The mainstream media line that Democratic success in reclaiming at least one house of Congress on Election Day would be a victory for centrists is false. As is often the case, a mixed set of campaign themes is being sandwiched into a convenient narrative that fits a punchy headline —and the talking points of middle-of-the-road, corporate-linked Democratic operatives.
What we’re really seeing in the apparent Democratic surge to victory, Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage writes in a post on Daily Kos, is a consistent pattern that actually runs counter to the game plan pushed by the Democratic Leadership Council and other party centrists. “Three elements are central to virtually every Democratic campaign this fall - the war in Iraq, the middle class squeeze, and Republican corruption,” he writes. “Democrats are virtually unified in calling for a change in course in Iraq, in hammering Republicans on stagnant wages, with an emphasis on the outsourcing of good jobs, and on indicting Republicans for selling out Americans to the drug and oil industries.”
That is a message of progressive populism, not “Republican lite” centrism. For proof, all one has to do is look at the content of the campaign ads Democrats, and even some Republicans, are using in tight districts.
In Ohio, Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown has been able to gain a significant lead over incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine by attacking the North American Free Trade Agreement, which DeWine supported, and advocating raising the minimum wage. In another key Ohio race, Mary Jo Kilroy has been running neck-and-neck with incumbent Republican Deborah Pryce by stressing her opposition to putting social security funds into private accounts, and her ads emphasize things that government can do for people, even if it costs money. Pryce, on the other hand, has been emphasizing typical Republican themes of cutting taxes and privatizing Social Security.
In a hotly contested race in Florida, both the Republican incumbent, E. Clay Shaw Jr., and Democrat Ron Klein are using quintessential progressive populist themes in their ads. Both argue that private money plays too strong a role in the political process, that corporate interests may override the people’s interests, and politicians who accept campaign money cannot be trusted to represent the people over their campaign contributors.
One ad that Democrat Patricia Madrid, running against Rep. Heather Wilson in New Mexico, is using says, “They just keep driving in the same lane. George Bush and Heather Wilson. Wilson’s taken $416,000 in contributions from Big Oil and Gas, energy special interests who give millions to Bush. And Wilson voted for the Bush energy plan. Billions in tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, while they’re already making record profits. Heather Wilson and George Bush. They get their way, and New Mexico gets left behind.”
In the Minnesota Senate race, Amy Klobuchar is taking on incumbent Mark Kennedy on the issue of the rigging of the Medicaid prescription drug plan to benefit pharmaceutical companies.
It is true that a number of the Democrats part company with many progressives on social issues, such as marriage equality. But the fact that a Bob Casey in Pennsylvania is pro-life or that a minority of the winning Democrats fully support gay marriage does not negate the truth that the progressive message — giving government back to the people so that it can serve the interests of the people — is not only a prevalent message, but it is a winning one. The media would do well to give the public a more complete story.
--Isaiah J. Poole
| Wednesday, November 1, 2006 11:28 AM