What You Need To Know: A Summary For You Lazy Asses
· Senate Hero: Russ Feingold
· House Hero: Tom Perriello
· Senate Villain: Richard Burr
· House Villain: Mary Bono Mack
Democracy for America is running a contest called “Heroes & Villains”, where you basically choose, for each house of Congress, a progressive “hero” and an anti-progressive “villain”. The winners for each contest will receive either concentrated support (for the heroes) or concentrated opposition (for the villains). As the DFA email I received described it for the Heroes:
We’re looking for the best progressive leaders, one each for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House, to grant the 2010 Progressive Hero endorsement. The winner earns the full-power of DFA’s grassroots community who will work to deliver volunteers, money, and media to the winner’s campaign.
And for the Villains:
We’ve created a brand new kind of endorsement for the Worst of the Worst — the 2010 Progressive Villain Anti-Endorsement.
The anti-endorsement brings a long-term investment from DFA into the “winners” district — campaign training for activists on the ground, dedicated field staff to support local progressives, resources to increase Democratic voter registration and a commitment to defeat the Villain with a bold progressive Democrat.
It’s a great idea and I eagerly went to the website to see who the nominees were. To my disappointment, DFA apparently wasn’t too discriminate about choosing the nominees. The nominees for Heroes were basically every Democratic member of Congress, minus a few of the worst ConservaDems like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu, though they did include Tom Carper and Jane Harman, who should not even have been nominated. The nominees for Villains were basically every Republican member of Congress, and the descriptions for their “offenses” were almost all the same – that they voted against the health care bills in Congress. Boo hoo – I would have done the same.
Also, for some reason many of the pictures used for the politicians were old.
Anyway, on to the decision-making process. For all the contests, I went through DFA’s list of nominees and narrowed it down to my own list of nominees, from which I picked my final choice.
For this one, since there are so few true liberals in the Senate, I could just go through the list and pick them all out. They were (in order they were listed):
Of these Senators, the most-deserving on the merits were probably Bernie Sanders and Roland Burris, who actually threatened to filibuster a public option-less health care bill and so extracted some valuable concessions (well, Sanders did anyway; I don’t know if Burris got anything). But neither of them need the help – Burris is retiring this year (and I’ll actually miss him) and Sanders isn’t up until 2012, and is immensely popular in Vermont anyway. So I narrowed the list down to those who actually needed the help, i.e. those in tight reelection races this year, and it was a long list of two:
Of these two, Boxer is probably slightly more progressive (Feingold sometimes veers right, rhetorically anyway, on budget issues) and is also my own Senator, and I received an email from her campaign urging me to vote for her in this contest. I would, but while Boxer is locked in a tight reelection race against Carly Fiorina, she’s been holding a slim but stable lead for awhile now, and I’m fairly confident she’ll prevail. Feingold is probably in greater danger at this point, so I voted for Russ Feingold.
I started out trying to weed out the true liberals first, as I did for the Senate Heroes contest, but the House has a lot more true liberals, so I just picked the top ones and then two Representatives who are not super liberal but need help in their campaigns this year.
The cream-of-the-crop liberals were:
The two needy Representatives are:
None of the cream-of-the-crop bunch need help in their reelection bids this year, least of all Nancy Pelosi. Grayson is in a Republican-leaning district but has a gazillion dollars in his campaign chest already, and is facing a second-tier Republican opponent.
Sestak is actually running for U.S. Senate, and needs a lot of help, but it’s not clear whether DFA would be helping him or the Democrat running to succeed him in PA-7, Bryan Lentz, who could also use the help. Perriello is not extraordinarily liberal but he has voted the right way most, if not all, the time, despite representing a Republican district. The most recent polling shows him being crushed by 26 points, and the DCCC is starting to look like they’re writing him off for reelection this year.
So on the one hand, saving Perriello may already be hopeless, but on the other hand, he has taken some very tough votes and is being left behind by the establishment. I decided that he deserves the help and so I voted for Tom Perriello.
There’s plenty of villainy to go around, but I focused pretty much on who could actually be taken out. In some cases I was thinking more of the Democratic/liberal challenger than I was thinking about the actual Villain nominee.
I was going to make sure that the Four Evil ConservaDems who blocked the public option – Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln – were included on my own list of nominees. To my amazement, only one, Lieberman, was actually a nominee (Lieberman was thus the only non-Republican on this list). The rest appeared as neither a Hero nor a Villain. I can understand Lincoln not being included, since the primary against her is already over and lost, but Landrieu and Nelson did more to block the public option than any of the Republicans on this list, so I don’t understand why they were not included. Some of the other ConservaDems, like Max Baucus, Kent Conrad and Evan Bayh, also appeared on neither the Heroes nor Villains list. What a huge cop-out.
So my picks were:
Joe Lieberman – up for reelection in 2012
Chuck Grassley – up for reelection in 2010, running against Roxanne Conlin
Richard Burr – up for reelection in 2010, running against Elaine Marshall
Scott Brown – up for reelection in 2012
While I’m really looking forward to replacing Lieberman and Brown with real liberals in 2012, the pressures of the moment pushed me towards this year’s contests with Grassley and Burr. Between their opponents Conlin and Marshall, I’ve heard more good things about Marshall (and she’s doing better in the polls as well), so I went with Richard Burr.
I applied a similar “who can we get rid of and replace with a relative liberal?” test here, but it was harder cuz I don’t follow House races as closely as Senate ones. In the end I chose four as my starting list:
Dave Reichert – running against Suzan DelBene
Brian Bilbray – running against Francine Busby
Mary Bono Mack – running against Steve Pougnet
Charles Djou – running against Colleen Hanabusa
Of these four, Djou, in heavily Democratic HI-1, will probably lose anyway, without DFA’s help. I included Reichert because super progressive Darcy Burner had run against him in the past, but she isn’t this year and I don’t know enough about this year’s nominee, Suzan DelBene. That left Bilbray and Mack, and while Bilbray’s opponent Busby is “okay”, Mack’s opponent Steve Pougnet is probably more progressive, so I voted for Mary Bono Mack. I admit that there could be better candidates and races out there; I was under pressure to vote before the contest’s September 7 deadline and so had to make my decision in haste.
UPDATE: Hmm, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so confident about Djou losing in HI-1.