The press, the progressive/liberal/Democratic alternative press, and most people think that the real race in the Illinois Tenth is the pissing match between Ilya Sheyman and Brad Schneider. It's not. The real race is between the Democratic policy technicians and the new Democratic democratic values candidates. Here in IL-10, that's the race between Vivek Bavda and John Tree.
Candidates Ilya Sheyman and Brad Schneider trade barbs between each other about Ilya's lack of age and experience, and Brad's Republican campaign contributions. Schneider has sent about 11 mailers to the same people over the past month and is now preparing to hit the senior centers and nursing homes with his message. Sheyman has amassed support from the national progressive/liberal organizations because he's the "only true progressive". He has band of high schoolers knocking on doors and some real support from the peace people and a couple of grandmotherly looking women who pinch his cheeks and tell him how wonderful he is.
Ilya says no one really cares about his age and lack of experience. He ignores that most people are in fact talking about it. He ignores that most questions he's had to field from the endorsement sessions of these lefty national groups have been the equivalent of asking whether he prefers kittens or puppies. I was in his IVI-IPO session and the questions they were asking him were ridiculous. The two people who ran the show do not live in our district, know nothing about it, and had already decided to support Ilya because he was a 2004 DFA member and their buddy. They threw him softballs and whispered to the other attendees, none of whom knew anything about the race or district, to endorse him and they did, probably to get the show on the road so they could go home because IL-10 was not important to them. Most of the questions pitched to Ilya from our local township groups are about the same. He's getting softballs because his early supporters don't want him to mess up. While at least Vernon made him answer the same questions as the others, those were softballs too. Ilya is ill prepared for the firestorm that is going to come from the right in the general.
Brad seems to think no one notices that his support for Republicans and his ever changing story about same make him untrustworthy. He should at least tell the truth. That he's a one-issue, Israel guy. That might even appeal to some, if not a lot of district voters. However, he doesn't get (and those who would support that approach do not get) that our country's problems go far beyond what can be cured by sending more military dollars to Israel. We're allowing a very right-wing philosophy, and our fear of challenging it on any higher level, to bankrupt our people. We're kicking ourselves to the curb based on one-issue politics be it Israel, abortion or now even contraception.
Amid all the hubbub, I believe that Sheyman and Schneider are playing out our old IL-10 races, who is the more progressive, who can catch those "Mark Kirk" Democrats, as if they are really Democrats. I believe that our real, current IL-10 race is about much more than that. It's about the ongoing strategy of the Democratic party and its reaction to the corporation-ism of our government and subservience of people to corporations and the financial sector. Both Sheyman and Schneider represent the old Democratic approach to handing the matter. The two newer candidates to the race, Vivek Bavda and John Tree, are playing out the contrasting approaches to our new world.
In Death of the Liberal Class, author Chris Hedges, talks about our new economic world with a shrunken middle class and far less equality of opportunity than we've seen in our lifetimes. Early in the book, Hedges describes his conversation with an early tea partier (before Americans for Prosperity took over). The man was Ernest Logan Bell, and angry unemployed veteran. Hedges concludes:
Anger and a sense of betrayal: these are what Ernest Logan Bell and tens of millions of other disenfranchised workers express. These emotions spring from the failure of the liberal class over the past three decades to protect the minimal interests of the working and middle class as corporations dismantled the democratic state, decimated the manufacturing sector, looted the US Treasury, waged imperial wars that can neither be afforded or won, and gutted he basic laws that protected the interests or ordinary citizens. Yet the liberal class continues to speak in the prim and obsolete language of politics and issues. It refuses to defy the corporate assault. A virulent right wing, for this reason, captures and expresses the legitimate rage articulated by the disenfranchised. And the liberal class has become obsolete even as it clings to its positions of privilege within liberal institutions.Hedges sees liberalism as a safety valve from the natural tendencies of capitalism, making reform and greater equality possible, at least incrementally. It's failure over the last few years comes from the liberal class willingness to buy into the status quo to preserve its own status and perks. It's failure has allowed corporations to make too many gains over people and allowed the right wing to impose its will, even when most people don't agree with that will.
Hedges argues that the liberal class has failed to make headway against right-wing extremism because even when it's working as it should, it's too mired in the weeds of specific policy, and does not afford a grand vision to earn the emotional following of Americans.
Vivek Bavda is making his case based on some pretty good ideas he has for specific policy. He knows single payer is the right answer to our inequality and misappropriation of health care, but he feels that we cannot win the hearts and minds of Americans on the topic, so he's contrived a health care use for the reverse Dutch auction. It's probably not a bad idea, but you tell me how many Americans understand the reverse Dutch auction and guess how many tea partiers it will take to turn it into a "death panel". Bavda correctly wants to re-regulate Wall Street and give relief to underwater homeowners and he has some good ideas for doing so. I'm not sure he can explain them in 10 words or less.
Bavda's big idea on the economy is a bunch of little ones. He feels we cannot achieve a grand jobs program, but that we can get 90/94 widened (again). His jobs and economic plan is to push for several small, local projects. His idea is that the success of these projects will show some larger economic success and eventually convince Americans to go bigger. It's not necessarily a bad idea, but it does cause me to wonder if as our congressman, Bavda will get lost in the weeds and possibly be accused of promoting "pork", if unintentionally.
John Tree represents the other side of this spectrum. While an economics expert in his own right, Tree isn't rooting through the weeds of economic policy. He's rising above and looking bigger picture at the gut wrenching emotions of our economic situation. He's going after those in Congress who are causing the gridlock and pledges to take the fight to Bob Dold. Tree is the only candidate remembering that Bob Dold got his start with the tea party. Dold would have lost his 2010 primary to Beth Coulson without the tea party and owes them his career.
Tree tells his life story, about his childhood, his religion and early mission to Haiti, his military career and his various positions in business and business as a small business owner. He even tells his personal stories about his change of perspective and core values, his failed marriage, his new marriage, his children and the daughter he recently lost. These are not all success stories, but the overall success is that Tree has overcome his problems, survived and thrived and goes on with his family, including a new baby boy.
Tree uses humor and explained why at the Vernon Township endorsement session. "Humor defuses a lot of tension and it helps people listen and lower their natural defenses so we can communicate better and be able to chart out the path." Tree further explained that it helps him in a room that isn't full of friendly supporters. He's prepared for the brawl that the 2d half of this campaign will entail.
John Tree is capturing the worries and emotions of Americans. Tree is willing and able to take the fight to Bob Dold and his tea party. Tree is offering a place for those in the district who realize something is wrong, but reject real solutions because they simply do not trust the policy descriptions coming from the Democrats when Republicans are giving them an emotional refuge.
So, the real race is not between the two "I'm more progressive than you" pissing-matched candidates. The district has been there and done that. This race is between the technical policy-maker and the big picture survivor of the 21st century economy. While I think Vivek Bavda is a very smart guy with some good ideas and I'd love to see him on some committee or in some think tank discussing the economy and health care, I think the John Tree is the better candidate to stand up to Bob Dold and the tea party.
Read more about the Vernon Township endorsement session here and here.