Monday, October 16, 2006

Mah Rabu endorsements: national

With the Congressional election just three weeks away, Mah Rabu is ready to make endorsements for all races nationwide:


That is all.

The merits of the individual candidates don't matter one whit. There's a time when the voters can and should have input on the individual candidates. IT'S CALLED THE PRIMARY. (And I support making primaries more competitive, though maybe I'm saying that from a position of privilege, living in a one-party state.) In the general election, the only thing that matters is which party will hold a majority in each house of Congress. Everything else is insignificant in comparison.

I probably don't need to preach to the choir and argue for why we need to boot out the party that lied to the American people and the world so that we could enter a war that has killed over 2700 US soldiers and 600,000 Iraqis and cost over $300 billion and turned the formerly stable albeit authoritarian Iraq into a flaming cesspool of chaos that is now the breeding ground for terrorism that it never was before and made this country and the world immeasurably less safe and steadfastly refuses any congressional oversight into the administration's disastrous policies and called an emergency session to intervene into the private medical affairs of a terminally ill woman but left hundreds of thousands to suffer and die in New Orleans in order to further their criminally negligent conservative philosophy and voted to abrogate the centuries-old right of habeas corpus and voted to hand billions of tax dollars back to the extremely wealthy while impoverishing the federal government and the rest of the American people and supports a government that is bought and paid for by corporate lobbies and provides shelter to child predators while preaching "family values".

The Republicans have got to go.

And the Democrats are the only alternative.

Are the Democrats perfect? No. (Though they are better than the Republicans on every issue.) Is the two-party system perfect? Of course not. But we can't get rid of the two-party system by putting our fingers in our ears and pretending it doesn't exist. Let's first get the Republicans out of power, and then we can clean our own house.

If you think the voting records or positions of individual members of Congress mean anything whatsoever, then you're living in a pre-1994 fantasyland. Starting with Gingrich and continuing with Hastert/DeLay/Frist, Congress has moved toward a parliamentary system where the party leadership reigns supreme. We can argue (preferably in our spare time after November 7) about whether this is beneficial, but we can't deny that it's the way things are.

The party that controls Congress gets a majority on all the committees, and therefore gets to decide which legislation does and doesn't make it to the floor. Once a bill is on the floor, any "debates" are a sham, just posturing for the C-SPAN cameras. After a bill has been assured passage, individual Congresspeople in both the majority and the minority can decide to break with their parties to appear "moderate" for the voters back home. However, they're not really taking a principled stand, since these stands only happen when it won't affect the outcome of the vote.

So it doesn't matter, for good or for ill, whether an individual senator/representative has positions outside the mainstream of his/her party. Yes, Bob Casey (D-PA) is pro-coathanger-abortions, like his Republican opponent Rick Santorum. And yes, Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) is pro-choice, like his Democratic opponent Sheldon Whitehouse. But THAT DOESN'T MATTER. Even if the only issue you care about is reproductive choice, you should still support a pro-coathanger-abortion Democrat over a pro-choice Republican. If Casey is elected to the Senate, along with enough Democrats to take over the majority, then no bill restricting reproductive rights will ever make it out of committee. If Chafee is elected and the Republicans retain their majority, then there will be a speedy confirmation for the next Roberts/Alito-style Supreme Court nominee who tips the court towards overturning Roe v. Wade, even if Chafee himself gets to vote valiantly against the nominee and Cheney has to break a tie.

As Krugman said today, "The fact is that this is a one-letter election. D or R, that’s all that matters."

(Though if you support a Republican majority, then you probably shouldn't listen to raving lefties like me or Krugman! Don't worry about party affiliation - look at the individual candidates and vote your conscience!)

When the Democrats take over Congress, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has already stated the party's goals for the first 100 hours:

Day One: Put new rules in place to "break the link between lobbyists and legislation."

Day Two: Enact all the recommendations made by the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Time remaining until 100 hours: Raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, maybe in one step. Cut the interest rate on student loans in half. Allow the government to negotiate directly with the pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices for Medicare patients.

Broaden the types of stem cell research allowed with federal funds _ "I hope with a veto-proof majority," she added in an Associated Press interview Thursday.

And it continues from there.

As important as it is to take over Congress, the importance of electing Democrats (prioritizing party affiliation over individual merits) goes beyond Congress. The Republican domination of the House of Representatives has been assisted by gerrymandering by Republican state legislatures, most notably in Texas, but around the country as well. With the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of mid-decade redistricting, it is essential that Democrats control as many state legislatures as possible, so that the Democratic party is drawing the congressional lines.

Of course, Democratic majorities in state governments are important beyond redistricting. Chris Bowers of MyDD writes:

It is in the states where we build our benches for higher office, and our benches had been severely depleted since 1994. It is in the states where progressive legislation will first appear before it is adopted nationally, and even a Democratic Congress in D.C. won't be able to adopt much progressive legislation as long as bush is President. It is also in the states where voters maintain their core partisan identification, and where GOTV operations preside. It is also in the states where the control over much election machinery and congressional maps is held. Controlling the states is the backbone to any national governing coalition. In 2006, Democrats look set to take clear control of the states for the first time since 1994. As much as anything else, that will stop the conservative movement in its tracks, and help change the direction of this country.

As we saw in Florida in 2000 and then Ohio in 2004, partisan affiliation can matter even for seemingly nonpartisan offices like state Secretary of State. Therefore, the Secretary of State Project is working to elect Secretaries of State who will ensure fair elections and protect voter rights.

So the only offices for which I endorse giving even one thought to the individual candidates in the general election (rather than the letter after their name) are the less "political" state offices (like Comptroller), and local offices (such as mayor and city council, or the equivalent in your municipality) where the national parties may have less influence. I still don't think I could bring myself to vote for a Republican for any of these offices, but would seriously consider an independent or third-party candidate.

Otherwise, to reiterate, Mah Rabu's endorsement is


There are two exceptions where I would endorse voting for someone without a "D" after his/her name, but both of these exceptions still work towards the goal of Democratic majorities in Congress.

1) If you live in Vermont, vote for Bernie Sanders (I) for Senate. Rep. Sanders is an independent candidate and self-described socialist, but has been endorsed by the Democratic party, and there is no Democratic candidate in the race. He will continue to caucus loyally with the Democrats.

2) If you live in New York, vote for the Working Families Party for the races in which they've endorsed the Democratic candidate. New York has electoral fusion laws, so a candidate can run on multiple ballot lines, and his/her votes on all lines will be added together. So a vote for the WFP is a way to send a message without doing anything destructive. As the WFP says on their website, "Eliot Spitzer knows that every vote he gets on Row E - the Working Families Party ballot line - is a vote for progressive change to solve problems with our schools, health care, housing and jobs." The WFP has explicitly expressed support for taking back a Democratic majority in Congress.

The Connecticut Senate race is not an exception. Joe Lieberman (Connecticut for Lieberman) has abandoned all ties to the Democratic party, and is drawing most of his support from Republicans. Though he made a name for himself attacking Clinton on "family values", he has defended Hastert from accountability in the Foley scandal. Most recently, he said "Uh, I haven't thought about that enough to give an answer" when asked whether he wanted the Democrats to take back the House.

It is a very real possibility that the Senate will end up 49-49-2 (with Sanders and Lieberman as the two independents). If this happens, given Lieberman's conduct toward the Democratic party, why wouldn't Lieberman decide caucus with the Republicans and hand the tiebreaker to Dick Cheney, or use this as a threat to extort concessions from the Democrats? Bowers discusses what this would mean.

If you're in Connecticut, vote for Ned Lamont, a real Democrat. (Or if you're a Republican and can't bring yourself to vote D, then vote for your party's nominee, Alan Schlesinger, because, um, Lieberman might caucus with the Democrats.)


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