Friday, September 18, 2009

Why Ned Lamont may be the Most Important Name in 2009 Politics

Yes, Ned Lamont may be the most important name in 2009 politics. Right now, it may be a more important name than Barack Obama. Let me explain.

The fight for health care reform comes closer than it has ever been before, and the Republican party continues to demonstrate that no compromise, not even tort reform, will draw a single Republican vote. At this point, the last thing standing between us and a strong health care bill is conservative or moderate Democrats. The progressive blogosphere has drawn a line in the sand. And I am reminded of 2006, and the Lieberman vs Lamont primary. I am reminder that when progressives draw a line in the sand on the most important issue to voters, they will follow through on holding politicians accountable.

It is because of that 2006 primary, that there is absolutely no logic for dropping the public option. It was the netrooots against the inertia of the Democratic status-quo. Since then, the netroots has become an even larger source of funds, a larger source of volunteers, a larger source of support, a larger source of press. And we have demonstrated our ability to launch you from the party, and critically injure your political career.

But Senator Lieberman won in the end, right? I mean, he did get reelected. Yes. But it was his last reelection. I doubt he will run again. He will not be winning any Democratic primary. And if he runs for the Democratic nomination, he will have to commit to not running as an independent should he lose. I remember working a mayoral primary in '07, every candidate had to commit to that to even be seriously considered. The reverberations of the '06 primary were felt on every ballot in CT. Senator Lieberman would be forced to make that promise. Then again, we all know how Lieberman is on campaign promises, especially about party affiliation. And he cannot run on the Connecticut for Lieberman party again. I mean that literally. He cannot run on that party line. I am not saying the politics forbids it, I am not saying that the Secretary of State might finally get bothered by Sen. Lieberman's repeated use of a fake party he has no intention of joining, I am saying that the party itself will forbid it. Senator Lieberman's campaign screwed up the process for taking control of the party, essentially no one actually registered for the party. John Orman noticed this and decided to register and submit party rules himself. Later, he made the party real. They endorsed President Obama in the 2008 election, pretty much for every reason they do not like Sen. Lieberman. The notion of Sen. Lieberman running against the Connecticut for Lieberman party, who will be eligible to cross endorse* the Democrat on every ballot in the state during the general election, is painfully hilarious for us, but a political dissaster for Sen. Lieberman.

That election was about one major issue, the war. Progressives, especially in the netroots, decided that there was going to be a line in the sand. We made the threats, against the advice of main stream democrats, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama. We took a stand, and while we ultimately lost the election, we landed a major, lasting injury.

And now, we are confronted again with a line in the sand. The progressive netroots have clearly staked out their position on the public option. The Republicans have demonstrated that no compromise on earth will draw a single vote. The Progressive Caucus in the house has made it clear that a bill without a public option will not pass. We are faced with two options, and two options only. 1) We can attempt to force just over a dozen blue dog Senators to support cloture, and an even smaller number to eventually support the bill. Or 2) We can attempt to sway over 50 progressive Representatives, not to mention a large number of progressive Senators, to support a bill without a public option. Which one sounds harder to you?

Add on the fact that the netroots has demonstrated its ability to throw carrots and sticks around. Carrots being large sources of funds, sticks being a difficult and damaging primary. I think we all understand what is at stake. We all know what a dark and depressing the political landscape will feel like if we lose this fight for the public option. None of us want that. Yet we learned from the fight for Medicare that sometimes you have to fight the good fight as many times as it takes, and never give up. Had we compromised on Medicare the way we are being asked to compromise now, there would be no public option for seniors today. It is easy to forget that, especially when you consider the many great reforms other than the public option in the bill. We deeply the fear the notion of taking a loss on this and having to go around taking out candidates that we agree with on many other issues. So when we make the threats to primary people, we do it with a horrible fear in our stomach. Yet we do it knowing full well that we intend to follow through. And we have demonstrated that we will. So, to all the blue dogs who are considering killing the public option, I have two words for you: Ned Lamont.

*Cross endorsement is when a party endorses another party's candidate for office, and the candidate appears on the ballot on both party lines. Fusion voting, or electoral fusion is the name for the process.
And fusion voting is the reason that David Sirota called the Working Families Party (WFP) the most powerful third party in the country, even though they only operate in a handfull of states. When a candidate appears on two party lines, the vote goes to the candidate all the same, but the votes for each party are tallied separately. If a third party, like the WFP, manages to get more than the margin of victory, it gives them a powerful tool to put pressure on that candidate on key issues to the party. In Connecticut, if a political party runs their own candidate for office and receives something like 1% of the vote, they will be eligible to cross endorse candidates on every ballot where that office appears. In other words, The Connecticut for Lieberman party received well over 1% of the vote for Senator Lieberman's seat last time it was up for election. The next time it is up for election, the Connecticut for Lieberman Party will have met the requirements to be eligible to cross endorse for any office on every ballot that the Senator's seat is on. Since it is a US Senate seat, it will be on every ballot in the state. Therefore, the Connecticut for Lieberman Party will actually be able to cross endorse in every race, on every ballot in the state. Fusion voting is only legal in a handfull of states, and only practiced on large scale in even fewer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

President Obama Speaks at College Park

Today, I was lucky enough to see President Obama speak at the University of Maryland. I was not attending this event as a Sum of Change reporter by any means, I merely went to hear the President speak. I did, however, catch a few pictures with my blackberry storm. Like many other progressives, I have been somewhat frustrated throughout this fight. Frankly, I just will not settle for less than the public option. Ideally, I support single payer, but I am willing to compromise if, and only if, there is a robust public option to compete with private insurance. And I absolutely will not stand for a mandate without a strong public option.

So I came into today hopeful, yet frustrated at what the debate has become. Frustrated with just over a dozen Senators holding the public
option hostage. As usual, however, I am coming out of today fired up, and ready to go. I will be making calls with OFA 2.0 later tonight. It is time, once again to lay it all on the table. As David Hart, the founder of Grow the Hope, would say, "Electing a smart and moral man as our President was an important first step, but it is not enough."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This is Just Too Good

UPDATE: It appears that this was no joke. The American Thinker Blog has removed the link. Where is says "Dan Bana, is quoted as saying" the word "quoted" used to link to this story. As you can see, this article, dated January 22nd 2009, is clearly about the inauguration. As you can see, they both use the exact same wording for the quote.

I believe they must have gotten the original story from someone else, reposted without checking the facts. After commenters pointed it out they must have realized the mistake. Rather than deleting the story, they just got rid of the quote. Which actually puts them in violation of plagiarism.

Here is how the moderator responded to someone's comment about the link:
Moderator's note: Please see my other note below. Someone copied the wrong quote with the wrong link. We're working to get it fixed as quickly as possible. Thank you for your concern. --Anton
Rather than admit their wrongdoing, they are out searching for evidence to back up their bogus claim. This is called a celebration of ignorance. A complete and utter disregard for reality.

We'll keep up with this one. Back to our original blog on the story...

I have to hand to the people at the American Thinker Blog. They played what is possibly one of the funniest jokes I have seen in a while.

Here's what they did. The wrote up a blog, claiming that the 9/12 teabagger protest was the largest event ever held in DC. In it, they even quoted the National Park Service:
The truth will out. Despite mainstream media attempts to characterize turnout as in the thousands, a spokesman for the National Park Service, Dan Bana, is quoted as saying "It is a record.... We believe it is the largest event held in Washington, D.C., ever."
They linked to the sources of the quotes, like any halfway decent blogger would. All they had to do was sit back and watch, as countless teabaggers ready to believe anything would neglect to check those links. What ensued was hilarity.

Teabaggers loved the notion that they had set a record, even if it flew in the face of all logic ever known to man. I mean, half a moron would immediately guess that the Inauguration was larger than this right? Yes. In fact, the quotes used in the American Thinker Blog were all from the inauguration.

It was truly fun. I mean, check out this conversation between myself and a #tcot'er:
Starts out...

"9/12 demonstration a record DC turnout: National Park Service"
By @

To which, I respond...

"Record? Hahahahaha! RT @Furrystoat: RT @freedom4USA 9/12 demo a record DC turnout..."
By @SumofChange

And she replies with...

"Record? Hahahahaha! RT @freedom4USA 9/12 demo a record DC turnout... (@SumOfChange ◄Apparently you can't read or didn't comprehend?#tcot #p2"
By @freedom4USA

You'll notice the attack on my ability to read!

At this point, I had yet to check the sources, just assuming the claim was garbage based on, what was it I referenced before? Oh right, based on logic. But I decided to take a quick glance, and then responded...

@freedom4USA Can you read? The quote from the National Park Service is about the Inauguration. Someone is playing a joke on you."
By @SumofChange

20 Years of Defending Clinics and Keeping the Doors Open

Last night, I attended an inspiring and important event. It was the celebration of the 20th year anniversary for the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force (WACDTF). I got introduced to WACDTF as myself, and the other Managing Partner at Sum of Change, Mitch Malasky, began planning a documentary on clinic escorting. As part of our research, we got involved with WACDTF, volunteering at clinics in the DC/MD/VA area.

I would like to take a moment to tell you a little about WACDTF. To start with, it is a completely volunteer run operation. They provide escorts to clinics in the area that request them. When they first started, 20 years ago, escorting was a very different beast. Anti's, their word for anti-choice protesters, would physically block off entrances or literally close doors and refuse entrance to people. Escorts in those days had to lock arms and form walls to keep anti's at bay. It was literally a fight to keep the clinic open. I doubt I need to explain how this could become ugly.

In 1994, President Clinton signed into law, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). For the first time, blocking a clinic entrance became a Federal offense. The impact of FACE was immediate and lasting.
Since its enactment, though anti-abortion violence continues, clinic blockades have dwindled to their lowest levels since they were first used to prevent women from accessing reproductive health care.
WACDTF took a moment last night to recognize the sponsor of the FACE Act, Senator Ted Kennedy. Yet again, I was reminded of what type of champion the late Senator was. I realized, when I got home, that the sentence, "We would not be where we are on (insert issue here) without Ted Kennedy," is always true.

Since 1994, Anti's have altered their tactics. It is less physical. They protest outside the clinics, approaching people immediately to attempt at convincing would be patients to walk away. They hand out literature and hold up signs, with doctored or fake pictures of late term abortions. They will say many things to arriving patients and companions. What they say ranges drastically. There is the common, "We can help you," "Your baby can feel pain," "Please don't kill your baby," "Your baby has a heart beat," etc. Then, there is the crazy, "We aborted the person who would have cured aids," "Mary was raped, she could have aborted Jesus," "We had a Preacher come to this clinic and he found spiritual evidence that these deathscorts (what they call escorts) have sacrificed babies on an altar here," etc. (Every one of those are real examples)

This is where we find ourselves today, and where our documentary picks up. Patients can enter a clinic, after being harassed and insulted first. The anti's are very aware of the restrictions on them. They will use every tactic that is legally available to them.

WACDTF has continued to survive throughout all this history. For 20 years now, they have provided escorts for clinics across DC, Maryland, and Virginia, at the request of the clinic. For 20 years, they have managed to organize and coordinate efforts at multiple clinics without a single person on staff. They operate to achieve one goal, and one goal only, assist patients in entering the clinic in the safest manner, with as little harassment as possible. They use, solely, nonviolent conflict resolution tactics. They do not tolerate counter protesting from WACDTF volunteers. They operate with high level of professionalism and dedication.

It was truly an honor to sit with the crowd of escorts, clinic workers, and WACDTF supporters last night. Being someone that comes from a community organizing background, I am continuously intrigued, inspired, and impressed with the organizers that make WACDTF work.

And you can get involved too. If you are in the DC/MD/VA area, please contact WACDTF. If you are not in that area, you should start by contacting your local clinic, planned parenthood, and local pro-choice organizations like NARAL.

Lastly, our documentary is still in the early stages. We have begun filming recently. We will, shortly, release a lot more information about the film. For now, I will say that we are producing a short piece on WACDTF, and then we will travel the country to document this work all over. If you are interested in hearing more, please sign up to receive Sum of Change email alerts. We will use this list to alert people when the website for the documentary is ready.