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Friday, February 03, 2006

Defeating Congresswoman Deborah Pryce, OH-15: the first step is listening

Anyone who cares about politics in Columbus, Ohio....hell, anyone who cares about politics in the United States...should read this article by Jeff Zeleny of the Chicago Tribune covering an event with DCCC chair Rep. Rahm Emanuel in Columbus, Ohio last week:

Representative Emanuel faced some tough questions from Ohio residents...exactly the kind of tough questions I'm advocating the netroots and grassroots ask of our leaders. Let's take a look. (Note: I quote more extensively than I usually do from an article because I want to emphasize the voters own words.)

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the leader of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, found himself fielding spirited questions at a breakfast meeting late last week as he laid out his ideas on how Democrats could seize control of Congress. When the Illinois congressman didn't include national security in his top five talking points, a man raised his hand and his voice.

"Can I give you a piece of advice?" said Ford Huffman, a Columbus attorney. "(Republicans) obviously believe it's their winning issue. Why can't we get out in front with it and say there's not an issue about security? Every American believes in securing America."

Emanuel tried to answer the question, asserting his eagerness to challenge the White House, but said he does not believe national security should be a political issue. As Emanuel spoke, Huffman turned his head and told those sitting around him: "It sounds like we are trying to dodge the issue. People are going to say the Democrats are being wussies."

"We can't just say Republicans are bad," said Frank Cipriano, a Columbus real estate developer. "We have to find something new to say."

And, later, this exchange with Emanuel hammered home grassroots voter discontent with Democratic message:

"How do we get our message out?" asked Ann Hughes, a Columbus resident..."It so easily gets portrayed that the Democratic Party is negative and the issue agenda gets controlled by the Republicans."

After Emanuel answered her question, he ticked through a list of five key themes he said the party should push this year: health care, education, energy independence, technology and fiscal discipline. It was national security, though, that the Democrats in his audience returned to again and again.

"We need to keep control of that conversation," Hughes said, "not be controlled by it."

Bill Goldman, a Columbus attorney, nodded in agreement. And before Emanuel could respond, he weighed in with his own set of ideas.

"What the Democratic Party needs today is the ability to articulate within each of those issues exactly what we are proposing to give us the changes we want, and exactly what we are proposing that will give us the security that we want," Goldman said. "We believe in everything that you've said, but I think all of us are getting tired of both parties having platitudes without road maps for success. We can't just criticize Bush because it won't work."

So, the first step, clearly, is to actually LISTEN to what the citizens are saying. These are people who are already energized in and around Congresswoman Deborah Pryce's district, OH-15; these are the citizens looking to rally around new leadership. They are saying, quite clearly, "the same old, same old" won't cut it.

Now, I'm sympathetic to Rep. Emanuel's dilemma. Congresswoman Deborah Pryce is the 4th-ranking Republican in the House; she is Chairman of the House Republican Conference. Her voting record on corporate subsidies, taxation, the environment and government checks on corporate power put Congresswoman Pryce squarely inside the conservative bloc in the GOP House. Congresswoman Pryce's leadership of her own caucus just narrowly survived a vote to open up her position and others in a "house cleaning" effort led by Republicans John Sweeney and Dan Lundgren. (That is a must read article, btw.) Further, Rep. Deborah Pryce recently helped oversee the passage of the House Budget Bill, saying: "American taxpayers, and anyone concerned with the nation's long-term fiscal stability, have won a great victory today" of a bill that enforces fiscal discipline by cutting programs for the poor such that Rep. Jim Gerlach, (R) of Pennsylvania said, in voting AGAINST this bill, said that he was:

"very concerned about ... funding for mental health and education as well as important health care areas that will ultimately target our nation's most needy citizens"

The voters in OH-15 will have a choice to make in November. Right now, Franklin County Commisioner, Mary Jo Kilroy, is prepared to challenge Deborah Pryce for these votes. Here's Mary Jo talking about student loans and the culture of corruption of the GOP.

What grassroots and netroots Democrats need to do, I think, is twofold: a) We need to ask how we can help, and wherever we can, spread the news about Representative Pryce's record and leadership. And b) We need to echo the challenge to our leadership that the citizens of Ohio started. The Democrats need to hone our message. We can't be perceived as ducking issues or conceding ground. We need to take it strongly to the hoop without falling into the trap of "negativity." That is our task across the board in 2006.

The first step in taking back OH-15 is to listen to the voters. It's something we all should pay heed to, from Mary Jo Kilroy to Rep. Rahm Emannuel, to all of us in the netroots.


  • Security, fear (cultivated by the Administraton) and the Iraq war are the elephants in the living room. We simply are not plausible if we fail to address these underlying, contextual concerns. That's what folks mean that we are ducking issues.

    I understand that core Dem strategists are hampered because party leaders don't have a unified position on these issues. But voters want something they can understand that speaks to these concerns or they find us "not ready for prime time" -- not ready to be the party of government.

    By Blogger janinsanfran, at 1:15 PM  

  • We are in a War people. WAR. People are dying....and certain people are planning to bring that death to our neighborhoods.

    What does that do to all other issues?

    By Anonymous Nubian Oracle, at 8:44 PM  

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