Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Winning At Any Cost

Yesterday when Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson issued what amounts to a retraction of a critical comment he made on a Facebook page about Congressman Walt Minnick's bigoted campaign ad, it was readily apparent that he'd been spoken to by Minnick's campaign or someone supportive of Minnick's campaign. Chances are Councilman Thomson received the very "fact sheet" that the Minnick campaign has been using in the press to defend the disgusting ad and was asked to please walk back his comment. Rather than allow the Labrador campaign to use Thomson's comment against Minnick, Thomson told the press that he had since found the ad to be accurate and suggested that Labrador's campaign spend less time on Facebook. No matter the order of events yesterday, the Minnick campaign got exactly what they wanted out of TJ Thomson.

The incident yesterday with TJ Thomson was not the first of such incidents that the Minnick campaign "cleaned up" and it probably won't be the last.

Now, rewind to August 6, 2009. This blog posted a complete summary of Walt Minnick's voting record. As we were about the see, that particular August would become chaotic as members of congress departed D.C. for their districts to talk about health care reform. Town hall gatherings all over this country went viral as the Tea Party began screaming about socialism and Obama's plan to kill grandma. Minnick was known to be wavering on health care (something he eventually voted against) and he agreed to meet with Tea Party Boise during the break. To stem the reaction of Idaho Democrats who were disappointed in Minnick for his obvious pandering, the Minnick campaign started talking up the votes Minnick had taken that supported the Democratic majority. This blog posted the complete summary of Minnick's voting record in response to the effort his campaign was making to convince us all that he was in fact a Democrat.

After I posted the voting record summary, I started receiving comments on it that were incredibly detailed and ultra-supportive of Congressman Minnick. I was chastised for my "flawed logic" and one particular commenter continued to assert that Minnick was the best Idaho Democrats could do. Like the argument Sisyphus has been making of late, a commenter by the name of idaho-dem stated that Minnick is good for Idaho Democrats because no Republican representative would have voted for the Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Act, hate crimes legislation or an extension of SCHIP. While idaho-dem continued to attack my arguments and further those of Minnick's campaign, I noticed in my blog stats that the internet service provider for idaho-dem was the U.S. House of Representatives. Eventually I narrowed it even further and found that idaho-dem was not just any another Idaho Democrat like myself, but a member of Minnick's congressional staff commenting from a computer in one of Minnick's congressional offices. In politics this is what you would call astroturfing.

Once I had figured out that this fierce defender of Walt Minnick was astroturfing on my site, I spoke with John Foster of Minnick's office (now campaign spokesperson for the congressman). Prior to that summer, I had had a good working relationship with Foster and didn't realize that he was as opportunistic, manipulative and calculating as his boss. Foster talked me down and assured me that he would do something about this congressional intern who was commenting on my blog. After we discussed the situation, we discussed my criticism of Minnick and Foster reminded me that we Idaho Democrats needed to stick together because "we're family." By the end of that August day, I had closed comments on the post, removed all comments for viewing (something that has since been reversed, all comments are available here), and wrote a post discussing the situation. That August day, like the situation with TJ Thomson yesterday, John Foster and the Minnick campaign got out of me exactly what they wanted.

Not only did I have the experience of the Minnick campaign getting me to go along with their antics last August when I summarized Minnick's voting record, I had it again almost a year later when I co-wrote an expose about Walt Minnick. By spring of this year, I had given up hope that Walt Minnick would ever support the progressive ideals he ran on in 2008 and I had become a thorn in the side of John Foster and the Minnick campaign. Once the expose ran, I wasn't contacted by John Foster like I had been the previous August, I was contacted by someone I respect who had been contacted by John Foster and asked to speak to me. I stood by the expose then and I stand by it now. I wasn't about to let Foster and the Minnick campaign get their way again.

In the days following "The Walt Minnick You Don't Know" running here and at the MountainGoat Report, we both took heat for our criticism of Minnick. Over at MGR, she started receiving comments from two members of the Canyon County Democratic Party. The comments questioned her criticism of Minnick and questioned both of our devotion to Democratic politics. One comment by an officer of the Canyon County Democrats, Matthew Greene, insisted that MGR remove the link she had to the Canyon County Dems in her sidebar. She, like I, eventually started seeing a pattern in the comments she was receiving. The internet service provider was the same for Matthew Greene and another commenter who purported to be just another Idaho Democrat. The same would be true of Thaddius Wenderoth and another commenter who also purported to be just another Democrat. We who deal with politics call this astroturfing.

What does the incident with Matthew Greene at the MountainGoat Report have to do with what happened to me or what happened with TJ Thomson yesterday? The Minnick campaign turned around and hired Matthew Greene. They apparently didn't learn a thing from astroturfing on my site, in fact, they must condone astroturfing because they turned around and hired a Canyon County astroturf pro.

From an email they sent out about campaign workers:

And, from Minnick's campaign expenditures we see that Minnick's campaign office is paying Matthew Greene:
The Walt Minnick campaign, led by John Foster, will do whatever it takes to win and they have no qualms about using people to get what they want. They did it to me, they did it to TJ Thomson and they're now paying Matthew Greene for it. However, this isn't about Matthew Greene or even about TJ Thomson, this is about holding our elected officials accountable and expecting more from a man who, like it or not, wears the 'Democrat' label.

I don't know how the supposedly "too liberal" Huffington Post got hold of the story about Labrador wanting to send Idaho Guardsmen to the southern border between deployments, but I would put money on someone in the Minnick campaign shopping it to them. It also wouldn't surprise me if Thom George, chairman of the Kootenai County Democrats, came to Minnick's aid yesterday at 43rd State Blues with the Huffington Post story because he was asked to. This is simply how the Minnick campaign operates. Win at any cost.

As much as I would like to blame the entirety of what is happening with the Minnick campaign solely on Foster and Minnick himself, the Idaho Democratic Party and the Idaho press are enablers. The Idaho press has taken Minnick at his word on every part of his biography, on his voting record and on everything else he wants them to write about. It's despicable and unethical. Thankfully, Vickie Holbrook of the Idaho Press Tribune apparently can't be told what to do (at least not by John Foster and the Minnick campaign) and is calling for Minnick to stop airing that bigoted campaign ad.

The Walt Minnick campaign: Winning at any cost. Is this man really what is right for Idaho?
Update (9/30 9:48 a.m.): I knew of this, but didn't want to say anything without MG's permission. This is what I find the most despicable about the "win at any cost" strategy of Minnick & Foster:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Florida Ruling: "No Rational Basis for the Statute"

When the Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida ruled last week that Florida's ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional, something interesting happened. In the unanimous ruling, not only did the appeals court state that gay parents wishing to adopt are being denied their equal protection rights as well as their right to due process, the appeals court stated that no amount of actual proof exists that suggests homosexual parents are any less capable than their heterosexual counterparts.

In the opinion, penned by Judge Gerald B. Cope, Jr., the Court summarized the case as follows:
"Under Florida law, homosexual persons are allowed to serve as foster parents or guardians but are barred from being considered for adoptive parents. All other persons are eligible to be considered case-by-case to be adoptive parents, but not homosexual persons-even where, as here, the adoptive parent is a fit parent and the adoption is in the best interest of the child."
The case arose when a gay foster parent sought to legally adopt two young boys that had been placed in his care by the Florida Department of Children and Families (FDCF). Despite the FDCF offering numerous "expert" witnesses that insisted that children raised by homosexual parents are more susceptible to questioning their own sexual orientation, more at risk of encountering domestic violence, and are more likely to experience the break up or dissolution of their family, the Court found no proof to support FDCF's claims. FDCF was supported in their appeal by numerous fundamentalist Christian, homophobic, bigoted, far-right "family councils" that had supported this law for it's thirty-three years of existence.

The problem with bans like the Florida one, other than the obvious problem of discrimination and intrusion on constitutional rights, is that there aren't enough homes for all of the children that need homes desperately. Before states like Florida rule out the opportunity for a segment of the population to adopt, there are already far more children needing homes than there are adoptive families. We have a crisis in this country when it comes to our children and yet states like Florida, Utah, and Arkansas refuse to allow capable, loving parents to adopt children who would otherwise spend their lives in foster care.

Florida understands this; At least to the extent that they leave the door open for several segments of their population to adopt. Florida allows for the following parents to adopt on a case-by-case basis and in most cases pride themselves on not automatically discriminating against these groups: Parents with a prior criminal history including for assault, battery, drug crime, & other felonies; Parents with physical disability or handicap; Parents with chronic medical conditions (including those who are HIV positive); and unbelievably, parents with verified findings of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Florida does not discriminate against single parents or against anyone on the basis of sex, color, or national origin. Florida attempts to keep the door open for as many successful adoptions as possible in almost every other case except for those that involve gays.

Like Florida, Arkansas has a law on the books that bans gays from adopting. Like Florida's law, the Arkansas law is currently being challenged in the courts. Even more extreme than Florida's law, Arkansas passed legislation in 2008 that would prevent any unmarried, cohabiting couple from adopting. The proponents of the Arkansas Adoption Act wanted to ban gays from adopting so badly that they didn't mind trampling on the rights of the completely heterosexual, unmarried couples in the state who wished to adopt as well. In the lead-up to the 2008 election, the Family Council Action Committee and other organizations that supported the Arkansas Adoption Act campaigned on their misled belief that the law wasn't about taking away the rights of adults, but was about protecting the rights of children. As many believed and said then, the state would rather have children living in foster care their entire lives than have them living in loving, stable homes with gay parents.

While Judge Christopher Piazza of the Pulaski County Circuit Court upheld the state of Arkansas' right to go forward with the ballot initiative banning gay adoption in 2008, he ruled as follows:
"Initiated Act 1 prohibits cohabiting same-sex couples and heterosexual couples from becoming foster or adoptive parents. It does not prohibit them from becoming foster or adoptive parents if they do not cohabitate. However, the act significantly burdens non-marital relationships and acts of sexual intimacy between adults and forces them to choose between becoming a parent and having any type of meaningful intimate relationship outside of the marriage. This infringes upon the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed to all citizens of Arkansas."
Though the Florida ruling avoided discussion of the right to privacy, the Arkansas ruling hinged on it. What the two rulings have in common is this: The legal battle surrounding gay adoption appears to have completely ignored the squawking from organizations like the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and in the Arkansas case, the Family Council Action Committee, who have repeatedly said that homosexual parents are not equal to heterosexual parents (a claim that has been proven wrong time and time again).

This revelation is as much a victory for gay rights and the welfare of the nation's children as the actual court rulings are.

The welfare of the nation's children is a topic often in the news lately. Our children are facing a growing crisis in this country, one that cannot be ignored. The recent news about the number of children living in poverty is only one in many unsettling aspects of the crisis our children are facing. Let's talk about poverty first. The numbers are horrific:
"Worst of all, children, our most vulnerable group, experienced the steepest rise in poverty and the largest single-year increase since the 1960s. After dropping twenty-four percent between 1992 and 2000, the number of children in poverty increased more than one-third between 2000 and 2009. An additional 1.4 million children swelled the ranks of poor children to 15.5 million children -- more than one in five children. This almost ten percent increase in child poverty over 2008 is shameful, disturbing, and threatening news for millions of our nation’s children -- unless our nation addresses their human emergency needs."
As of 2008, Arkansas ranked 40th in infant mortality, 47th in child deaths, 42nd in teen deaths, 44th in child poverty, and 39th in child abuse deaths. From the same study, Florida ranked 48th in uninsured children, 48th in juvenile incarceration, and 41st in child abuse deaths. Utah, another state that has laws on the books that prevent gays from adopting, ranks 43rd in uninsured children. What these rankings mean:

Clearly, whatever system these states have for caring for their children isn't working. Is preventing a broader pool of potential adoptive parents from caring for these children really the best idea? Obviously not.

In the period prior to 2008, 5 children died per day from abuse or neglect (a total of 10,440 children in the U.S. are known to have died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2007). In a recent report from the Every Child Matters Education Fund, during the period from 2001-2008, 134 children in Arkansas died due to child abuse and neglect. During the same period, there were 970 child abuse or neglect fatalities. In Utah, 91 children died. Unfortunately, most of these stories are often never told to the public because of restrictive confidentiality laws that shield us from knowing the failures of our country's child protection services. For every child like Idaho's Robert Manwill, there are sadly dozens more.

Children need loving, stable homes to succeed. In the crisis that faces today's children, one caring home could make the difference. Banning an entire subset of potential parents from adopting is not only wrong, it is feeding the crisis. If a kind, caring couple wishes to adopt a child, create a safe environment for that child and ensure that child has everything he or she needs to succeed, what difference does it make if that couple is homosexual or heterosexual? It shouldn't make a difference at all and finally our nation's courts are saying so.

The Florida ruling, which will more than likely be appealed and eventually gain an audience with the Florida State Supreme Court, is only one in a series of court rulings that stand to challenge the discrimination in this country that our local, state and federal governments refuse to address through lawmaking. In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, we could potentially see the overturning of the military policy that prevents gays from serving openly, we could see several states move to strike down laws that prevent gays from adopting, and we could see Prop. 8 (the ban on gay marriage in California) overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. As much as we need skilled and dedicated soldiers whose sexual orientation is not an issue to serve in our military and as much as we need to remain true to the founding principles of equality that this nation has spent its existence striving for, our children are important too and we must give them every possible means to thrive.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TDIH: Kennedy/Nixon Debates

On this day fifty years ago, then-candidate John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon participated in the first of four televised presidential debates. It was the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential debate was televised and 70 million viewers tuned in to watch. On this, the fiftieth anniversary, I offer the following links:
  • In the September issue of Smithsonian magazine, Alison McLean summed up the influence of the debates nicely:
"Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon face off in the first televised presidential debate September 26, 1960. As a tanned, fit-looking Kennedy debates a thin, wan Nixon (recovering from the flu and recent knee surgery) in need of a shave, the subject is policy, but the take-home message is that on TV, appearances matter. Exactly how much the event affects Kennedy's fall victory is itself a matter of debate, but more than half of voters report the contest influenced their opinion. Nixon declines to debate in 1968 and, as president, in 1972."
  • An excerpt on the New Nixon Blog (a feature of the Nixon Foundation website), "Fifty Years After: 1960's Kennedy-Nixon Debates," by David Pietrusza.
  • The Huffington Post secured a superb article by Northeastern professor Alan Schroeder that is worthy of the few moments it takes to read. We often do think only of the cosmetics of the debates, but we really should remember the historical significance of the debates.
It's unfortunate in this day and age, with the media outlets we have, that some in politics (Idaho and otherwise) do not truly appreciate the opportunity to debate. We now have the ability to disseminate debates all across this country, even to the most rural parts, and instead of taking that opportunity to allow for the education of every last voter, politicians hide from that face-time in a pathetic, cowardly way. Fifty years ago, the way we educate the voting public changed; if only fifty years later we could appreciate that advancement in democracy for what it is.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Politics of Prejudice

Last week I included several lengthy excerpts from an 1892 speech that then-Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge delivered to students at Harvard University on the topic of political independence and party allegiance. While I continue to urge you to read that particular speech in its entirety, I mention Henry Cabot Lodge now specifically for his position on immigration.

Lodge, who many would consider one of the great political thinkers of the United States Senate, of his generation or any other, was a staunch imperialist associated with the imperialist faction of the Senate that included Idaho's own William Borah (who joined Lodge in opposing President Wilson's League of Nations). Like many imperialists at the turn of the century, Lodge's imperialism was unfortunately linked to a strong position against immigration. As a member of the Immigration Restriction League, an organization founded in the northeastern U.S. as a response to European immigration, Lodge was supportive of its principles and desire to keep "undesirable immigrants" from reaching American soil. The Immigration Restriction League lobbied for a national literacy test, as a road block for immigrants, that was enacted by Congress in 1896, 1913, 1915, and 1917 (every bill with the exception of the 1917 one was vetoed). In addition to supporting a literacy test for immigrants, Lodge also played on the fears of struggling Americans in vocalizing his belief that foreign workers drove down the standard of living for Americans and uneducated immigrants drove up crime rates as well as overall national decline. Sound familiar?

Lodge and other members of the conservative and imperialist factions of the Republican Party believed these things about immigrants at the turn of the century--the 20th century. If the antics of the Tea Party, the increasingly conservative GOP, and Idaho's first district congressman are any indication, a growing number of Americans would like to return to the days of the Immigration Restriction League and the xenophobia of the early 20th century.

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said he could not understand how Hispanics could be Republicans, not only did he tap into extreme criticism from the right, he sparked many an enterprising blogger's ire and quickly a dug-up story that he once supported ending birthright citizenship went viral. What Harry Reid also tapped into is the unfortunately growing transparency of the GOP's discriminatory ways.

Take a moment to consider the following events: Governor Jan Brewer's signing of SB 1070 in Arizona, Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional and the far right backlash to the ruling, the uproar over the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero in New York City as well as the Florida pastor's publicity stunt surrounding the burning of the Quran, and the emergence of a recent talking point centered around repealing the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution to put an end to birthright citizenship. In each of these instances, it is quite obvious that the Republican Party stands firmly against equality. Is not discrimination the antithesis of equality?

Anyone should have a hard time believing that this level of prejudice has existed within an organization all along. In the case of the Republican Party, the fact that they were the proponents that pushed forward the 14th amendment originally is the best proof we have that they haven't always held such discriminatory views.

When Governor Jan Brewer signed into law legislation that would make racial profiling common place and would put immigration enforcement into the hands of state and local cops who have no business doing the job of federal agents, a firestorm ignited in this country. In an already charged political environment that has made heroes of officials like Joe Arpaio, who continues to refuse to cooperate with a federal civil rights investigation of his department, the person with the most extreme position on immigration gets the most airtime. Consider the Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino in New York state; his position regarding those on welfare, essentially that they should be taught hygiene and housed in prison dorms, has garnered more press than any single position of his primary or general election opponents. This is the case with all politicians who are taking a position on immigration right now--the crazier, the more press and unfortunately, the more die-hard fans. In trying to "out crazy" each other, those on the right are resorting to positions that alienate minorities . It is as simple as that.

Here in Idaho, a candidate who may have once held sensible positions on immigration reform is forced to say he supports Governor Otter and Idaho's alliance with the lawsuit Governor Brewer in Arizona is waging against the federal government. Why? Because he is forced to compete for the votes of an increasingly kooky party and is being attacked from the right by his supposedly Democratic opponent. Never mind the fact that if traveling through Arizona, particularly the Phoenix area, in casual clothes, candidate Labrador might be the target of discrimination himself. Why leave the state? The same bigotry that drove Walt Minnick to attack his Hispanic opponent for being an immigration attorney is what drove Arizona to pass its discriminatory immigration bill. As long as the GOP and consenting Democrats allow the immigration debate to be framed as an anti-foreigner one, minorities will continue to be discriminated against at platform committee meetings and state conventions across this country.

It's a long road back to the immigration policy hopes of President George W. Bush when the senior senator from Arizona runs campaign ads promising to "complete the danged fence" (and, even further back to this). It's a long way back to the Republican Party that once promoted the 14th amendment, especially when the party's most vocal member is promoting what amounts to the very opposite of what the Civil Rights Era accomplished. It's a long road back to the place where most liberals didn't believe conservatives to be racists (and, it'll take more than this WaPo piece to explain to us why we're wrong). Unfortunately, as long as those roads may be, with the GOP leading the way, we may be headed straight back to the days preceding World War I, the days when organizations like the Immigration Restriction League were all the rage and membership in them was completely acceptable for our highest elected officials.

While we may think that the prejudice that was pervasive in politics at the turn of the 20th century is long in our rear view mirror, we may be underestimating the zeal with which the GOP and Tea Party would like to return us to the pre-Progressive Era policies that produced the Immigration Restriction League. After all, isn't a national literacy test exactly what English First groups have been advocating for years?

Monday, September 20, 2010

"You don't compromise core principles and values of your party..."

As a follow-up to my previous post, here's a comment left on a blog at the Spokesman Review:

Obviously, Minnick's campaign has taken a turn for the worse--one that is completely indefensible. Look for this week's post this evening or tomorrow morning.

(Sidenote: Very interesting avatar for Mr_Bloggy--Ezra Pound's mugshot.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Minnick, Lodge, & Party Loyalty

"I believe you can be most effective in politics by joining a party, that party which by its character and its principles you think can do most for the country... [I]f you are so constituted that you cannot become a part of a great organization and subordinate your own wishes to general results, remain an independent in politics. But be a real independent, not a sham one. It is a perfectly honorable thing to be a party man. It is likewise a perfectly honorable thing to be a genuine independent...although I do not think it is so useful. But it is a very mean and dishonest thing to be a party man and call yourself an independent, or to be an independent and call yourself a party man. If you are a member of a party, be true to it. If you are an independent, be true to your independence. But be a slave to neither."

-- Henry Cabot Lodge, from a speech entitled "Party Allegiance" given to Harvard University students March 8, 1892. (Emphasis added)
By now most residents of Idaho's first congressional district have seen Congressman Walt Minnick's campaign ad that touts an all too familiar anti-Obama, anti-spending and anti-Washington theme. Much has been written about the misleading language Minnick's campaign employed for the purpose of gaining the incumbent whatever votes are out there to be won by such advertisements, though little has been said about this not being the first time Minnick's campaign has carefully crafted language that would serve to mislead voters about his record. What hasn't been said nearly enough since long-time political reporter Randy Stapilus introduced it as the "smoothest Republican campaign videos" of this voting cycle is that Walt Minnick is running as a Democrat for re-election to the House. In any other circumstance I might advise that someone please tell the candidate that he's having a political identity crisis.

In Tuesday's editorial, the Idaho State Journal concluded that in Idaho party labels don't really mean much. The reason for this conclusion? The "politically canny move" by Minnick to state in the previously mentioned campaign ad that he "has had to say no" to his own party "far more than [he's] said yes." When asked about the Republican National Committee's attack ad quoting Minnick on this, Minnick's spokesman and former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party John Foster said: “While it is unfortunate that this group decided to use Walt’s words for a partisan attack, it also serves to highlight the fact that Walt is the most independent member of Congress.” Does lack of loyalty to one's party equal independence? Walt Minnick and John Foster apparently think so.

When Walt Minnick ran for Congress, he ran as a Democrat. He ran to the left, unlike what he is currently doing. He ran with the wave of progressivism that swept Barack Obama into office. He was eagerly awaiting then-candidate Obama when he spoke in Boise, strategically placing himself in the crowd behind Obama for all the cameras to see. He was for health care reform, campaign finance reform, and the energy bill; he was pro-choice and supportive of the unions; and, Walt Minnick ran against the pandering for votes and far-right antics of Bill Sali. Now running for re-election, Walt Minnick is running as far from the 'Democrat' label as he can get. He's running against Obamacare, against the Wall Street bailouts that he once supported (and more than likely benefited he and his friends at Goldman Sachs), and against anything that might add to the federal deficit especially if it increases the size of government even slightly. By all accounts, in everything but name, Walt Minnick is running as a Republican.

The most disconcerting aspect of Minnick's governance to the right of where he ran is that in doing so, he is dragging Idaho Democrats with him. As Minnick panders to the right, ignores the left (his base), and controls the middle, the Idaho Republican Party is forced even further to the right. Instead of having some moderate candidates, like 2006's race with Sheila Sorensen in the pack, Republicans end up with far-right kooks and candidates as conservative as Raul Labrador. But, back to the Democrats... If Keith Allred is any indication, Democratic candidates either don't feel they can actually run as self-proclaimed Democrats with Democratic ideals and a record befitting a Democrat or there just aren't any real Democrats out there who are aspiring to public office. Democrats like Allred are left stealing pages out of Minnick's playbook because they think that is the only way to win. Young Democrats like myself are left hoping that someday there will again be elected officials like Frank Church who are both good for this state and eventually give rise to other strong, Democratic candidates like Richard Stallings. Young Democrats like myself are left hoping that someday it will be okay again to openly proclaim yourself a member of the Democratic Party in your own campaign ads. This is what Walt Minnick has done for this party.

How does a party get out in front of the attacks made against its members and its principles if one of the attackers is its de facto leader? How can the Idaho Democratic Party tout the merits of the health insurance reform bill when Congressman Minnick voted against it? How can the IDP support the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when their de facto leader tried to strip it of any real teeth? How do we attempt to explain the benefits of the Stimulus to our fellow Idahoans when not a single member of the congressional delegation, including Minnick, voted for it and continue to crow about its impact on the deficit? How Idaho Democrats can look the other way as their congressman votes on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to charge his own party with attempting to "willfully deceive the American people," is beyond me. Really, how?

If you haven't, please take a moment to read the introduction to this post, a quote from a speech given in 1892 by then-congressman Henry Cabot Lodge. In a time when partisanship meant something quite different from what it does today, Lodge presented the case for bearing some allegiance to a political party. Be it clear, Lodge was not asking every member of the Harvard student body to register to vote as a Republican; what Lodge was promoting was a responsibility to principle and party--two things that once went hand-in-hand. Lodge was presenting a viewpoint that seems to have been lost in recent years, a viewpoint that spoke to the strength and purpose of political parties: "Therefore it may be said that our history has been made, and our great advances have been secured, through party organizations." If Lodge were alive today, he would certainly be perplexed by the epidemic of politicians running from their party affiliations.

Not only would Henry Cabot Lodge have been appalled at the disrespect and disloyalty of politicians like Mr. Minnick, he would have been appalled at party organizations like the IDP in their following of such "sham" candidates. A final excerpt from Lodge's position on independence in politics:
"...[T]he independence in politics of which we have heard so much of late years [sic] is the independence of professionals who think the name valuable, and has usually consisted in voting one ticket all the time and in trying the two political parties by widely different standards. Call it by what fair-sounding name you choose, this is partisanship, and unattractive partisanship, because it masquerades. ...Independence is a fact and may exist under any conditions, just as the name independence may be claimed and used without any relation to the actual truth. I have seen greater courage and independence shown by men of both parties who were strict party men, and always voted their party ticket, than by any one else, and, at the same time, the most ferocious partisanship I have ever witnessed I have seen exhibited by those who proclaimed their independence most loudly to the ears of a somewhat wearied world."
It is a world wearied by the ideologically charged times in which we live, but claiming independence, sham or otherwise, and owing no allegiance to your own party is neither good for your constituents nor the future of your party.

While it may be politically expedient for any candidate running as a Democrat in Idaho to highlight a handful of their more conservative positions, after all this is what successful Democratic Senator Frank Church did with the issue of gun control and what Democratic Congressman Richard Stallings did with the balanced budget amendment and abortion, it is not politically necessary to disrespect and abandon the Democratic Party completely. There must be Democrats in this state who believe, as I do, that we've lost sight of the progressive ideals that once resided in our party. This is what electing Walt Minnick has done to our party and re-electing Walt Minnick isn't going to make our party any more formidable.

The world may be wearied by the ideological hard right turn it has taken of late, but that does not mean there is no place for party loyalty today.

Monday, September 13, 2010

CAIR: 9/11 Happened to Us All

Update: I had intended my weekly post to focus on immigration & discrimination, but have had to switch gears entirely to use my weekly post for a different topic. Hopefully I will return to this ad and immigration & discrimination soon.

As a lead-in to my weekly post which will appear, unfortunately, tomorrow rather than today, here is a wonderful ad (really, a public service announcement) from the Council on American-Islamic Relations:

H/T: Wordsmith.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Leaving Iraq: A Follow-up

Editor's Note: I've squandered most of my time reading Madison and trying to write a letter that just won't come together. Hopefully I'll have a substantive post lined up next Monday.

As a follow-up to last week's post on Iraq, I wanted to share the concluding paragraph of reader Nick Speth's document/comment outlining his one-time support of the Iraq War:

I didn't know Nick when this country invaded Iraq, but in the years since, I have found him to be very articulate, intelligent and, if his departure from the GOP is any indication, awfully aware of the currently shifting political spectrum. His comments really resonated with me.