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Only Millionaire-Fence Straddlers Need Apply

At a recent meeting of House Republicans, members ruminating on the disastrous state of their party reportedly murmured with gloomy jocularity about the administration of "President Hastert". A CounterPuncher familiar with the proceedings reports "they were only half joking".

Yet, as they contemplate political ruin in next year's election, these Republicans can take solace in the fact that, if defeated, their replacements may not differ in any meaningful way on important issues of the day. That at least is the hope and dream of Democratic apparatchik Rahm Emmanuel and the corporate toadies he represents. Ominously, Emmanuel, a relict of the Clinton White House, heads the Democratic National Campaign Committee.

As such, he decides which candidates for the House should get money and other support from the national party. At a time when any fool can see that the public hates the war more this month than last, and will hate it even more next month and the month after that, Emmanuel is doing his best to recruit candidates, preferably rich ones, guaranteed to eschew vocal opposition to the war.
Clear evidence for this proclivity is evident in the race to succeed Henry Hyde, in Chicago's 6th District.

In the last election progressive candidate Christine Cegalis actually got 44.2 per cent of the vote against the sixteen-term Hyde, despite being outspent $700,000 to $160,000 in a conservative district with no elected Democrats at all.

Following this commendable showing, Cegalis figured that with Hyde retiring and the Republicans melting down, she stood a better than even chance of garnering the seat in 2006.

However it seems that in Emmanuel's opinion, Cegalis stinks. Never mind that excellent record against the giant Hyde, forget her well-crafted support network in the Chicago district, Cegalis has not yet raised a million dollars and, even more damningly, she is calling for troop withdrawal from Iraq. So Emmanuel set out to recruit a more suitable candidate. Initially, he approached two millionaires and urged them, serially, to run against Cegalis in the primary.

They refused. Now he is pinning his hopes on a double amputee women Iraq veteran, Tammy Duckworth

Duckworth, who is not from the district, has ignited hopes at DCCC headquarters that she would campaign on a "pro-business/centrist platform". Queried by a Chicago Sun Times columnist for her opinion on the war, she replied, "There's good and bad in everything".

That sort of equivocation must certainly have commended her to Emmanuel, who greeted Congressman Murtha's fervent and well-informed denunciation of the war with the words "Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha" and has declared that "At the right time we will have a position" on the war.

Cegalis' position is clear: "I support Jack Murtha", she tells CounterPunch. "If Jack Murtha is calling for withdrawal, then I go with that."

If Emmanuel and his like succeed in displacing Cegalis and similar candidates, thereby undercutting any claim the Democrats might have to either principle or votes, he will only be concluding the work he began in the 1990s.

Cegalis reports that the economy has become the key issue in DuPage County, roughly coterminous with the district. "DuPage has lost jobs for the first time in fifty years." As manufacturing jobs disappear to Mexico or China, voters can mull the benefits of free trade and the Democrats who fostered it.

Most clear-minded observers would agree that among the mortal body blows that have brought the Democrats to their present ebb, the passage of NAFTA in 1993, with consequent evisceration of the American industrial economy, must count as among the most lethal.

Key to that passage was Emmanuel, who directed the Clinton White House operation to get the treaty passed by any means necessary.

The inevitable consequences of misery and want inflicted on Americans and Mexicans alike did not of course hinder his career, which took him, following his departure from the White House in 1998, to a well upholstered post in a Chicago banking firm before he won election to Dan Rostenkowski's old Chicago seat.

Now, with the Democrats presented by their opponents with their best chance in years, Emmanuel is ready to ensure that, come what may, nothing will really change, except for the worse.

homepage: homepage: http://www.counterpunch.org

samo CounterPunch 09.Dec.2005 23:55

g.d. dem

This is okay coverage of how the money system can work against a progressive seeking a nomination in the Democratic Party. However, the headline would indicate that Tammy Duckworth is a millionaire -- which my iNet research shows isn't the case. Googling on Duckworth and "millionaire" these two results: (1) before Duckworth was mentioned for the job, the DCCC was looking for a millionaire because it costs big bucks to compete against a Republican in the Chicago suburbs, and, (2) the two words appear separately at the "American Women in Uniform, Veterans Too" website which mentions Tammy Duckworth in a list of women considered heroes, and, in a section unrelated to Duckworth --

"Millionaire celebs and millionaire jocks - (with one notable exception) [pro football star Kevin Tillman] - are not the ones out there protecting your freedom!"

So, I justifiably presume that Duckworth isn't a millionaire.

Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth is a former helicopter pilot with the rank of captain in the Illinois National Guard. Her helicopter was downed by RPG fire in Iraq and she lost her legs as a result. Thus, her answer to the question about the war -- "There's good and bad in everything" -- is probably her way of deflecting questions about her military service in Iraq and a philosophical position that evolved from the loss of her legs. Taken in context, the single quote from Duckworth really doesn't necessarily make her a fence-straddler -- rather a political rookie who holds her cards close to the chest.

So, "millionaire fence-sitter"? -- hardly justified by any facts cited in the article.

This is what the fight in the Illinois Democratic Party is really all about, from IllinoisDemNet.com --

"Here are the cold hard facts: Rahm Emanuel is devastating grass-roots organizing in Chicagoland by refusing to back the grass-roots candidate who scored an incredible 44% against Henry Hyde in 2004. If Duckworth manages to steal the nomination from Cegelis, and then she loses the general election in November, Rahm's credibility will be destroyed."

Illinois blogs say: "Duckworth's policy views are largely a mystery."

The district involved has been Republican territory for some time -- it's the congressional seat held until now by arch-conservative Henry Hyde whose past has been catching up with him in the form of a S&L $$$ deal as well as a lengthy secretive affair with a much younger woman while he was married and serving in the Illinois Legislature. This has been particularly damaging to Hyde who was the ramrod in the House for the Clinton impeachment and loved to moralize on the Democrats. On the other hand, Hyde has never actually been defeated in the district despite the scandals.

The main point here is that it has been a solidly Republican district in the Chicago suburbs (DuPage County) for decades. Bush won there in 2004 but so did Barak Obama. Cegelis ran in 2004 and got 44% of the vote. Although that was better than any Democrat has done in that district in many years, and she did it without DCCC support, it still doesn't point to a victory for Cegelis in 2006.

So it's hard to say whether the decision to back Duckworth is about preventing Cegelis from running or about having a winning Democratic candidate who can actually take over a Republican seat in Congress. It's true how money works in politics in this country. But looking into the facts, the conclusion that a reader would draw from the headline, that Duckworth is a millionaire fence-straddler -- is unsubstantiated at best.

The issue will be settled in the Illinois primary this spring.

I wish CounterPunch would devote more attention to underlying problems like campaign finance reform -- and how that is almost impossible due to the power of corporate media and the holding by the Supreme Court that campaign money cannot be regulated because of the First Amendment -- the infamous "money is speech" doctrine. Also, if CounterPunch would pay some attention to election reform issues -- not only corporate vote counting fraud but also structural reforms such as IRV. Democrats like Emanuel are a symptom rather than the root cause of the problem. Probably those issues just aren't "sexy" enough for CounterPunch?

Also, I wish CounterPunch would stop the practice of misleading headlines and other lousy journalism standards. If that's the only way you can make your point, who needs it?