Congressman Gerry Connolly, Democrat, of the 11th Congressional District, met with a packed house of The Brigades’ membership at the Neighbor’s Restaurant in Vienna, VA, Wednesday evening. His message was ” Yes, it’s going to be a tough fight in the 11th this fall, but we’re going to win it, and surprise not only ‘the other guy,’ but the Conventional Wisdom,” which, as we have been told over and over, is that Democrats are going to take a big hit in the mid-terms, (since “it’s always that way for the party in power:” C.W. quote). It ain’t necessarily so. He had a pretty convincing argument, and in the process educated the progressives in his audience as to the political realities of Obama’s first two years in office, and the situation in Northern Virginia, in the 11th CD.
To begin with, Obama campaigned on “change,” which included doing several things, like stopping the economy’s slide into a deep Depression, passing health care reform and Lilly Ledbetter equal pay reform, getting out of combat mode in Iraq, stimulating job formation, and tackling Big Bank-Wall Street reform. He has delivered on almost every one of his promises—- not, perhaps exactly as the purist of pure progressive Democrats might have liked, but far, far better than any “change” offered by the same ol’ same ol’ Republicans, who had eight years to do their thing, and, as Obama says, “drove the country into a ditch.”
Why, then, asked Connolly, is there now such a (prominently publicized) backing off on “change?” Once people saw change in action, they became uneasy (and, I might add, were bombarded by mass media with negative agitprop from the right). One reason they are uneasy, said the Congressman, is that this Recession isn’t over with; the recovery was nastier and deeper than first supposed, it still is fragile, and it’s taking longer to get traction because of the severity of the downturn. And two, the citizens of this country lost over a trillion dollars worth of wealth as a result of the collapse of the stock market combined with the implosion of values in the housing market—- no wonder they are unhappy and worried about their future.
Connolly pointed out that he had voted not once but twice for every one of Obama’s basic promises as they became legislation on the floor in Congress. When asked about where he stood on the projected expiration of the Bush tax cuts, he explained that he would vote for a temporary extension of those tax cuts for all levels of income, including the topmost wealthy segment. His rationale was twofold: 1) the economy is too fragile at the moment to monkey with consumer spending and consumer confidence, the upper levels of income do account for about 30 percent of consumer spending in this country and, since restoration of consumer spending is one key to a strong recovery, he feels it is prudent to leave well enough alone, and 2) the 11th District, in terms of average household income, is the richest District in the country, and he has to represent the constituency of his District—- one reason he won his seat in the first place was that the wealthy suburbs voted for the Democratic ticket from Obama on down in 2008, it would be foolish not to honor their original support. He would not, under any circumstances, however, vote with Republicans for a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts. He acknowledged that, given the general Democratic attitude, an across-the-board extension might not be achievable.
On the deficit, the Congressman reminded us that the last time the U.S. national debt was reduced to a flat “0,” was under President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, and that, when President Clinton’s budgets were scheduled to produce a surplus, The Wall Street Journal fretted endlessly about the difficulties of dealing with a surplus and the possibility of paying down the national debt again—- the horror of it! How would we deal with such an eventuality on Wall Street? What would it do to Treasuries, and so on.
Of course, as we all know, it took G.W. Bush only a short while to turn the Clinton budget surplus into ballooning deficits, and the major part of today’s deficits are the result of: 1) the Iraq-Afghanistan wars which were not paid for, 2) the prescription drug benefit which was not paid for, and 3) the Bush tax cuts, which were not paid for. In other words, the deficits about which Republicans are so ostentatiously upset, are not the result of Obama’s policies.
In fact, most of the policy changes signed by Obama are actually going to reduce the deficit, and that includes the health care reform bill, which is paid for, and the jobs bill, which was paid for. It is the Democrats who passed and enforced Pay-Go. The Republicans have said “NO!” to everything the Democrats have done, even when, as happened regularly, the legislation was in fact originally proposed by Republicans; the Republicans often ended up voting against their own legislation, bills they originally sponsored. They really are the Party of No. Said Gerry: “The Democrats are ready to govern, but the Republicans won’t let them.” Even worse, the Republicans have offered no alternative policy, their entire campaign motto so far, unless they invent something between now and November, has been to undo or repeal whatever Obama has done.
The theme of the campaign will be GOTV; in 2008 voter turnout was about 80 percent in the 11th District, and that is how the Democrats swept the 11th. Unfortunately, turnout is projected to be half that, 40 percent, in 2010—- and low turnout always helps Republicans. So, put on your Connolly bumper sticker, even if you don’t vote in the 11th (you no doubt drive through it occasionally, don’t you?—- hard to avoid considering how its spread out over the suburbs), phone bank, phone bank, phone bank, canvass, write letters to the editor and so on. Then, as Gerry says, in your left-over time, go help Tom Perriello. Sock it to the “Noes.” (I say, “give ’em a bloody noes.”)