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Howie Klein’s Blue America: The Luxury of Voting Your Conscience


How does anyone ever know who to vote for for school board or to put on the local judiciary? And in states like California sometimes there are a dozen or more propositions to pule over. I always make it my business to know about the candidates for statewide office and for my congressperson and state legislators. But beyond that… it gets tough.

Sometimes I lean on the local alternative weekly’s endorsements — at least for a jumping off point. Today I read the L.A. WEEKLY’S endorsements and got sick. On two of the most high profile races on the ballot Tuesday they were ALL WET. They picked Westly over Angelides for governor and, far worse, Harman over Winograd in CA-36. 

A far more intelligent way to look for electoral help would be to forget about flawed and superficial rags like these weeklies and pick up David Sirota’s brilliant new book, Hostile Takeover… and pay close attention. Using David’s book as a guide you’ll soon teach yourself how to tell a real progressive from a Big Business shill. He doesn’t offer a guide to individual names, of course; instead he helps define the issues we all need to focus on when making our decisions about who to vote for — especially in primaries where we have the luxury to vote our progressive ideals, without jeopardizing an at-least-they’re-better-than-the-Republicans Democratic majority.

Between Tuesday, when voters pick candidates in California, New Jersey, Montana, Iowa, New Mexico, Alabama, Mississippi and South Dakota, until September 23, when Hawaiian voters pick their candidates, 37 states have primaries, including some of the states with considerable netroots presence like New York, Florida, Ned Lamont’s Connecticut, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Wisconsin.

Like me, you probably read yesterday that Louisana’s Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco has just announced that she will sign a ban on abortion (proposed by a Democratic State Senator, Ben Nevres). What do you do about something like this? Believe it or not, a Republican is sure to be worse. That’s why primaries are so important. That’s the time we can hold our elected officials accountable for their actions in office.

Let me go back to Sirota’s book for a key example: the truly horrific bankruptcy bill passed by the current crop of senators and representatives. There are exactly 2 reasons why any Democratic would have voted for this monstrosity — either they are too stupid to know any better (making them unfit for elected office) or they’re on the take from the banking industry (making them unfit for elected office).

The credit card companies showered the politicians with millions and millions of dollars in anticipation of the day Paul Wellstone would not be around to prevent passage of a bill specifically designed to financially destroy working and middle class families, most of whom may face bankruptcy for one reason: medical emergencies. Crooked, make-believe Democrat, Evan Bayh (D-IN) who has greedily accepted around $300,000 in legal bribes from banking interests, got it ALL WRONG when he insultingly defended the bill by declaring that "people who engage in irresponsible behavior" go bankrupt and "impose their bad decisions and the cost of that on other people who behave more responsibly."

This is a twisted Republican lie you could expect to hear from O’Reilly or Limbaugh or Hannity. And you were hearing it from Big Business’ best friends in Congress, not just the owned-lock-stock-and-barrel Bayh but also from corporate Democrats like Joe Biden, Steny Hoyer and, of course, Lieberman. Yet this hideous bill penalizes far more victims of identity theft, and far, far, far more people who get laid off and lose their medical insurance than strawmen "who engage in irresponsible behavior."

Many of the Democrats in the House who supported this — every single Republican did — are the ones whose names we see again and again voting with Republicans on key bills where corporate bribes are at stake: people like Al Wynn (MD), Melissa Bean (IL), Ike Skelton (MO), Dan Boren (OK), Henry Cuellar (TX), William "$90,000-in-the-freezer" Jefferson (LA), Leonard Boswell (IA), Chet Edwards (TX), Jim Matheson (UT) and so on. Three are going for higher office and are soliciting out help for their career advancement: Harold Ford (Senate- TN), Ted Strickland (Governor- OH) and Bob Menendez (Senate- NJ). Unfortuately the alternatives to these people are even more dismal than they are.

Let’s see if there are any races where we can make a difference, any where we can effectively target our anger. One obvious race is in CA-36 where Jane Harman can be beaten by Marcy Winograd Tuesday. None of the other California Democrats who joined the Republicans for this vote — reactionaries and crooks Tauscher, Costa, Baca, Cardoza and Thompson — have primary opponents.

In fact, most of the Democrats who joined the GOP on that fateful day have no primary opponents. Another one who does, however, is conservative, corporate-oriented Al Wynn in Maryland’s 4th CD who is being challenged by progressive Donna Edwards and who is using Wynn’s support of the bankruptcy bill as a key part of her campaign. I’ll be covering Donna’s Lamont/Winograd-like insurgent campaign in a few weeks as we get a little closer to Maryland’s September 12th primary.

And, of course, the most important and high profile way to send a message to Democrats who ask for our campaign contributions and our votes and then act like Republicans is to defeat Bush’s favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman, August 8th and replace him with a real and honest Democrat, Ned Lamont. In fact I leave you with another quote from Sirota’s book to think about:

Never to be outshone by fellow senators in stiffing average Americans, Senator Joe Lieberman (D) joined in the fun. The Connecticut lawmaker, who has taken $267,000 from the banking industry in his career, sent out a press release trumpeting himself as a great defender of the middle class, pointing to his vote against final passage of the bankruptcy legislation. Yet Lieberman’s press release conveniently omitted the face that just hours before his "no" vote, he cast a key "yes" vote that undermined courageous lawmakers who were blocking the bill. This procedural vote (called "cloture"), which Lieberman supported, was widely acknowledged to be the vote that actually passed the bill.

OK — that made me think of a contest. Lieberman has liked this tactic of deception — making sure to support his Republican allies where it really counts and then claiming to vote with Democrats when it doesn’t. The 10 best essays or paragraphs with examples of Lieberman’s duplicity along these lines will get a rare and valuable CD that can’t be purchased in any stores and has music on it by a variety of ultra cool artists like The Ramones, Green Day, Body Count, Fleetwood Mac, The Smiths, Enya, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Depeche Mode, Wilco, Neil Young, Lou Reed and John Cale, Talking Heads, Armageddon Dildos and more (including some songs that are otherwise unavailable). Send your answers to downwithtyranny AT aol DOT com.

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Howie Klein

Howie Klein

Howie Klein spent much of his life wandering around the world living in places like Afghanistan, Nepal, Holland and Morocco. He moved backed to America when Richard Nixon resigned and promptly helped start the first punk rock radio show in the country and then a DIY punk rock record label. His adventures in the music business ended a couple of years ago when he retired as president of Reprise Records. He began blogging almost immediately, starting Down With Tyranny. Jane taught him html while he held one of her dogs at a party. He is a raw foodist, lives in L.A., swims and hikes every day, thinks Howard Dean could be a president as great as FDR and will never be completely happy until Bush and Cheney are behind bars.