I’m Luke Clippinger and I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. I’ve been asked to contribute to Free State Politics from time to time to give some updates from Barack Obama’s steering committee in Maryland. This first post is focused on where most Democrats are focused right now – the Democratic National Convention here in Denver. I wanted to write a little bit about what I’m doing here, and about the Democratic platform. Over the rest of the week, I’ll report on the things I see and do here at the convention – and talk about ways to get involved in Maryland (and adjacent states) over the next ten weeks.
I’m here in Denver as one of Maryland’s three members of the Platform committee to the Democratic National Convention. The Platform Committee is one of the three standing committees of the convention (the other two are the Rules and Credentials Committees). The Platform committee drafts and recommends the Democratic Platform to the delegates at the Democratic Convention.
The Democratic Platform that will be approved by the delegates on Tuesday night is the result of a process that included the voices of thousands of Democrats from across the country. The platform drafting process started with thousands of community meetings held in community centers, churches, and people’s homes. There were over 20 meetings that took place in Maryland over the last two weeks in July.
I attended eight of these meetings across the state of Maryland last month – from Hagerstown in the west to Grasonville in the east. Over 200 people attended the meetings I attended – and the discussions we had were impressive. Even more significant is that the ideas that came from these meetings were integrated into the Democratic Platform.
The meeting in Davidsonville crafted language that is featured in the environmental section of the Platform,
“The health of our planet is at risk. We believe all citizens of our planet require us as Americans to make real changes in the way we consume our planet’s limited resources, produce energy and use energy.”
This language is part of the section that lays out the Democratic plan for establishing energy security. The platform sets as a goal that we will reduce our oil consumption by at least 35%, or 10 million barrels a day, by 2030 – more than offsetting the equivalent of oil our nation is expected to import from OPEC nations in 2030.
Immigration was one of the issues discussed in Laurel, with the highly complex issue described as “a seven layer salad with bacon bits.” The participants at this conversation, hosted by Crystal Thompson, talked about a number of different aspects to the debate surrounding our immigration laws and agreed that there needed to be a comprehensive solution.
While the Platform didn’t refer to bacon bits, the Democratic Platform did state “our current immigration system has been broken for far too long. We need comprehensive immigration reform, not just piecemeal efforts.” The Platform identifies a number of priorities for a Democratic administration including securing our borders, improving the legal immigration system, and addressing those people who have come to our nation illegally, but who are otherwise playing by the rules.
In Frederick participants supported a vision for education that “embraces accountability and rejects No Child Left Behind as a method of allocating federal dollars,” with an ultimate goal of “ensuring all students are competitive both in the information age” and the global economy. The plank crafted at the C. Burr Artz library is very similar to the language adopted in the Democratic platform that advocates we, as Democrats
“will fix the failures and broken promises of No Child Left Behind while holding to the goal of providing every child access to a world–class education, raising standards and ensuring accountability for closing the achievement gap.”
The organizers of the community meetings across both Maryland and the country sent their suggested campaign planks to the Platform Drafting committee. The Drafting Committee assembled and refined the document that the Platform Committee considered and revised, page by page and paragraph by paragraph, in Pittsburgh on August 9. We approved the document at that meeting, and have sent it here to Denver for approval by the convention on Tuesday night.
I believe that what was approved is a great statement of what we as Democrats believe and what we want our country to aspire to over the next four years and beyond. Over this week, I’m looking forward to meeting Democrats from across the country as we prepare to take our campaign – and our platform - to the streets over the next ten short weeks.
Just when you thought the economy had hit rock bottom. The Conference Board, a non-profit global business organization has reported that its consumer confidence index has dropped to its lowest point since the last recession in 1992. The New York Times paints the grim picture:
Tuesday’s data suggested a nation struggling with expensive gas and devalued homes, where people are fearful for their jobs and wary about where the economy is headed.
Any positive signs that economists and forecasters may have cited need to be thrown out the window. Even with the consumer confidence index at 50.4%, down a whopping 7.7% from May, the worst may still be yet to come. This report should be a wake up call to legislators across the country on behalf of a nation in desperate need of more help.
As the economy worsens, more and more key players are getting on board with the idea of a second economic recovery package. But not everyone's where we need them to be to get something done in time to matter. For example Rep. David Obey (D-WI), powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee free associated to Congress Daily (subscription only) and revealed that he doesn't quite get how urgent doing something to stave off this recession is:
"People use all kinds of terminology; I don't care if you call it a second supplemental or a second economic [stimulus] package -- to me there are all kinds of things that we need domestically -- but we need finish this job [war supplemental] before we can start thinking about the next one"
This pains me. Not only are House Democrats punting on telecom immunity, they're putting war spending ahead of domestic spending.
As I wrote on myDD, Bush's first economic stimulus package just didn't work. We didn't get the big sweeping surge of economic growth we were promised. Even what good news we've gotten was drowned out by a chorus of story after story of bad economic news. The costs of living are growing rapidly as employment becomes harder to find. Food is getting more expensive as food bank lines grow longer. The longer Congress waits to act, the worse things will get.
At least 12 states have implemented or are considering cuts that will affect low-income children's or families' eligibility for health insurance or reduce their access to health care services.
At least 10 states are cutting or proposing to cut K-12 education; three of them are proposing cuts that would affect access to child care.
At least 11 states have proposed or implemented reductions their state workforce. Workforce reductions often result in reduced access to services residents need.
And when states are forced to do things like cut their state workforce, the economy suffers even more. According to CNN/Money:
With falling revenue from sales and income taxes, and property-tax declines looming, states, cities and towns have already laid off tens of thousands of government employees. Many expect more job cuts ahead as public officials struggle to balance their budgets.
Economists say that cutbacks in jobs and spending by local governments could be a major drag on the overall economy.
It's cool that Obey recognizes the need for a second stimulus package. But he also needs to understand that each day he lets pass without doing something means the economic hole we're in is that much deeper and is going to require that much more federal spending to help us get out of.
After Steny Hoyer's shameful performance in pushing the FISA bill through the House [which just sailed through the cloture vote in the Senate --IS], there's been talk about putting up a primary challenge to him in 2010. Even if it's only a protest candidacy, it might at least register the outrage many Democrats feel about their party's leadership giving in to Republicans' demands to let telecom companies break the law, and then turning around and portraying it as a victory for Democrats. It was infuriating enough when Democrats were in the minority, but to see Hoyer, et al, do the same thing as the majority party is almost inexplicable.
But is a primary challenge the best way to hold Hoyer accountable? I see three things to consider here:
Is FISA a big enough deal that Hoyer ought to be taken out because of it? Certainly for many Democrats, it is: Not only is Hoyer abetting the Bush administration's erosion of the Fourth Amendment, but by implicitly conceding that the Republican position is right, he is giving them an unearned victory in the national security debate. On the other hand, while rank and file Democrats are exercised over it, it's less clear that the broader public feels the same way. Yet again, FISA capitulation could be the issue that leads to a broader discontent with Hoyer, much as Al Wynn's attempts to quash net neutrality led to the discovery of a whole set of issues where he was serving his constituents poorly.
If we answer yes to the above, could you find a candidate wiling and able to run against Hoyer? That's tricky. Hoyer's got connections to just about everybody in the Maryland Democratic Party; unlike Wynn, Hoyer has been pretty successful in making more friends than enemies during his career. Moreover, the Fourth District was extremely lucky that someone as smart and talented as Donna Edwards decided to run for office when she did. It's possible that someone of similar caliber is willing to risk it (Populista mentions Paul Pinsky, my state senator, for example), but even then, it would be very much a long shot candidacy.
And lastly, does a primary challenge potentially put Hoyer's seat at risk of being scooped up by Republicans? The Fifth District has a Partisan Voting Index of D+9, and Hoyer hasn't faced a viable Republican opponent in years. At the same time, the Fifth District has a fairly high proportion of rural and conservative voters compared to neighboring districts; if and when Hoyer decides to leave Congress, the GOP will likely make a strong play for the seat.
So while it's possible that someone could mount a successful primary challenge to Hoyer, the stars would have to align in a very precise manner for that to happen. Besides, I suspect that, for better or worse, FISA, warrantless surveillance, telecom immunity could well be old news by 2010: The Bush administration's obsession with secrecy and unaccountable power is sui generis, and while the FISA "compromise" sets a bad precedent, I doubt it will survive a Barack Obama presidency. If John McCain is elected, on the other hand, we may still have a problem.
UPDATE: The Great Orange Satan's discussion of primary challenges in 2010 is worth a read.
CQ Politics is reporting on the Democratic leadership's desire for a second package to strengthen the economy that largely lines up with Barack Obama's plans. But are Congressional Dems omitting aid to state governments, one of the key planks of Obama's plan?
Democrats have been contemplating a second effort to inject money this year into the faltering economy. The idea appears to have gained traction, particularly among congressional leaders, since Monday when presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois outlined a $50 billion stimulus proposal that will serve as the centerpiece of a two-week economic tour of battleground states.
Though the prospects for a second stimulus package are slim, the debate gives congressional Democrats an opportunity to rally around Obama.
The massive economic stimulus package enacted in February focused on tax breaks for businesses and rebates for individuals and families.
Obama has proposed a second round of rebate checks, an extension of unemployment insurance, aid to state governments and a new $10 billion fund to help stem the tide of home foreclosures.
He also proposed increasing investment in infrastructure such as roads, schools and bridges.
"There's a need for additional targeted stimulus," said Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad , D-N.D.
Schumer said infrastructure investment and a second round of rebate checks could be part of the new package, which Democrats are likely to unveil after the July Fourth recess
State government spending is a key prop holding up the economy during a recession. Dem leaders might want to check out the NYT, which pointed out earlier this week:
At $1.8 trillion annually in a $14 trillion economy, the states and municipalities spend almost twice as much as the federal government, including the cost of the Iraq war. When librarians, lifeguards, teachers, transit workers, road repair crews and health care workers disappear, or airport and school construction is halted, the economy trembles.
I've been avoiding commenting on the whole superdelegate question. Mostly this is because it annoys me so intensely that the mainstream media is screaming and yelling and beating their chests about this whole issue, when we don't even know yet whether it will be an issue. If Obama's momentum holds, then we could we know who our nominee will be by April or May. Then again, if it flags, we may not.
Two cents: I think Donna Brazile's got it right. If we get to the convention and the superdelegates end up deciding to pick the candidate that the majority of primary voters and caucusgoers have opposed, then we have no right to call ourselves the Democratic Party. Whatever other foibles we may have, whatever other sketchy parts of our past there may be, popular Democracy has been a hallmark of Democratic politics going back to Andrew Jackson. To abandon that, to allow a few backroom leaders to choose the President, the vast majority of whom are not elected officials but party insiders, would violate that ideal. The party would fracture, there would be hell to pay inside Democratic Party politics, and we might very well lose the election in November.
So I tend to believe that the superdelegates from should go with the popular vote of whatever body of people they represent. Representatives should go with the candidate who got the most vote sin their districts. Senators, Governors, and DNC members should go with whichever candidates got the most votes in their state. And, although I support Obama, that should go for both candidates. I like that Ted Kennedy is supporting Obama, I have a lot of respect for what the guy thinks, but his state supports Clinton, and if it comes down to the convention, so should he.
But likewise, that would mean every Maryland superdelegate should vote for Clinton. Current endorsements, most prominently by Governor O'Malley and Senator Mikulski, seem to contradict that. If it comes down to it, I believe these elected leaders should be held to account for bucking the will of their consistuents. But that's just me, and my two cents.
I've added a listing of Maryland superdelegates after the fold, fyi, and will try to post if and when more Maryland superdelegates endorse.
Maryland Congressional candidate Donna Edwards did not need a memo from a pollster to tell her the subprime mortgage crisis would be an issue in her 2008 race. Campaigning on the doorsteps and at Metro stops of her racially and economically diverse suburban Washington district, she heard women talking last summer about how a credit crunch might cost them their homes. Edwards, one of a new breed of savvy policy wonks and strategists who are leaving the public-interest community to bid for major elected office, knew how to respond. Months before Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama began promising to fight to keep middle-class families in their homes--and with an urgency that is still missing from the response of House and Senate Democratic leaders--Edwards called for radically revising the 2005 bankruptcy bill as part of a plan to protect homeowners from financial ruin.
It didn't hurt that the incumbent Democrat she's challenging in Maryland's February 12 primary, eight-term Congressman Albert Wynn, voted for the bankruptcy bill, favored by commercial banks, which have contributed $185,917 to his campaign. But for Edwards, this was about more than political positioning. "Prince Georges County has the highest rate of foreclosures in Maryland, and my ZIP code has the highest rate of foreclosures in the county," says Edwards, a veteran activist on issues of concern to women and working families. "When I talk about why we need a different kind of Democrat in Congress--someone who sides with consumers, not corporate interests--people understand exactly what I'm talking about."
Score another point for Edwards. With support from the Service Employees International Union and other key unions, environmental groups and liberal activists with Democracy for America and Progressive Democrats of America, she is given a fair chance of upsetting Wynn, a corporate-friendly Democrat who voted to authorize Bush to attack Iraq, pass Vice President Cheney's energy bill and protect pharmaceutical companies from consumer-friendly reforms.
The Edwards-Wynn race is a bellwether contest in the fight for the soul of the Democratic Party. That fight is at least as likely to be determined in this year's Congressional primaries as in a stilted race for the presidency, where both Clinton and Obama are eyeing the middle ground they expect to occupy in the fall. These local primaries have national importance, as they could answer an essential question: will a Democratic Party that muddled its message after gaining control of Congress in 2006 advance a progressive brief in the post-Bush era?
Great article from one of my favorite journalists. Any thoughts?
Let me say this is no uncertain terms -- our ONLY ability to influence the Democratic caucus in Washington D.C. rests in our ability to defeat them in their primaries next year. No other elections are more important for purposes of our movement (as opposed to the nation as a whole) than these two. If Dan Lipinski and Al Wynn hold on, it will tell other Democrats that they have little to fear from us. If we defeat them, it will put the entire caucus on notice that we can and will target them if they lose touch with who they serve (i.e. the people, not themselves and their lobbyist cocktail party hosts).
This has been my hope as well, if for no other reason than that we might induce more Democrats (Barbara Mikulski and Steny Hoyer, say) to, if not actually end the Iraq debacle or stop the Bush administration's abuse of civil liberties, than to at least put the Republicans in the position of fully owning what they have wrought. As it stands, Democrats are becoming willing enablers of policies that have weakened our national security and made a mockery of the Constitution. It's become hard for me even to blog about it anymore: More money for the Iraq debacle, no string attached? A weak-ass energy bill that continues to heavily subsidize coal and oil? It just keeps piling up.
But Donna Edwards keeps me hopeful, as does the fact that primary challenges really do seem to make incumbents uncomfortable, and even change their tune on the issues of the day. Say what you will of Al Wynn, but nearly losing to Edwards in 2006 really did put the fear of God in him; and while his attempts to mend his ways are laughably transparent, it's still a sign that those of us committed to a more progressive future can intervene meaningfully in the political process that often seems hostile to such a future. If Edwards beats Wynn on Feb. 12, I think we'll see a lot of hand-wringing from the Washington establishment, but over time, more Democrats with backbone.
CQ and a number of other sources are announcing that Democrats plan to capitulate to Bush's demands on 11 of the 12 remaining appropriations bills.
The spending bills, combined, are $22 billion over Bush's FY2008 budget request. An initial offer to "split the difference" - so, $11 billion over his budget - was rejected via Jim Nussle, White House Budget Director.
It appears that the House will draft an omnibus spending bill that will fall within Bush's budget request. And no, they're not taking Rep. David Obey's (D-WI) suggestion to strip out all the earmarks to meet that goal.
The House bill will contain $30-some-odd billion for the war in Afghanistan. When the omnibus reaches the Senate, another $70 billion will be added for the war in Iraq. That $70 billion by the way, comes free and clear of any sort of timetables, benchmarks, standards, or accountability.
Why is this bad? The big reasons:
1) The federal government is currently running on a continuing resolution. In 2006, Congress failed to pass the FY2007 spending bills so they punted and funded all government programs at FY2006 levels.
This caused hiring freezes, delays and reductions in outlays to states for defense-related planning (e.g., BRAC in Maryland), and lower outlays for federal-state share plans like the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and more. It also meant that, essentially, most agencies took a hit since inflation rose and funding did not.
2) No strings attached to yet more war funding. According to the CBO, we've spent $640,000,000,000 on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we reduce troops to 30,000 by 2010, we're looking at an additional $570,000,000,000. If not, we're looking at another $1,055,000,000,000 dollars by 2017. Neither of these figures include the cost of the administration’s initiative to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps, which CBO estimates will cost $162,000,000,000 over the 2008–2017 period.
I am appalled that the Democrats are going to eat their own - namely the 73 members of the Out of Iraq Caucus (of which Elijah Cummings and Albert Wynn are members). I anticipate being further appalled when some of the 73 go back on their word and vote for this monstrosity.
I am appalled that the Democrats are going to allow domestic programs to continue to bear the brunt of an ill-conceived war, one in which our administration destroyed evidence of torture that was under FOIA request by the ACLU in the Southern District of New York.
I am appalled that the Democrats are probably going to roll back good, progressive policy in the omnibus, like weaking or repealing the Mexico City Policy, to get the thing signed into law so they can go home to their districts by Christmas.
I am embarrassed for the party. I am embarrassed to call myself a Democrat.
Edited to add: As I guessed, language weakening or repealing the atrocious Mexico City policy will NOT be included in the omnibus bill. Apparently Nancy Pelosi believes that Congress' "first and foremost" responsibility is to negotiate a spending bill "that will be signed" by President Bush.
To put some statistical meat onto the bones of Eric's post, let's first note that if the Democrats are truly becoming the party of so-called gentry liberals, no one has bothered telling the working classes. As Andrew Gelman of Columbia has shown, if only the bottom third of the income distribution voted in the last presidential election, John Kerry would have won in a landslide. It's only when you move into the middle and upper income levels that George W. Bush voters start to dominate, and the familiar red state/blue state divide emerges. As he puts it:
Thus, the familiar red-blue divide of cosmopolitan coastal Democrats and heartland-state Republicans shows up among the rich but not the poor.
In addition, Steele compared Democrats to the Borg, a fictional race of half-human, half-cyborg creatures from "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The Borg were known for rapidly adapting to any tactic used by humans to defeat them, as well as assimilating any new species they encountered for their encountered. The Borg's slogan was this: "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile."
So here's how Steele thinks Democrats are like the Borg: "In 1994, we killed the Borg, I mean the Democrats. What did they do? They adapted."
Steele added that he wanted the GOP "to focus on defeating the Borg" next year.
Wait, it gets better. If the Democrats are the Borg, then Republicans must be the Federation. But the Federation, as we learn from one of the Klingon characters in Star Trek VI, is a "homo-sapiens-only club" -- clearly a reference to the GOP's melanin problem. Are African-Americans, then, the Klingons? But if that's so, then why does Lt. Worf say to the Borgified Jean-Luc Picard in one episode of ST:TNG that "the Klingon Empire will never yield" to the Borg/Democrat collective? Could it be that Worf is actually... Michael Steele? The mind reels.
See, the thing about the Democratic Party is, it's not as if they don't know how to play hardball. Observe:
Now the campaign for children's health care is getting personal.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md., chairman of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is targeting eight Republicans for voting against legislation that expands the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the expansion which President Bush is set to veto.
The radio ads started at "drive time'' today, the DCCC says, and will run for a week in several congressional districts: o calls will run in the following districst of Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio, Thelma Drake (R-Va.), Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), Randy Kuhl R-N.Y.) Jim Saxton (R-N.J.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).
The automated phone calls are delivering messages from Lisa Matzenbach, whose daughter, Liane, suffers from a chronic illness.
Say what you will about those tactics, but it's clear that, when the Democrats want to fight for something (in this case SCHIP), they will go in guns blazing. This makes their relative passivity regarding Iraq (and now Iran) all the more baffling. It reminds me of this old post by Matthew Yglesias:
When an issue is important to them, Democrats will really fight for it. Not just lip service -- they'll run meaningful political risks on behalf of the public sector unions.
To stop a war with Iraq? To halt torture? Illegal surveillance? Suddenly you see a lot less speed, a lot less determination, and a lot less backbone. Not that I begrudge the unions their influence, either. They won it fair and square -- with organizing, with money, with volunteers, with discipline, with clear requests, etc. As you see with any influential group, securing influence takes work. Sadly, there are virtually no institutions of any consequence organized around providing a progressive take on the substance -- as opposed to labor procedures -- of national security issues. And until that changes, you'll keep having what we have today; a Democratic Party with very clear ideas about whether or not airport screeners should be represented by unions, but very hazy ideas about how to deal with Iran.
Indeed. One gets the impression that the Democratic leadership would work harder to end the war if there were a national security equivalent of the Sierra Club or NARAL. I suppose MoveOn.org could be such a group, but they're more of a multi-issue organization, and besides, given the speed with which the Democrats in Congress dropped them at the first sign of controversy, they apparently don't have much influence yet inside the Beltway.
Looks like Maryland's own Steny Hoyer is leading the Democratic charge to...roll over and let Republicans do whatever they want. Apparently, ol' Steny thinks that ending the war--the very thing that led Americans to elect a Democratic Congress--is bad politics. He seems to believe that collaboration with right-wing criminals is a better strategy than resistance.
Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft explains why this is wrong, wrong, wrong in his article, "You Can't Beat Something With Nothing". He presents a much better "fight 'em on the beaches" strategy for Dems in Congress, suggesting a statement for Nancy Pelosi:
Look, we all know that Bush has been out of control. He's done a lot of things that on their face look like impeachable offenses. But our job is to fix, not to punish. Punishing only makes sense if it will fix things. So we're going to try to work constructively with Bush and with the Republicans in Congress. We will do that for 90 days. And if they block us for 90 days, if it's clear that they won't let us fix anything, then we will start looking into impeachment, because that will fix problems in the future, by making any future troublemaker like Bush think twice before he acts.
I read an article the other day that scared the hell out of me. It was Naomi Wolf's article about the ten-step method used to close down open Democratic societies and turn them into right-wing dictatorships.
I read similar "Rise of American-style Fascism" articles five years ago, and it shocks me that all ten steps are still occurring.
1. Invoke a terrifying external/internal enemy. Check. 2. Create a gulag. Check. 3. Develop a thug caste. Check.
The list goes on.
My question is, Why won't Maryland's Democrats in Congress fight this?
I did not think much of the MoveOn ad about Gen. David Petraeus, but this is ridiculous:
The GOP-introduced resolution condemning MoveOn just passed by a huge margin, 72-25. Roughly half the Democrats in the Senate supported it.
A couple of the more interesting votes: Jim Webb, who just yesterday was a Netroots hero, voted for it, even though the last thing he needs as a military guy is cover on something like this.
Meanwhile, Hillary -- who's been under assault by Rudy for refusing to condemn MoveOn but who's also locked in a tough Dem primary -- stood her ground and voted No.
And of course, our two Senators, being the liberal stalwarts they are, voted for this travesty.
So let me get this straight: The Senate doesn't think the right of habeas corpus applies to everybody, nor does it think our soldiers deserve adequate time to rest between deployments, nor that the taxpayers of the District of Columbia are entitled to a vote in the U.S. Congress. It does, however, think that criticizing a general in a newspaper ad is beyond the pale.
I can't believe this. Aren't elections supposed to have consequences? It's like it's 2003 all over again.
I did the unthinkable and changed my registration from Libertarian to Democratic this week. I hope I make a fine a group of friends among the Dems as I enjoyed for 12 years as a Libertarian. It's a little painful to say goodbye, but I did it.
As everyone knows, this is the week when Congress, and the nation, will finally get to hear the Petraeus Report (which, it turns out, will be neither authored by Gen. David Petraeus, nor be an actual report) on the military surge in Iraq. Despite the fact that its claims of reduced violence have already been debunked by multiple sources, the White House's propaganda coalition-building campaign to keep the war going appears thus far to be successful. We certainly have not seen the Democrats, by and large, presenting a united front against the Bush administration. Too many in Congress still -- still! -- too scared of being called weak on national security (even though our staying in Iraq is wrecking it), and the silence from most of the presidential candidates has been deafening. (Hillary? Obama? Where's your leadership on this issue now, not 18 months from now?)
Sadly, Maryland's congressional delegation has been pretty lousy as well. From House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, we've been getting rubbish like this:
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) came out on Wednesday in favor of holding a vote on a bipartisan Iraqi withdrawal bill. Meanwhile, the party’s left wing renewed calls for a pullout and announced a new campaign to block funds for arming and training the Iraq Security Forces.
The bipartisan legislation, authored by Reps. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) and John Tanner (D-Tenn.), would order Bush to draft plans to withdraw from Iraq but not require them to be implemented. Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) and two other Republicans have signed on as cosponsors.
“I would like to see us move forward on that,” Hoyer said. “The president ought to come up with a plan for withdrawal.”
Of course, President Bush is never going to voluntarily withrdraw troops from Iraq -- and has said as much -- but I digress.
I say Iraq/Iran because that's what the moneyappears to be for. The question we need to spend the next few weeks asking our Democratic Senators and Reps is whether or not they plan on supporting this supplemental.
None of these Democrats face Republican opposition in their districts. They were all elected to do one thing above all, end the war in Iraq.
In my opinion, the only acceptable answer is a resounding NO.
As you may know, the dynamic duo of Matt Stoller and Chris Bowers are currently engaged in a campaign directed at certain moderate and conservative Democrats who have been voting with the Bush administration on key issues, including Iraq and the warrantless wiretapping law. Called "Bush Dogs," after the fact that many of these Democrats are members of the Blue Dog caucus, these Dems have capitulated over and over to the Bush administration -- creating, in Stoller's words, a working conservative majority in Congress. As progressives, we have to do something to get them to start voting with their party and with the American people, who want to bring our troops home from Iraq and don't want Bush's Justice Department to have unchecked surveillance powers. Already the camapaign has generated some buzz; check out Open Left to see for yourself.
Now, of the 30 or so members listed as Bush Dogs, none are from Maryland -- but that's not to say this campaign shouldn't concern Marylanders. If it hadn't been for Donna Edwards, Al Wynn would likely be on that list as well -- though apart from Iraq and warrantless wiretapping, he's still a problematic Democrat. Likewise, Dutch Ruppersberger (like Wynn) made a similar list in the American Prospect a few years ago for his votes against the middle class:
After the 2000 census provided a redistricting opportunity, Maryland's Democratic General Assembly, according to The Almanac of American Politics, literally designed the district for Ruppersberger, who had served both as a prosecutor and as Baltimore County executive (the job once held by Spiro Agnew). First elected in 2002, Ruppersberger won the seat last time with 67 percent of the vote. “I have the most conservative of the Democratic seats held by members of Congress from Maryland,” he insists. “We were able to get the seat back because of my moderate record.” Maybe; but John Kerry carried the district comfortably, 54 percent to 45 percent. Yet Ruppersberger has one of the most pro-Republican records in the House on pocketbook issues. A personal friend of Charles Cawley, president of the financial giant MBNA, Ruppersberger championed the bankruptcy bill and garnered $17,250 from the financial industry. He also voted to cap lawsuits, and for estate-tax repeal. On his bankruptcy vote, Ruppersberger explains, “It was a hard bill, and I put in several amendments that would exempt people with medical bills” from going bankrupt. His amendments lost, but he voted for the bill anyway.
In fairness, Ruppersberger voted against the warrantless wiretapping bill, but did vote for continued war funding without enforceable benchmarks this year.
Unfortunately, filling any of those desks in the coming term might be harder than it appears. While some Democrats have shown they will ask the Bush administration hard questions (questions the Bushies have felt they have every right to ignore), most Dems have shown they can be cowed into submission nearly any time the president and his cronies start waving their arms while yelling "National security!" Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. Patrick Leahy have both built very deliberative cases of Bush administration wrongdoing and pushed for contempt citations at an almost glacial pace (even knowing in advance the Bush strategy of "running out the clock"). But we have to question whether or not they have the backbone to be as aggressive and innovative in the seeking of justice as the administration is devoted to obstructing it. It would be interesting to see how the administration would react if suddenly the Senate sergeant-at-arms appeared at the doors of Gonzales and Karl Rove and placed them under arrest for their willful disobedience of congressional subpoenas and contempt citations--powers that are well within the rights and authority granted in the Constitution to the legislative branch, unlike the concept of "executive privilege."
As if to prove Morton's point about the Democrats' fecklessness, the Post is reporting that President Bush plans to seek another $50 billion for the Iraq war -- and he expects to get it.