CA-11 and IL-06 Once More
Someone just alerted me that the Tracy Press had an article by Nick Juliano that covered the same topic I discussed the other day: namely, the similarities between IL-06 and CA-11. (Update: Wes from Pombo Watch also discussed these similarities in the Vote Pombo Out Yahoo Group). I bring this article up for two reasons. First, it shows that Say No to Pombo continues to bring up issues that are relevant and newsworthy, often before the local papers get to them (if they get to them at all). Second, the article contained some juicy quotes that merit attention, especially with respect to what they show about how the various sides frame the debate about the primary race.
I bring up the first point because I believe that it’s important to acknowledge those instances that demonstrate the fundamental credibility of this blogging endeavor. I like to think that my words and my ideas stand on their own merit. But sometimes some of the commenters are not content to address the substance of what I write, instead dismissing what I say as “ridiculous,” “naïve,” or what have you. Consequently, I want to take this moment to explicitly point to evidence that what I say is relevant to the race. I think that on this blog I give voice to a widespread, if often inchoate and unarticulated, perspective prevalent among the grassroots activists paying attention to this race. And I think this article both supports that notion.
That said, let’s move to the second point, which is much more interesting. First, look at the two quote Juliano got from McNerney supporters who discussed this race:
“I think they’re going about it the wrong way and picking the wrong people … I’m tired of the DCCC’s involvement,” said Gene Davenport, a labor union organizer in Stockton who supports McNerney.
Davenport said he and other activists in San Joaquin County were not contacted when national Democrats decided they wanted to target Pombo in this year’s election.
“A lot of the locals were quite resentful of the DCCC not consulting with them,” said Bill Casey, a former San Joaquin party leader. “The Democratic party needs to remember who Democrats are.”
Now I believe that a lot of the national Democratic Party leaders made their decision to back Filson in an information-poor environment. Certainly, I have seen no evidence that the DCCC or Rahm Emanuel ever discussed Filson or McNerney with any of the Democratic organizers on the ground in the district. And I have asked a lot of people about this. That has got to make you wonder.
I mean, I know that the DCCC might discuss the Pombo race with the members of Congress from the surrounding districts. And I do not think it’s inappropriate from Rahm Emanuel to talk about the Pombo race with Ellen Tauscher or Nancy Pelosi. But I think it’s the height of arrogance to discuss Pombo with Pelosi and Tauscher, for example, but not any of the Democrats who actually, you know, live in the district. And if Rahm Emanuel doesn’t understand what’s happening in his own backyard in IL-06, it kind of makes it seem more reasonable to believe that this is nothing more than hubris. I mean, forget actually following the dictate of the Gene Davenports or Bill Caseys of the district. Rahm Emanuel didn’t even pick up the phone and call them. Even a person with incredible political judgment still needs to make judgment based on the relevant facts if we are to say that their judgment is warranted. Otherwise it could well be a case of garbage-in-garbage-out.
Furthermore, had they actually talked with people in the district, they might have pulled apart the “moderate” label to distinguish social and economic moderates. For example, Steve Filson’s “moderate” views are supposed to be attractive to the district. We hear this a lot. But Rahm Emanuel might have learned something if he spoke to Gene Davenport who is a proud (socially conservative) Christian and a proud Democrat, a third-generation Stocktonian, a third-generation longshoreman, and a member of the San Joaquin County-Calaveras Central Labor Council. He is not alone in his socially moderate positions. The district passed Prop 73, which would have required parental notification for minors to have an abortion. But Davenport has told me that he supports McNerney because he believes Jerry McNerney will fight for the working poor, for people without healthcare, for the people who can’t afford campaign contributions. He does not have the same confidence in Filson. I mean, Rahm Emanuel can back whomever he wants. But what Gene Davenport could have told Rahm Emanuel might have been a piece of relevant information. At the very least, it could have allowed Emanuel to anticipate that Filson’s support, even among moderates, might not be as strong as one might imagine. But apparently he though he was wiser for the lack of information. Go figure.
Now let’s look at what Filson’s supporters had to say. (Interestingly enough, the only Filson supporters Juliano interviewed were Filson and his Campaign Manager. For someone with “growing grassroots support” you’d think they could have found one prominent grassroots Filson supporter be interviewed.) Anyhow, here’re the first two quotes I want to examine:
Filson has said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, encouraged him to run and introduced him to Democratic officials in Washington, but a Filson aide rejects the characterization that his candidacy was imposed on the district from above.
“Steve is the one who decided he wants to run … it’s not because someone picked him or told him it’s a good idea,” said Robert Kellar, Filson’s campaign manager.
Someone should tell Kellar that what he says needs to be consistent with his candidate. Yeah, so Tauscher “encouraged [Filson] to run” but yet “it’s not because someone…told [Filson] it’s a good idea.” Hmmm…Me thinks Kellar overplayed his hand. Furthermore, the flackitude quotient goes way up once we see the obvious straw argument Kellar made. Some say Filson’s candidacy was imposed on the district. Kellar responds by noting that Filson’s candidacy was not imposed on Filson himself. If we were stupid, that would make sense.
Anyhow, I actually give Filson credit for being honest even though his CM was trying to spin. Tauscher encouraged Filson to run and brought him to the DCCC and encouraged them to take a look a Filson and get behind him, which they did. This is what we’ve been saying since the beginning. What Filson did not say, or perhaps he did and Juliano didn’t report it (although I assume it’s the former), is that after the DCCC decided to back Filson, Filson came back into town and basically demanded that the race be cleared for him to run against Pombo. Forget Gene Davenport and Bill Casey, who weren’t consulted to begin with. They were informed that they had the pleasure of backing Steve Filson whether they liked it or not because (as someone said in all seriousness today) “the real Democrats” were backing him.
And for those who think I bring up the DCCC obsessively, this is why I keep discussing their involvement in the race. They are not the real Democrats. We are. They want to walk among us as gods. But lo they stumble and they bleed. And I suspect that under all of their magnificence, they have feet of clay.
Democracy derives all of its moral force from the simple tenet that each person is of incommensurable worth. We say that everyone is “created equal” so much that it becomes banal. But “equal” is not a statement of our limitation, it is a statement of the infinite depth and value of each and everyone one of us as a human being.
And Democracy stems from the realization that we cannot all do whatever we want to explore and instantiate our unique and limitless value in a world of finite time and resources. So each of us is given one vote. No one is given more, no one is given less.
I know that there will always be power plays and hierarchies. And some will be legitimate and some will be illegitimate. And I never expect that a lone blogger will have the power of a member of Congress. But they are no more real Democrats than the rest of us. And to the degree that they essentialize and think that they are the real Democrats and that we are only real Democrats to the degree that we do their bidding, they have mistaken and reversed the natural order of democracy. Real Democrats? I worry more about real democrats.
This brings us to the second set of quotes I want to look at from Kellar:
Kellar accused Filson’s critics of conspiring “to denigrate elected officials” who have endorsed his campaign.
“They fought in the trenches; they know what it’s like to run and represent a district,” Kellar said, arguing their support shows Filson has the best chance of winning.
Now as a genuine critic of these elected officials, I can simply aver that the conspiracy, if it exists, has done a really crappy job at doing outreach. Otherwise I’d be one of their biggest supporters. But more to the point, is it really “denigrating” to ask whether folks who don’t live in the district know better than folks who live inside the district? Honestly.
Actually we’re in luck, Kellar answered this question for us. You see, the elected officials “fought in the trenches” (and what, the grassroots sip mai-tais on the lanai?) and the electeds “know what it’s like to run and represent a district.” Wow, they know to represent a district! What about THE district? They know anything about CA-11? Nope. But they know loads about CA-10, CA-08, and IL-05. Great, because as I was eating lunch today in Stockton I was overwhelmed by how similar it was to Chicago, San Francisco, and Lamorinda. I mean, I could hardly get them straight. I was like, wait, is this Stockton or Chicago? Moraga? They’re so similar. It was eerie. Really.
I know that was snarky, but I have a hard time treating this seriously. Are we to genuflect to those in power? Is that all there is? Isn’t it enough that they have power? Do we also have to say that they are wise? They want to walk like all-knowing gods among us. And yet they stumble and they bleed. And beneath their cloaks of power, I still say they have feet of clay.