Jerry McNerney’s election to Congress was an outstanding success for local grassroots activists and for the national and local netroots. He was one of the top recipients of donations from Blue America in 2006. 1,099 from our community contributed over $25,000 to his campaign (average donation $22.83). He won convincingly against a powerful and entrenched 7-term incumbent, Richard Pombo (who spent $4.6 million, not including several more millions spent by right-wing committees on his behalf), in CA-11, a Republican district that gave Kerry and Gore 45% each– but awarded McNerney 53% of the vote. And even before that, Jerry had to overcome the forces of conservative Establishment, virulently anti-grassroots Democrats (Ellen Tauscher and Rahm Emanuel) who fielded their own candidate in the primary. The netroots bubbled over with enthusiasm for Jerry.
Since then, the mood has darkened considerably. Jerry’s overall voting record is decent… but by no means heroic. Most of the other freshmen who have been endorsed by Blue America again– in fact all of them with the exception of Patrick Murphy– have more progressive voting records, including freshmen in similarly red-leaning districts, like John Hall and Carol Shea-Porter. But it wasn’t Jerry’s iffy voting record that has caused an explosion of– at the minimum– confusion from his supporters. Jerry won the seat for a lot of reasons but if you had to pick the one reason that earned him the dedicated support of the grassroots it was, hands down, his principled stand on Iraq. He wasn’t equivocating and contradicting himself in 2005-6. Pombo was the Bush rubber stamp; Jerry was the one who wanted to end the occupation of Iraq. I don’t really have any doubt that he still does. But he’s given lots of other people plenty of reasons to wonder, including many of his earliest and most devoted backers like, for example, Babaloo. And even a big pushover like myself has become exasperated. This outstanding Calitics thread started by Julia Rosen contains some of the best writing you’ll find anywhere on the controversy. Every point of view is covered.
A couple months ago, we had a… situation that came up with another freshman we backed in ’06, Chris Carney. There were several differences, the most glaring of which is that Jerry asked to come over and speak with us, and when we took him up on it, he started proposing dates immediately and worked with us to find time while the topic is sizzling hot. Carney refused to even come out from under his desk for a phone chat and instead has been trying to use us, his former supporters, as a kind of Sister Souljah, labeling us as irrational and bragging to reactionaries that he’s standing up against our demands (our only demand, by the way, is honesty and an explanation). So Congressman McNerney joins us this evening for a frank discussion of the issues that will hopefully lead to a better understanding on all sides. Aside from reading the linked Calitics thread above, I want to suggest you do three other things to prepare for Jerry. Remember that we are all on the same team and that no one here tonight is Bush or Cheney or Pombo. Let’s all conduct ourselves with self respect and with respect for everyone else’s points of view. And let me also suggest two videos, a general one that the San Francisco Chronicle posted yesterday about Jerry’s race and one from Darcy Burner, another Democratic leader that, to my mind, sets a high standard for Democrats, one each and every one of them should take to heart. Here she is talking about Bush’s disgraceful FISA bill, one Jerry voted against (whew).
You can find both Darcy Burner and Jerry McNerney on our Blue America page. We’ll be watching how everyone who reads this post “votes.”