Friday, April 14, 2017

Dems with Time on Their Hands

I have been known in these pages to gripe about the Democratic Party standing on the sidelines while good candidates struggle to be heard against well-connected and well-heeled republicans.  I have urged in a strident tone party Democrats to jump in and help level the playing field.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

While Tea Bagger Mick Mulvaney is fulfilling all his wet dreams by being able to use the eraser end of his pencil to cut from the budget every penny his former constituents depend on to survive, the race to replace him in South Carolina's District 5 has heated up.

In Kansas, in a district in which Trump won by 27 points, the House seat in last week's special election went to the republican candidate, but beating Democrat James Thompson by less than 7 points.  It appears that, while actual Democratic voters are fired up and ready to go, the Democratic Party took a look at the race and said, "Nah, too hard."

In Georgia's 6th, Jon Ossoff has had such a head of steam by virtue not only of his great credentials, a strong endorsement by Congressman John Lewis and the excitement of voters, that the Democratic Party has leaped into the battle.  He has been in the news for months, beginning with Rachel Maddow's interview with Daily Kos' David Nir, in which she scolded Party Dems for sitting on the sidelines and ended up lighting a fire under them.  He is so hot that republicans are paying for ridiculous attack ads to counter the groundswell of support.  And don't be surprised if the Trump-and-Pence show makes an appearance.

I am proud to say that here in South Carolina's 5th, while the republican clown car predictably is full (seven candidates) we have had three good people stand up to run in the Democratic Primary for Mulvaney's seat.

Here's the thing.  A few weeks ago, to my amazement, I got an email from Daily Kos endorsing Archie Parnell.  Not too long after that I heard that he was being endorsed by former Congressman John Spratt.  Then, last week, my email box was hit by pleas for donations from familiar names like Robby Mook, Daniel Barash, and the candidate himself.

Since I am not in the district, my first thought was to wonder who had given away the email list.  I hadn't gotten any mass emails from the woman I am endorsing, Alexis Frank.

And the publicity has been skewed.  The Union Daily Times reported on an event appearance by a Parnell staff member by referring to Parnell as "the sole Democrat" running.  Take this headline in The State:  "In SC Congress race, Goldman Sachs executive faces student."  Maybe if Alexis was a guy, the headline might have been "...Goldman Sachs executive faces army veteran."

This was an octopus of a candidate.  Suddenly he was everywhere.  It was a slick political race of the type we don't usually see in sleepy South Carolina towns.

When I first became aware of the race, I had sent an email to Alexis, asking for her positions on an array of issues.  She responded immediately, and I wrote endorsing her on my blog.  Parnell may look harmless,

and the video of his announcement with his wife wisecracking in the background was certainly clever.  But behind it all is the fact that he is a former Goldman Sachs senior advisor -- a fact that he does not explicitly mention, merely talking about his international financial expertise.

And with that, along with all the fund raising spam I have been getting from the various and sundry familiar names, and with the professional slickness of the campaign, I realized that Parnell's connections come not just from GS, but from Hillary.

I can almost picture those big guys at GS urging Archie to run.  And political contacts being made.

I hate to say it.  I believe Hillary's heart is in the right place, as are the campaign staff that don't really want to be twiddling their thumbs while Democratic candidates fall in special elections.  But here's the thing.

A primary is a different animal.  A primary is where the Democratic Party gets a chance to make headlines, to get people to show up.  It is a time when the Party can say, "look at all these great candidates that want to run for office.  Give them a listen."  It is a way of making people aware that, for one thing, there is an election happening, and for another, that there are real issues that need to be talked about.  And we Democrats have a few really good people that aren't afraid to get up there and debate those issues.

And, by the way, it gives the eventual winner the experience and confidence to go on and make their case to all the people.

Instead, we have the national Democratic Party coming into our town and putting their finger on the scale.  Much like what the DNC did under Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, when she decided that it would be better to try to block Bernie Sanders from the spotlight because he might hinder Hillary Clinton's shot at the nomination.  When in fact, the more the merrier should have been the call.

Meanwhile, Parnell never got back to my email asking for his stand on the issues, but at least now he has issues listed on his website.  It concerns me that his primary cause seems to be simplifying the tax code so we all can pay less in taxes.  That is a republican game, wherein they throw a few dollars at the middle class, millions more to the 1%, resulting in budget cuts to important programs to cover the loss in taxes.

The other concern I have is that he is running on his ability to "work with" republicans.  Wow.  So we have a Congress run by an extreme right-wing party which purpose is to cut needed programs from the working class and the poor, and Archie wants to work on compromise?  For too many years our party has been Charlie Brown hoping to get a chance at the football.  We make deals that cost us dearly, like Obama backing off on a public option so that the health insurance industry could retain control over the market, for that matter Ted Kennedy "working with" W. on the Medicare drug plan that would fatten the already bulging pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.

We saw President Obama get smacked around by a party that will do anything to win, including refusing to hold hearings for a moderate, well-respected Supreme Court nominee.  That is an insult to the Constitution that I believe even Scalia might have balked at.

It is a sad day when once again, the Democratic Party chases down the shiny object instead of doing the smart thing -- and more important, the right thing.

So here is what we can do about our SC District 5 special election.  The primary is coming up fast, on May 2.

1.  Continue to spread the word.  If you aren't in District 5, you surely know somebody who knows somebody who lives there.  Facebook, phone calls, or over Easter dinner, introduce people to Alexis Frank.

2.  Tell them why it is important to vote in the primary.  Let them know we don't need another representative of Wall Street going to Washington to simplify the tax code in order to make his old buddies richer.  And we don't need someone who is eager to work with republicans to cut programs.  It chills me when I hear people even suggest "working with" Trump on health care.  Because I guarantee, whatever we gain we will have more to lose.  We have been sliding down that slippery slope of compromise for too many decades.

3.  Those who live in District 5, show up whenever there is an event.  Support Alexis, ask questions of her and Parnell.  Ask Parnell the tough questions he hasn't yet had to answer.  What would he do about the minimum wage?  About raising the Social Security retirement age?  About vouchers for schools?  What business incentives does he support/oppose?  Where does he stand on women's reproductive rights?  Funding Planned Parenthood?  What rights should religious institutions have?  What would he do about campaign finance?  What should be done about immigration?

4.  Donate.  She's like us.  She doesn't have Wall Street bankrolling her.  That's why we need her fighting for us.  But she needs all we can give.

And Vote, Vote, Vote.  Remember that these special elections have low turnout, and getting out there, and taking someone with you, will make a difference.

Let's show the Goldman Sachs / Hillary bunch that we Dems can make our own decisions among ourselves.  And when we have a primary winner and we really need the power, the expertise and the deep pockets, we hope they will stand there with us.

Alexis Frank for Congress
SC District 5
Primary Tuesday May 2

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