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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

We all live in Richard Pombo's district

One of the reasons that Manhattan and Austin and Madison and Santa Monica are such "hot beds" of liberal campaigns and causes is that we already have good representation in Congress. I mean, if we all lived in Richard Pombo's district the first thing we'd all do is work to kick the bastard out. Well, as true as that may be, I've got some bad news:

We all live in Richard Pombo's district.

As long as the GOP holds the House of Representatives it's as if guys like Richard Pombo and Tom DeLay are in our backyards having a barbeque with their cronies. Polluting the air. Gutting environmental regulation. Putting a steady stream of pro-corporate, anti-gay, anti-woman legislation before the nation. As it stands, there's nothing we can do about it. They own the House, and as long as they do, everything else we do politically in this country is like putting a band-aid on an artery.

The single most progressive thing any of us can work on is to win back the House. The House is the slam dunk of American politics. It rewards simple majorities and party discipline. It really is like setting up a barbeque in the other person's back yard. And, currently, friends, they do the cooking and we do the looking. Right now, the "House Pork force" looks like this:

109th House of Representatives

Republicans: 231
Democrats: 202
Independents: 1 
Vacant Seats:1
Total: 435

As an urban democrat and a progressive I know we've got two strikes against us trying to win those seats. First, we aren't a big enough bloc of voters to do this by ourselves. And second, we're all here packed into these 80/20 Democratic districts that will never, ever vote Republican. Picture how many people who have given their hearts and souls for environmental causes who live in Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco. Julia "Butterfly" Hill, to name one, works just down the way from me. Meanwhile...just over the East Bay hills, literally a hop skip and jump, a ten-minute BART ride, Richard Pombo is doing meet and greets in CA-11 and working against every good thing all of us on this side of the hills have ever done for the environment. And, because he and Tom DeLay vote in a "lock step" pork-brotherhood GOP Congress: Pombo wins. His one vote in a GOP-majority House beats the power of every single Bay Area environmentalist hands down.

We need to change this equation, and we can't do it alone. But I don't think that means we have to sell our values down the river to get there, either. We just need to be pragmatic and get our heads screwed on straight and keep our eyes on the biggest prize in U.S. politics: a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Being pragmatic means that thousands of us in these 80/20 and 70/30 and 60/40 districts are going to have to learn how to do a new kind of politics. We're going to have reach out to Democrats in 47/53 and 50/50 and 48/52 districts and help them do the job of kicking these guys out of all of our backyards. We need to innovate. We need to do more than just send checks on a "hope and a prayer." We're going to have to help make sure that good opponents in these districts get useful help and effective dollars. In my view, if we want progressive change, we should support a smart progressive candidate...but one who has got a chance of winning. Let's keep in mind that we're not going to get Barbara Lee or Barney Frank in a 'red' district. (I'll be writing about this much more.) Further, as bloggers, the simplest thing we can do is help keep the heat on the "bad guys." Nobody likes bad press. Not even Richard Pombo.

As proud progressives, we need to realize that this country is sick of ideology. We need to find a way to stand up for our core beliefs but, at the same time, forge a broader good government reform movement. From where I stand, the scandal-ridden GOP has given us a huge opportunity to form a progressive / good government reform alliance with a host of people of other political persuasions. The reform alliance works in all of our best interets. We're all anti-corruption. We're all anti-Tom DeLay. None of us likes fat cats, big wigs and backroom deals. And the best thing we might do as progressives is to brand our cause and our movement with the values of a "fair shake and a fair deal." Sunshine and openness are core progressive values; we've always believed in democracy and openess because those values work to make change. We need to brand ourselves that way, so that reform is the first thing people think of when they think of progressives. People need to know that. (Further, I think of sunshine and reform as insurance against sell-out Democrats and the corrupt influence of big money.)

In my view we 80/20 and 70/30 progressives need to start talking about a big broom to sweep up the mess in D.C. We need to talk about sweeping out corruption and cronyism and weasel words, and looking for partners to help do this. If we do this right, while we may not be all of the faces on the TV screen in 2006 or 2008...we will know that we swept the hammer out of D.C. forever, and did it in a way that built our values. More importantly, we will have a powerful seat at the table to keep advocating for good government and progressive change.

It's time to put a fair shake and clean government on the grill in Washington. Let's kick the pork-laden bastards out of all of our backyards.



  • All I can say is WOW! Very well written piece k/o! Few use the written work as gracefully as you do. I live in Duke Cunningham's district; maybe just maybe we can elect Ms. Bubsy here in a 45/55 district. As you argue, this is how the country is taken back.

    Keep up the good work.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 PM  

  • k/o, I live in "10 Gallon" Pombo's hometown, Tracy. Even the local paper has panned some of the policies he's supported. The worst part is, the folks here in Tracy don't even realize how his policies are hurting them. It's sad. Love that Central Valley air! Keep up the good work.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:21 PM  

  • [If anyone from CA-11 is reading this and likes what I'm saying, please send me an e-mail at emetbloom at hotmaildotcom]

    I wrote something similar in an e-mail to the author of the blog Get Rid of the DLC, which she then posted.

    The salient point that I keep in my mind is this: The fight cannot just be against Republicans, it must also be against those Democrats who prioritize corporate cash over the common good. You seem to acknowledge this problem with your mention of the "sell-out Democrats," but I think the problem is more fundamental than you seem to suggest.

    The argument against these sell-outs is not that they are ideologically impure, it is that they are corrupt and that their corruption taints all the other Dems (across the ideological spectrum). We must see this pernicious effect as a long-term strategic problem for the Democratic Party, and we must avoid unhesitatingly choosing short-term tactical successes that hinder our long-term strategic goals.

    By Anonymous Matt, at 2:49 PM  

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