Fighting Dem Vets (http://www.fighting-dems.com) is pleased to sponsor this live blog by Carl Sheeler (RI-Senate). Like Jim Webb, Carl is a Fighting Dem straight-shooter; like Ned Lamont, Carl is a new face to politics. And like both of these superb candidates Carl is facing an entrenched establishment Dem in next month's primary. And Netroots bloggers are taking notice of Carl's campaign. Two recent blog interviews are worth a read. The first is Interview with Fighting Dem Carl Sheeler by David Nalle on blogcritics.com. The second is by Steve Wanczyk on Wicked Philosophy Webzine: Carl Sheeler: The Next Ned Lamont?/
Below the fold is what Carl wrote for his Fighting Dem Vets Diary today.
This campaign is not about the Democratic establishment candidate Sheldon Whitehouse or "The next Ned Lamont" Carl Sheeler. It is not about Lincoln Chafee. It is about middle class Rhode Islanders and Americans. Our numbers and economic promise of prosperity are eroding because of the backlash of really poor elected government. The world sees our elected and thinks "Is this the best you have? Like it or not, much of the world thinks we liked "W" enough in 2004 we gave him four more years. It does not matter whether he really won or lost. What matters is the Democratic message never resonated with our middle class. Instead we fell for the divide and conquer tactics of immigration, flag burning, marriage equality and choice... not that these issues aren't important, but we did not create that agenda... the GOP did because they knew we are all over the map on it. Classic divide and conquer. It works.
Why wasn't it about national security by Democrats in 2001, 2002, 2003... it's 2006 and it's finally rolled out. That's politics at its very worst. Poll tested politics. Wait and see politics... instead of from the gut, this is what's right and wrong... this is what people think and say in our communities not on the isolated "Hill" politics.
If you followed the Rhode Island's US Senate race closely... I mean really closely... you found Matt Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse bashing and second guessing Senator Chafee. It doesn't matter that the DNC tried to have Chafee come over from the "darkside". I mentioned in my earlier blogs that not only did I speak to him and his campaign members, but when it was clear he would not disaffiliate, I spent more than three months meeting with some of the best and brightest around the state who were not corrupted by the infamous "Rhody Democratic political machine".
Whether it was resources or personal issues, I could not find somebody who'd step up. It's when I decided to examine my own characteristics and traits, warts and all, and step into the breach. This is what leaders do. I'm grateful it's not about ego. It's about personal connections with everyday people. I've lived on both sides of the tracks and I'd choose a neighborhood BBQ over a banquet everyday. People sense that. Politics aside most voters want likeability, accessibility and approachability. A person they could split a pizza and beer between them. It may not have the high brow of patrician gravitas, but it's real.
Let's talk about polls for a moment. In January multimillionaire Lamont was down 68% to 13% against Lieberman until his anti-war message began to stick and unlike Hillary, Joe refused to budge on his stance. In Rhode Island, we had just come on the stage and the infamous Brown University poll without any questioning from ProJo [Providence Journal] published that we have no supporters, but this was because the poll asked "Either Brown or Whitehouse". It did not state my name. Darrel West would not release his data to me and the ProJo would not respond to supporters' claims that when the pollsters were asked about Sheeler, their response was "Does that mean not decided?"
This is Rhode Island politics at its worst. We had a lot of anecdotal and concrete evidence that our support was higher. Signature canvassers (7 out of 10) when asked who I was running against and the name Whitehouse was mentioned would sign without knowing anything about my platform. The dislike for Sheldon in many communities is strong. So in June we did an internal poll of 600 and found that he had a 10 point lead with 40 percent undecided, which coincided with a SurveyUSA poll. This was after he had run his first TV ads and before we had done any TV commercials. We believe Chafee and our campaign benefited most from Brown supporters when Matt dropped from the campaign. Since then all the polls from the campaigns have been push polls to incrementally reinforce a GOP or DEM candidate with all the resources of our State Dem Party and Sheldon's campaign... he's not budging much.
In addition, we have an unprecedented number of ward primaries with many minorities running. I have attended most of these events and these local races will sway voter turnout in a big way. I believe a member from the local PDA also did a poll which also supports these premises... in fact I believe we did better. Keep in mind this is the same arrogance that led Sheldon to believe he had a lock on the governor's race, too.
Another thought - A recent Providence Journal piece on Sheldon indicated he was trying to "remake" his image after his failed gubernatorial primary and post loss disappearance for years thereafter. What does he say knowing he's trying to recraft his image as "one of us"? I was bored looking out my ivory tower law office making $350 an hour looking at birds through my binoculars. The spots and stripes haven't changed since his "higher office is my legacy" comment a few years ago. Where was he between 2002 and 2005? And what if he had won or lent his support to Myrth York for governor? I was running my company, working on my doctorate, raising five kids and doing hundreds of volunteer hours every year. Why doesn't he stress his time as AG? How many convictions did he get with Plunderdome? Why did the FEDs take this over? What happened with Jennifer Rivera, Cornell Young and Scott Hornoff? What about outsourcing the lead based paint case with kick backs to the state party? Don't loyalists realize the GOP knows about these things and others and will be pounding the public in the GE?
There are some who are snowed by his "new progressive" image, but most political observers state he's more conservative than Chafee. Look who he is backed by: Big Labor and Wealthy interests. I'll take in Veteran support everyday. Take a close look at his FEC reports... the average contributor of $1,000 is what most Rhode Islanders take home in two weeks. That might explain why over 70% of these funds come from out of state. My backing locally is organizations like "Youth in Political Action" a progressive and minority organization; however, I also have the backing of over 200 leaders of faith based organizations because I have stressed building bridges within our communities and nationally across the aisle. I have had hundreds of primary voters, elected and incumbents at my home to tell me what they think their local issues are. All politics; especially in a small state like Rhode Island, is local. I've still logged almost 20,000 miles and four pairs of shoes in the past six months! It's also about accessibility. This is a huge complaint from the public and is compounded by who candidates' contributors are. Sheldon avoided debates for ten months and only after our television ads and highway billboards stated he wouldn't debate did he agree to do so. I think this speaks volumes. I guess as he said on radio four months ago, we finally "fit into his schedule."
Being a progressive is about having teeth, which is where the Fighting Dems comes in. Most of us are not going to back down by cherry picked comments to bolster an opponent' supporter's comments. Does Sheldon have the endorsement/support of VetPAC or ImpeachPAC or dozens of other organizations as we have? How important is it to have local backing of most of our state Democrats that have ratings even lower than Bush? Why did his campaign not pursue an endorsement from ImpeachPAC or Progressive Democrats of America? Why has he supported Bush's Israel policy? Why has he stated he would not impeach Bush? Why did his campaign not start blogging until months after ours had? I say that's "wait and see."
Our messages have been consistent. They have been strong with common sense. It was the same with the war and Alito, for just two clear examples. In July last year we had the time line and exit strategy posted. Sheldon had no position in 2005 and in 2006 says "rapid and responsible". Great sound bite. What does that mean? Why nothing for the six plus months in 2005? How many troops died since this phrase? In the beginning of November 2005 when Alito was nominated for the Supreme Court bench, Sheldon said he had no position yet. Mine was he is a direct threat to the expansion of Bush's executive authority. In January, just before the hearings Sheldon states his opposition. The public wants to know the candidate has the courage of his convictions and will get the job done. I believe they are willing to make personal sacrifices for leadership that believes in nonpartisan efforts evoking life, liberty and restoring hope instead of fear. This is why our Constitutional oath must be defended so passionately.
So does it make him progressive that he spent much of the $2 million plus raised on one minute commercials about his father being a Marine and Ambassador or that he's talking to a smiling audience about body armor? These ads are inundating our airwaves, but his favorability numbers haven't shifted. What has shifted is the bare-knuckled brawl (big ad buys) of Laffey-Chafee? This has hurt these two against either Democratic contender.
This takes us full circle and ends my blogging statement. I trust Rhode Islanders and hard working people. I know we're cynical with the broken promises of cookie cutter politicians who enabled this administration and are trying to preserve their political influence over public accountability. Our campaign is about a domestic and security agenda that'll begin when we roll back the wealth and corporate tax cuts to their pre-2001 levels and bring our troops home now. When the boat is sinking, people don't want swimming lessons or to witness wealthy and special interests safe on the Lido deck. They want to know their safety and kitchen table issues are being addressed now by somebody who directly experiences the crushing burden of lost lives, lost income, high health care and education costs and an unsure financial security compounded by rising property taxes and housing affordability.
In a sense, my military financial and business skills blend these compassion issues with the practical reality of policies that improve the way we collect and allocate federal funds to address our national deficit and improve our foreign and energy policies. The real issues on the horizon are alliances with China and Latin America and tackling Pakistan, Iran and N. Korea, which we can do when we have our own house in order. Now that's patriotic and common sense.
A final thrust from Carl is his answer to the following question in the above cited interview by David Nalle for blogcritics.com:
DN: You're one of the 'Fighting Dems', with a background of military service the Marines in the first Iraq War. There has been some concern that Democratic Party leadership hasn't supported the Fighting-Dems as wholeheartedly as they might have, throwing more money and support behind more conventional, 'insider' candidates who don't challenge the status quo in the party. This certainly seems to have been a problem in your campaign where Whitehouse has gotten all the attention and you've been virtually ignored. How big a mistake is the party making by shying away from more progressive candidates and failing to support the 'Fighting Dems'?
CS: "Can do!" It's a simple phrase, but means a great deal. Military service is about more than strong patriotism and national pride. It is about getting the job done and minimizing partisanship. We used to have a Congress that would cross aisles on most major life altering legislation. Since many among the establishment Democratic leadership have moved to the right and feed from the same trough as their GOP counterparts, they've broken their social contract with our country's middle class that includes "Family. Faith. Flag." They have minimized the very serious nature of putting lives in harm's way. They are shells and not leaders who make command decisions based on what is politically expedient rather than on what is the right thing to do. [The last sentence was slightly corrected to put the "politically expedient" where it belonged.]
For more information you can visit Carl's website for issues, blog, recent news, photos, and the rest.
And you can contribute to the cause here.