have candidates with the same frame of mind.

In the House, Blue America candidate Joe Garcia is going up against an entrenched anti-Castro Cuban Republican in South Florida. He has no problem in this video calling out one of the top anti-Castro Cuban groups for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds. And Congress actually managed to act on this by freezing payments to these right-wing groups. And also in Florida, Alan Grayson is a man possessed.

Alan Grayson: I'm Alan Grayson, and I'm the Democratic candidate for Congress in Florida's district eight. And I'm the attorney of record in every single case now pending in Federal court involving war profiteers in Iraq. These are cases in which I represent whistleblowers. The Florida civil rights association named me Humanitarian of the Year for my work in this regard, taxpayers against fraud named me lawyer of the year, and I've been featured in Vanity Fair magazine, in media like CBS evening news, 60 minutes, and even Dailykos, imagine that.

I'm running because I'm fed up with the government mismanagement, the Bush administration's shameless pandering to war profiteers. I think they set out on a deliberate course to make this war good for the people who were their friends. And I want to try to hold them accountable when I'm in Congress. When I'm in Congress... the Bush administration's worst nightmare is going to be me with subpoena power because I know everything that they've done, and I'm going to hold them accountable for it.

Right on. Here's a guy who is no-nonsense, unabashed and a great conduit for American anger and frustration at the military contractor feeding frenzy. This ad is pretty awesome, too.

Put this guy on the Oversight Committee, give him a staff, wind him up and watch him go.

Between Merkley, Grayson, Garcia and a host of other reform-minded, tough progressive Democrats, I think we can actually vote our consciences this year, and donate to candidates who will defend our principles.

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