Blue America Launches New TV Initiative in Arkansas — And We Need You

Jane’s in Sweden and I’m in Indonesia but we left Blue America in the best of hands. Digby, John, Jacqui and D-Day have been working non-stop on our campaign of cable TV ads to get one of the few senatorial culprits in the war against health care reform who actually has to confront voters next year–Blanche Lincoln–to reconsider her position. Lincoln, always an opponent of giving working families an equal break, is a member of the Health Care Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee. We want her to forget her avaricious campaign donors for once in her miserable political life and think about the average citizens of Arkansas and America for a change. Last week, HHS Secretary Sebelius’s report on the state of the nation’s health care situation is especially bleak for people living in Arkansas–not for Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor or the 4 congressmen, all of whom get free platinum health care coverage for themselves and their loved ones paid for by the taxpayers, but for regular working families.

We’re hoping our TV ads will help persuade Lincoln, worrying about her re-election prospects, that with 80% of Americans favoring at least a public option, her career i n politics depends on her championing her constituents, rather than Health Insurance CEOs. Digby wrote three TV ads, produced by Brave New Films and directed by D-Day. Here’s one, but you can view all three here: Campaign For Health Care Choice

We need you to vote on which of the three ads we should use first (more…)

Meet Anthony Woods, Progressive Candidate For Congress In The Bay Area Special Election

Anthony Woods - Blue AmericaI want to introduce you to Anthony Woods, a progressive young Democrat running to replace Ellen Tauscher in a congressional district northeast of San Francisco (CA-10), a district that has been trending decidedly Democratic (Gore won with 55%, Kerry with 56% and Obama with 65%). Anthony is one of the less likely candidates we’ve visited with– and one of the most remarkable. Born on Travis Airforce Base near Fairfield, the biggest city in the district, Anthony– raised by a single mom working as a housekeeper– earned a congressional appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He signed up to lead a platoon in Iraq– twice– and earned a bronze star and then earned a Masters Degree from Harvard. He gained national fame when he discharged from the military for standing up for equality and telling his commanding officer that he is gay, a violation of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Currently he works as an economic policy advisor. He anything but a professional politician and the primary in CA-10 is swarming with them.

I liked the idea of his upstart candidacy and got him on the phone a few times over the last couple of months after I read a great interview with him at Calitics by David Dayen. He sounds like a real breath of fresh air who could help bring a new dynamic to Congress the way Donna Edwards and Alan Grayson have. I’d say one of the biggest motivating factors in his decision to run has to do with the fact that he grew up without health insurance and a desire to change that for the country. "I bore the brunt," he told me, "of a lot of the failed policy solutions we already have. I think it’s time we start sending some people to Congress who have experienced these things and can bring a very, very different perspective to the debate."

I believe wholeheartedly in Obama’s message of change. I worked pretty dang hard to help get him elected. I would love to go to Washington to help bring about that change. One of the things we’re realizing is we’ve got a person, in Obama, who’s going to do some very different things there but Congress hasn’t changed. We keep sending the exact same types of politicians there and that’s what he’s up against.

I asked Anthony how he would have voted on the Supplemental Budget. He started by reminding me that when it was first voted on, on May 14th, it was basically just funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and that he didn’t like the "Bush era tactic– to use supplementals… The Bush Administration used them as a way of hiding the cost of these wars and convince people it wasn’t really impacting the budget. I wouldn’t vote on any supplemental funding bill that doesn’t include a very clear timetable, specifically for what we’re doing in Afghanistan. I want to see that we’re going to set some clear, measurable goals and define the strategy that makes sense and proves we’re doing the planning to be successful there… If there is no timetable with a clear end date, that to me is not supporting our troops." He says he would have voted "no" on May 14 and he says he was very disappointed to see Democrats using the "support our troops" line when they were rounding up votes last week.

I asked Anthony if he has the intestinal fortitude to stand up to someone like Rahm Emanuel, working for a president he supported and admires, who went to extraordinary lengths to "persuade" reluctant Democrats to support the larded up Supplemental last week. His answer is what helped clinch my support for his candidacy. "I think it’s time we start sending people to Congress who have actually had first hand experience dealing with some of these failed policies. I’d have no problem in saying, ‘Look, Administration, I’ve actually been in Iraq. I understand what it’s like to be on the ground and be involved in a war with no clear end date and no clear strategy.’ I don’t think that line of attack [I had mentioned Emanuel’s arm twisting, bribes and threats to him] like that would work on a person like me. I have friends who are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. How could I vote in a way that is going to endanger the classmates who I went to West Point with and the soldiers they’re leading? What’s important is the impact on real soldiers, not on the potential of losing some Stimulus funding or a pet project. That’s not how we’re supposed to be crafting solutions."

Please join us in the comments section below and let’s find out some more about Anthony.

Democrats and Republicans Targeted by Clunkers

I spoke to a sympathetic Hill staffer today who works for a Midwestern congressman. His boss isn’t too keen about voting for the billions and billions of dollars for European bank bailouts that Rahm Emanuel had tacked onto the War Supplemental. His boss had voted "yes" on the supplemental on May 14 when it first came up, not because he thinks it’s a great idea but because he bought into the Dave Obey premise that Obama deserves a year to get the Afghanistan situation under control.

It didn’t do any good to argue that the West has been trying–futilely–to get the Afghanistan situation under control since Alexander the Great got bogged down there in 330 BC. (Alexander took a few months subduing the world’s greatest empire of the day, Persia, but couldn’t overcome the unruly tribes of Afghanistan for years–until he finally told Hephaestion, his boyfriend and soul mate, to go sleep in another tent and married Roxanna, an Afghan chieftain’s daughter.)

Anyway, to balance the disagreeable nature of the foreign bank bailout, something likely to cost the Democrats at least a couple dozen House seats in 2010, Emanuel tacked on another piece of legislation–one that had already passed overwhelmingly and is absolutely essential for congressmen in auto industry districts, colloquially known as Cash For Clunkers. They can’t vote against what has turned into a real Frankenstein creation, even if it could also be a Democratic congressional caucus suicide pact.

Emanuel hoped that, by gratuitously attaching the car bill to the IMF bailout, he could count on holding onto a batch of nervous Democrats–and pressure some Republicans. Recall, 59 Republicans broke with Boehner and Cantor to cross the aisle on June 9th and vote for Cash for Clunkers.

Some of them are the exact targets Emanuel has been trying to woo away from the hysterical Cantor in the Supplemental battle, particularly Michigan Republicans like Thaddeus McCotter, Fred Upton, Dave Camp, Vern Ehlers, Candice Miller and Mike Rogers. Emanuel figured it could also give him a shot at John Shimkus (R-IL), Mike Turner (R-OH), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), Mark Souder (R-IN), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Steve Austria (R-OH), Steve LaTouette (R-OH), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and a few other Midwestern Republicans whose constituents have been devastated by the auto industry collapse.

Of course, that goes for plenty of Democrats as well, particularly Midwest freshmen Mark Schauer (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Debbie Halvorson (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL) and Steve Driehaus (D-OH).

Democrats & Republicans Targeted By Clunkers

I spoke to a sympathetic Hill staffer today who works for a Midwestern congressman. His boss isn’t too keen about voting for the billions and billions of dollars for European bank bailouts that Rahm Emanuel had tacked onto the War Supplemental. His boss had voted "yes" on the supplemental on May 14 when it first came up, not because he thinks it’s a great idea but because he bought into the Dave Obey premise that Obama deserves a year to get the Afghanistan situation under control.

It didn’t do any good to argue that the West has been trying– futilely– to get the Afghanistan situation under control since Alexander the Great got bogged down there in 330 BC. (Alexander took a few months subduing the world’s greatest empire of the day, Persia, but couldn’t overcome the unruly tribes of Afghanistan for years– until he finally told Hephaestion, his boyfriend and soul mate, to go sleep in another tent and married Roxanna, an Afghan chieftain’s daughter.)

Anyway, to balance the disagreeable nature of the foreign bank bailout, something likely to cost the Democrats at least a couple dozen House seats in 2010, Emanuel tacked on another piece of legislation– one that had already passed overwhelmingly and is absolutely essential for congressmen in auto industry districts, colloquially known as Cash For Clunkers. They can’t vote against what has turned into a real Frankenstein creation, even if it could also be a Democratic congressional caucus suicide pact.

Emanuel hoped that by gratuitously attaching the car bill to the IMF bailout he could count on holding onto a batch of nervous Democrats– and pressure some Republicans. Recall, 59 Republicans broke with Boehner and Cantor to cross the aisle on June 9th and vote for Cash for Clunkers.

Some of them are the exact targets Emanuel has been trying to woo away from the hysterical Cantor in the Supplemental battle, particularly Michigan Republicans like Thaddeus McCotter, Fred Upton, Dave Camp, Vern Ehlers, Candice Miller and Mike Rogers. Emanuel figured it could also give him a shot at John Shimkus (R-IL), Mike Turner (R-OH), Patrick Tiberi (R-OH), Mark Souder (R-IN), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Joe Pitts (R-PA), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Steve Austria (R-OH), Steve LaTouette (R-OH), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) and a few other Midwestern Republicans whose constituents have been devastated by the auto industry collapse.

Of course that goes for plenty of Democrats as well, particularly Midwest freshmen Mark Schauer (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Debbie Halvorson (D-IL), Bill Foster (D-IL) and Steve Driehaus (D-OH).

Rahm Cutting Deals To “Go Easy” On Republicans in 2010 Who Vote For Supplemental?

m001147.thumbnail.jpgJane reports that Ann Kirkpatrick may have been frightened into standing up to Emanuel and voting "no" tomorrow. Blue Dogs who don’t will suffer at the polls next year. And Emanuel knows he’s starting to lose them. So what’s his latest strategy?

We hear he’s turning to vulnerable Republicans and telling them he can get the DCCC to "go easy" on them next year if they vote for the Supplemental tomorrow. And Eric Cantor’s office is really pissed.

It’s one thing if he makes a deal with Vern Buchanan in Florida or Chris Smith in New Jersey, but we’re hearing that he’s offering to protect Republicans who have been slated as major DCCC targets, like Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Bill Young (R-FL), Leonard Lance R-NJ) and Charlie Dent (R-PA).

Watch tomorrow to see if any of these characters cross over and vote with Team Emanuel to bail out European bankers.

Rahm Cutting Deals To “Go Easy” On Republicans in 2010 Who Vote For Supplemental?

m001147.thumbnail.jpgJane reports that Ann Kirkpatrick may have been frightened into standing up to Emanuel and voting "no" tomorrow. Blue Dogs who don’t will suffer at the polls next year. And Emanuel knows he’s starting to lose them. So what’s his latest strategy?

We hear he’s turning to vulnerable Republicans and telling them he can get the DCCC to "go easy" on them next year if they vote for the Supplemental tomorrow. And Eric Cantor’s office is really pissed.

It’s one thing if he makes a deal with Vern Buchanan in Florida or Chris Smith in New Jersey, but we’re hearing that he’s offering to protect Republicans who have been slated as major DCCC targets, like Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Bill Young (R-FL), Leonard Lance R-NJ) and Charlie Dent (R-PA).

Watch tomorrow to see if any of these characters cross over and vote with Team Emanuel to bail out European bankers.

Welcome Jonathan Tasini, Progressive Candidate For The U.S. Senate From New York

Jonathan Tasini — BASometimes I have to pump some political courage into our candidates and incumbents and coax them to support difficult or controversial items on the progressive agenda. Our guest today isn’t that kind of candidate. Jonathan Tasini, whose politico-spiritual mentor is Paul Wellstone, is the kind of figure who I fully expect to call me and ask me why I’m not working harder to round up more votes for Employee Free Choice or against the War Supplemental. He’s determined that Kirsten Gillibrand not march into the office to which she was appointed without facing a progressive challenger committed to seeing it through all the way to the end and not liable to be bullied or bribed out of the race.

He is excited that because the economic crisis is offering us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to profoundly change the country for future generations. "But, while we have a great majority in Congress," he told me, "the values and principles of that majority are very important. Jonathan Tasini isn’t going to be Blanche Lincoln or Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu. Nor, if he manages to get into the Senate, is he going to morph into a slick corporate shill like New York’s senior senator. There are a small– very small– handful of senators who don’t look at their place of work like an American House of Lords: Bernie Sanders, Dick Durbin, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Sheldon Whitehouse… a couple others. Jonathan wants to join them.

In some way, I’m reminded of the time when Howard Dean challenged our party, asking why we were not standing up to George W. Bush and the obscenity of the Iraq War. Now, we have a president who truly stands for something. And I am running both to support our president and push him to move our country in an even more progressive direction. To some extent, the vision, then, is much broader than the issue of who I’m running against. I want our party to stand:

  • for single-payer health care,
  • for a different foreign policy
  • for the right to belong to a union,
  • for marriage equality

And these are values and principles I’ve stood for my entire life, not values and principles recently discovered in order to run for Senator. These values and principles are who I am.

Needless to say, Jonathan is appalled that anyone calling himself or herself a progressive would even contemplate shutting down the democratic process by discouraging primaries the way Biden, Rendell, Schumer and Emanuel are in Pennsylvania and New York. (more…)

Is Rahm Emanuel Demanding That Walt Minnick, Bobby Bright, and Parker Griffith Commit Political Suicide?

Walt Minnick has the most reactionary voting record of any of the Democratic freshmen elected last November. He’s voted more frequently with the GOP than with the Democrats and the leadership just lets him slide because his district is so hopelessly red– the home of the Aryan Nations and America’s biggest concentration of neo-Nazis and domestic terrorists (Obama barely managed a third of the vote last November). Minnick has been very careful to tow a very right-wing line when it comes to voting, so right-wing in fact that the GOP’s #1 recruitment target, state Treasurer Ron Crane, has just announced he won’t challenge him. The district likes Minnick; he’s proven that despite the Democratic Party affiliation, he’s just like they are– against anything remotely progressive and very much a part of what author Charles Pierce has dubbed Idiot America.

But all Minnick’s hard working in proving that he isn’t really a Democrat could come crashing down next week if Rahm Emanuel forces him to vote for the 2009 Supplemental Budget. True, continuing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are popular in ID-01 and the rest of Idiot America and, in fact, Minnick already voted "yes" on May 14th, along with 200 Democrats and all but 9 rebellious Republicans (like Ron Paul). The vote was in sync with his constituents, just as the yes votes from the two reactionary Democratic freshmen from Alabama, Bobby Bright and Parker Griffith– politically very much the same as Minnick– were also in sync with their constituents’ Hate Talk radio-fueled wishes.

But once Emanuel– in effect the Karl Rove of the current administration– saw the huge margin by which the Supplemental passed (368-60), he decided to lard it up with something the virtually no Americans who aren’t getting million dollar campaign contributions from the banksters would ever countenance. The Senate sent the bill back to the House with an IMF amendment attached, an amendment that guarantees $108 billion in taxpayer money– in this economy when states from California to Alabama are cutting back on basic and crucial services– to bail out European banks. Any Blue Dog– supposedly fiscally responsible Democrats– who votes for this garbage legislation will deserve to be beaten next year. According to John Boehner and Eric Cantor, the 168 Republicans who voted for the Supplemental on May 14 have now decided to oppose it. (more…)

Who Picks The Candidates– The Corporately Financed Bosses or Grassroots Primaries?

Clinton DLC -HKNormally the grassroots likes ’em and the Inside-the-Beltway Establishment hates ’em. They cost a lot of money that can go to attacking the other party, cause friction in your own party, can… well when the damn base gets involved, anything can happen. Yes, it can; it’s called democracy. And right now we have party hacks like John Cornyn (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at the NRSC trying to prop up Charlie Crist– popular with Florida’s general public but distrusted by the right-wing Republican Party base– against a radical right fanatic who is more in sync with the extremism of characters like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney and Ann Coulter which dominates the intraparty debate.

Similarly we are watching with dismay as Democratic Beltway Insiders are attempting to anoint favored candidates and cut out grassroots voters in the states. Pennsylvania Democrats are displeased that Joe Biden and Ed Rendell, who is rumored to want a sick, elderly seat-warmer like semi-Democrat Arlen Specter to keep the seat open for himself eventually, are trying to shove someone they don’t trust down their throats.

In New York state, you have a similar situation. Biden who’s made a career of being a corporatist shill isn’t only trying to make sure Republican Arlen Specter has no Democratic primary to contend with, but is also trying to clear the field for Blue Dog Kirsten Gillibrand. The Insiders were able to bribe Long Island moderate Steve Israel into dropping out (and something or someone changed implacable Gillibrand foe Carolyn McCarthy’s mind) and now Biden is working on progressive icon Carolyn Maloney.

Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist, warns that Maloney "has been a good fundraiser over the course of her career, but the institutional powers who want to keep her from running are going to try to block that money." He’s talking about Biden and Schumer. The other Democrat in the race– progressive activist Jonathan Tasini– is beyond the reach of the Beltway creatures because he’s all about progressive values and policies, not their partisan games. "Progressives," he told me on the phone yesterday, "should be 100 percent in favor of primaries and against attempts to shut down the democratic process and the ability of voters to have choices."

The most establishment and conservative forces within the Democratic Party are working for the most establishment and conservative candidates. And it isn’t only in Pennsylvania and New York. (more…)

Blue America: Meet Linda Ketner

In what looked– at least from the outside– as one of the most unlikely outcomes of the 2008 election cycle, Democrat Linda Ketner came within two percentage points of beating entrenched Establishment wingnut Henry Brown in a gerrymandered South Carolina district specifically drawn to be an easy win for Republicans. At the same time, Obama only managed 42% in the district. Linda was the only South Carolina Democrat who came close to ousting an incumbent last year. Until near the end of the campaign the DCCC and the punditocracy didn’t have a clue. The fact that Linda is openly gay and openly progressive on social issues– and very outspoken– caused quite a few people to not even give the race a second look.

I’ve been trying to persuade her to run again in 2010 and asked her to come by and meet our community today. Before asking you to join us in the Firedoglake comments section, let me share with you a helpful bio her brother had some fun with:

– at age 8, she sent a petition with 300 signatures to President Eisenhower asking that girls and African Americans be allowed to play Little League baseball.

– age 8 also found Linda showing other early signs of activism. She uniformly drank from water fountains marked “colored” instead of the ones marked “white” and made sure to ride in the back of the bus (for which she was “thrown off” the bus more than once).

– In 1961, her widely known pit-bull stubbornness was evidenced at a piano recital. After having blown the heck out of Moonlight Sonata in 1960, she announced to her mom and dad she would not be playing in the recital of ’61. Her mother announced back– and louder– that indeed she would play in the recital… end of subject. So, Linda found a poison ivy field, bathed her hands up to her elbows in the stuff and spent the next 6 weeks wrapped in bandages. She, however, did NOT play in the recital of ’61 or any thereafter!

-In ’69 she started college and was elected President of the Freshman Class. She neglected her studies woefully and spent all of her time marching in the Civil Rights movement and plotting with her friends as to how to save the world. They had almost accomplished it (saving the world) when they graduated and were dispersed. Linda’s mom blames the 60’s for almost everything she doesn’t understand about Linda.

I asked her if she thought being upfront about being gay, even campaigning with her partner of 9 years, Beth Huntley, impacted the race. "When you lose by such a tight margin, anything could have played a role." In focus groups she found that people didn’t care about her personal sexual preference but respected her honesty. "We have more gay people serving in South Carolina than probably in anyplace in the United States; they’re just not out of the closet. We have an awful lot of people in the closet– Lindsey Graham, Glenn McConnell who’s our Senate president pro tem, our Lt Governor… I obviously lost the conservative, religious crazy vote, but I would have anyway because I’m pro-choice… It got more national attention than it did local attention; it was no secret to anybody around here." She actually won in Charleston County.

Speaking with Linda on the phone this week she reminded me a lot– in her attitudes towards taxpayers’ money, towards corruption, towards the abuses of incumbency– of Alan Grayson. Somehow she has the idea that her impetus towards reform gives her something in common with Blue Dogs. I almost fell out of my chair. She promised to do some research about Grayson. She’ll be blogging live for 2 hours at FDL today starting at 2pm (ET).