Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Establishment Dems Proving Themselves Clueless In Washington's 1st District Race

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

If you want a classic example of the way Establishment Democrats are perfectly tone-deaf when it comes to the concerns of the working families they like to flatter themselves as representing, take a look at how the race in Washington's brand-spanking-new First District is shaping up, particularly on the Democratic side.

Because instead of backing Darcy Burner, the progressive candidate with far and away the greatest name recognition and a record of working for working-class families and their interests -- particularly when it comes to things like protecting Medicare and Social Security, and getting their children out of war zones -- the state's establishment Dems seem to be lining up behind Susan DelBene, a pro-business faux-progressive Dem with little popular support but very deep pockets.

Evidently, it's all about the money. In a year when Democrats should be listening to the anger of their constituents at the failure of Washington politicians to take care of the interests of ordinary people, these dimbulbs are going back to politics as usual and backing the candidate with the deepest pockets, not the deepest support among voters.

On the Republican side, Tea Party nutter John Koster is running largely unopposed and leads in early polling -- largely because it's a six-way race on the Democratic side right now. Things will be different in the fall, when his far-right record and rhetoric will come front and center.

A weekend Seattle Times story laid out the contours:
The Democratic establishment is coalescing behind Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft vice president who largely self-funded her losing 2010 campaign against U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, who represents the 8th District.

But in this year of economic anxiety and the noise surrounding the Occupy movement, DelBene's opponents are taking jabs at her wealth, to appeal to struggling families.
As Darcy Burner, a progressive activist who twice lost to Reichert, says: "There's already an overrepresentation of the 1 percent in Washington, D.C."
You may notice something important missing from this story. There's plenty here touting DelBene's candidacy, for instance, but nothing telling readers how the candidates actually stack up in terms of support:
DelBene's résumé looms largest. She was appointed Gov. Chris Gregoire's Department of Revenue director after an executive career at Microsoft and, among others. She and her husband, Kurt, a Microsoft president, live in a $4.8 million Lake Washington waterfront home and said she would, like last time, put her own money into her campaign.

"We talk about the American dream, yet we're in a place where we're making it harder and harder. I don't know if I would be able to tell my same story if I were growing up today," she said.

In an apparent effort to trim the field, Gregoire and Larsen endorsed DelBene, as did the state Washington State Labor Council.
What the story neglects to mention is that despite all this Establishment support -- including, amazingly, the support of labor unions, despite the fact that they have been struggling with (and loudly complaining about) a Congress full of Blue Dog Democrats who always fail somehow to actually come to the defense of working families -- there is hardly any popular support for DelBene, who wasn't even a Democrat until a few years ago, and who tells interviewers that she became a Democrat because she thought the party needed to be more friendly to business interests. That is, DelBene is a classic Blue Dog in the making, and her progressive positions have no action behind them to suggest she would carry through with them once in Congress.

Rather the contrary -- it's clear that DelBene instead intends to attack Burner for having fought for progressive positions. If you keep reading the Times story, you'll discover the scandalous thing that Darcy tweeted that the DelBene campaign used to scare off her supporters in King County:
But King County Democrats struggled with their pick.

A subcommittee recommended DelBene and Burner, but then backed away from Burner when a Twitter message she sent in August 2011, while at Progressive Congress, became public. In it, she criticized President Obama during the debt-ceiling debate, writing, "Barack Obama isn't a bad Democrat — because he's not a Democrat. He's a Republican."
Burner's tweet, it should be understood, came just as word had circulated on Capitol Hill that Obama intended to put Social Security and Medicare on the table as negotiating chips during the debt-ceiling showdown that was occurring then -- and she was properly criticizing the President, as should have any progressive worth their salt, for making these items negotiable. Pressure from people like Burner helped persuade the President to change course, which (thank God) he did.

If it had been up to Susan DelBene or the King County Democrats, apparently, that wouldn't have been the case.

Here's what else the Times story didn't tell you: What the actual polls show.

Polls taken in March, for instance, clearly demonstrated Burner's big lead among actual Democratic voters in the new first District: nearly half the total vote, 45 percent, went to Burner, and some 54 percent of them have a favorable impression of her. DelBene, in contrast, comes in fourth with only 12 percent support, and only 21 percent of Democratic voters have a favorable impression of her. (The other progressive in the race, Laura Ruderman, comes in a consistent second with 15 percent support and a 17 percent favorability rating.)

In other words, it's clear that the voters want a real progressive to vote for, not a fake one. But the Establishment Dems are so enamored with DelBene's deep pockets that they are willing to risk running a candidate who inspires no actual support just because she can finance enough ads to sell her way into the seat.

I have a hunch the voters will have other ideas come August, when the primary is actually held.
As the story notes:
Steve Zemke, chair of the King County Democrats, said the party likely won't endorse a single candidate because Burner, Ruderman and DelBene each have fans and are running vigorous campaigns. "I'll say this, they're not easily scared out of the race," he said.
Not by deep-pocket money, at least.

If you want to help make the point that there are other ways to finance a political campaign than with the pocket money of the 1 percent, you should go to Darcy's Blue America page and chip in some nickels. (Here's Darcy's campaign site.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gun Sales Go Boom, Thanks To NRA's Paranoid Fearmongering About Obama

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The National Rifle Association and the assorted far-right gun nuts who make up the gun lobby, as we recently pointed out, really are creating an extremely problematic environment for any post-election America in which Barack Obama has won re-election -- because, thanks to their fact-free and irresponsibly inflammatory attacks on Obama, they've once again convinced a significant segment of the American populace that Obama is secretly plotting to take their guns and their freedoms away.

On the ground, this is playing out in predictably unhealthy ways too -- namely, as the SPLC's Hatewatch recently noted, through skyrocketing weapons and ammo sales:
A hard-hitting propaganda campaign unleashed this year by Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association, may be convincing Americans that President Obama will crack down on gun ownership if he’s re-elected and becomes a lame duck.

Skyrocketing sales of guns and ammunition, along with some shortages due to stockpiling, are reported by many U.S. shops.

“People are worried about a second Obama presidency,” Simon Wallace, sales manager at Merchant Firearms in Phoenix told Hatewatch. Merchant is one of many gun shops that started seeing demand increase around the first of the year. There are shortages of all types of weapons and ammunition, Wallace said.

One sign of the current panic is the number of FBI background checks for prospective gun owners. The background checks hit an all-time high in 2011 – about 16.5 million. In the first four months of this year, according to the FBI, there were about 6.3 million checks – on track to shatter last year’s record.

... “There’s a lot of free-floating fear,” Molchan said in an interview with Hatewatch. “At one end of the spectrum, you have the survivalists and the stockpiling.”
The problem is particularly acute in places like Texas and Arizona, but it's happening nationally. Naturally, this is cause for celebration by the folks at Fox:
“It’s definitely the election year," Jason Hanson, a former CIA officer and personal security specialist, told "People feel that Obama will serve second term and with it their gun rights with taken away, so they are stocking up.

“They’re also worried that the economy is not getting any better and that they need to protect themselves,” Hanson added.
What's also striking is the lengths to which these Obama haters will go to rationalize their obvious paranoia, built on the comical argument that the very fact that Obama hasn't done anything even remotely gun-related in his first term is certain proof that he's secretly conspiring to lower the boom on unsuspecting Americans in a second term, as in this ABC News report:
"He's never been pro-gun," says Cris Parsons of President Obama. Parsons, 31, owns a Texas gun purveyor called the Houston Armory. So far, Parsons insists, Obama has been "pretty coy" about his antipathy toward guns--and he likely will remain so during the campaign. To do otherwise would "upset a lot of people."

But if Obama wins a second term, he'll have "nothing to lose," says Parsons.

Alan Korwin, author of nine books on gun laws, including "Gun Laws of America," says gun owners are worried that the president, as a lame duck, will clamp down as never before on gun ownership.

Parsons says about 40 percent of Armory customers cite this fear as their reason for stocking up on guns and ammo now, before the election.
The soaring guns-sale figures are being bolstered by the gun lobby's remarkable success in passing a succession of laws in a variety of states loosening the ability to obtain to a concealed-carry permit, so now a buttload of people are loading up on weapons:
Conceal-carry permits are now allowed in 49 states (Illinois and Washington D.C. do not have conceal-carry laws), and “Stand Your Ground” laws are on the books in 21 states.

In Florida, police have cited the state’s seven-year-old “Stand your Ground” law in deciding not to charge George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, 17, last month. The law says citizens do not have to retreat before using deadly force against attackers. The Justice Department and FBI now are investigating the killing, and a state grand jury is being convened.
However, the real driver has been the Rabid Right's unceasing demonization of Obama. As a result, the gun nuts at Ammo.Netnow gloatingly call him "the Greatest Gun Salesman in America". Chiming in with his own brand of hearty agreement is that voice of moderation, Ted Nugent:
President Obama is single handedly responsible for the ongoing record setting avalanche of gun and ammunition sales all across America. This is because rank and file Americans do not trust the president and his clear and present anti-gun team.
Nugent concludes that he can predict Obama's lame-duck agenda because he, like all Democrats, just hates America:
The bottom line is simply this: Americans know that most Democrats despise guns almost as much as they despise wealthy people, success, small government, low taxes, and lunches made by moms for their school-age kids.
Did we happen to mention that these people are insane? Maybe we should mention it again.

Like Ted, I happen to be an experienced gun owner. Unlike Ted, guns are not a stand-in for my penis. My sexual identity is not bound up with my shotgun. The way I was raised in a gun-owning family was that guns are tools to be used at the appropriate times, not toys to be played with. I don't think Ted and his NRA buddies got that memo.

More to the point, I think we all dread the day that guys like Nugent and the rapidly growing nutty conspiracy contingent of the American Right obtain more and more weapons and ammo and then decide they need to use it. Anyone experienced with guns knows that not only do they possess the ultimate power -- the power to end another person's life -- but also guns invite you to wield that power, if only as a means of intimidation. In the hands of wise and thoughtful people, that is not a problem.

But these are anything but wise or thoughtful people.