I got an email this morning from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee that proclaimed “Democrats now have a 74% chance of winning back the House, according to the Princeton Election Consortium.  Progressives are running in some of the tightest races.”

I’ll take that both with a grain of salt and as good news to rally around.  So, this morning, I called on my pal Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny and the Blue America PAC to give a rundown of some of the races in which progressives (or, in some cases, worthy Democrats) have a shot at winning.  Not only did we have a great conversation, but Howie put together a rundown of those races and separated them into interesting categories:

West vs Murphy
Bachmann vs Graves
King vs Vilsack
Walsh vs. Duckworth

Policy makers:

Ryan vs Zerban
Cantor vs Powell
McKeon vs Rogers
Boehner vs…
Issa vs Jerry Tetalman

The crooks:

FL-26- Rivera vs Garcia
NY-11- Grimm vs Mark Murphy
(CA-25- McKeon vs Rogers)

5 districts in Michigan Obama won where the DCCC refuses to engage:

MI-04- Camp vs Debra Wirth
MI-06- Upton vs Mike O’Brien
MI-07- Walberg vs Kurt Haskell
MI-08- Mike Rogers vs Lance Enderle
MI-11- reindeer rancher vs Said Taj
+ …the 1 race in America where the Republican might not be as bad as the Democrat!

2 rare races where the DCCC has been dragged into supporting progressives

NH-01- Frank Guinta vs Carol Shea-Porter
NH-02- Charlie Bass vs Anne Kuster

The Future of the Lone Star State:

TX-16- Beto O’Rourke vs Barbara Carrasco

[rather than TX-20- Joaquin Castro vs David Rosa]

The worst case of sabotage by the DCCC this cycle:

WV-01- David McKinley vs Sue Thorn (Mike Oliverio)

Use that guide to follow along with our interview…. the visit the Blue America PAC page and contribute whatever you can.

Before bringing Howie on the line, I read a few key passages from a brilliant post written by Rebecca Solnit.  The whole thing can be found here… and honestly, it’s difficult to pull excerpts as in its entirety, it’s pretty spot on.  I’ll try, but I encourage you to read it!


Dear Allies,

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.

 So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it. 

Instead, I constantly encounter a response that presumes the job at hand is to figure out what’s wrong, even when dealing with an actual victory, or a constructive development. Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she’s anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

This kind of response often has an air of punishing or condemning those who are less radical, and it is exactly the opposite of movement- or alliance-building. Those who don’t simply exit the premises will be that much more cautious about opening their mouths. Except to bitch, the acceptable currency of the realm.  

At another junction, she makes equally compelling points on the subject of  “the lesser of two evils”:

One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.

Before that transpires, there’s something to be said for actually examining the differences.  In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it’s that the people in question won’t be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.

An undocumented immigrant writes me, “The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with.” Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, “Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don’t vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters.”

And further on down, regarding that question “How can you vote for Obama in light of his drone strikes against innocent people?”… I have more thoughts on that, but Rebecca Solnit makes, yet again, some really good points:

I’m with those who are horrified by Obama’s presidential drone wars, his dismal inaction on global climate treaties, and his administration’s soaring numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants. That some of you find his actions so repugnant you may not vote for him, or that you find the whole electoral political system poisonous, I also understand.

At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption “Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils.” It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy.  Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all U.S. presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.

You don’t have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.

Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don’t like poison. You don’t have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don’t have to punish anyone, period.

Food for thought. And again, please read the whole thing!

And finally, as we do each Monday morning , I chatted with Nicole Belle of Crooks and Liars about all we talked about up to the point she came on, and the Sunday talking head shows, in a segment we call Fools on the Hill. Here’s what she brought us today: