John Laesch has a large and devoted following around here. No doubt he deserves it. He's a smart hard worker with impeccable liberal creds, a solid background, and the promise to be a fine Congressman. And if the absentee ballots fall his way, he may have exactly that chance in November. But this diary isn't about John Laesch. This diary is about Bill Foster. I don't know Bill Foster personally, I don't live in Bill Foster's district, and Bill Foster's kid didn't go to school with with cousin's wife's neighbor. But whether or not Bill Foster is going to be on the ballot in November, he is going to be on the ballot in March, and it seems to me it's worth looking at the public record. So I did that. And you know what? He's a damn fine candidate.
Bill Foster's been running under the slogan "Scientist. Businessman. Democrat for Congress." Perhaps not the most inspired of verbal arrangements, but it gets the point across. And for me, considering the candidate himself, the words speak loudly.
You don't spend years getting a PHd in high energy physics and go on to spend years more in the lab to meet chicks. You do it because you have a love of learning, of understanding, of turning unknowable complexity into something usable by mortal man. And you know what? Those aren't characteristics that are half bad to have in a guy who's going to be presented with 2 bookshelves of United States Code and told to "Fix It". But Bill Foster's not just any scientist. He went from one of the top PHd programs in the country at Harvard to one of the top Physics laboratories in the world at Fermilab, where he conducted groundbreaking research (you can find him in that third page under "Advanced Accelerator Techniques") and was recognized for outstanding personal achievements. You don't win these things just for showing up. But let's leave the awards aside for a moment. You can always weasel your way into an unearned accolade, but you can't unravel the mysteries of the universe by slipping God a twenty and asking him how he did it. You do it by making connections other people can't, making the leaps that other people don't, and spending days upon weeks upon months upon years doing your damnedest to undermine your own proudest accomplishments until you realize you've stumbled upon something so bedrock fundamental it can't be budged. That's what you have to do to get where he is, and after a decade of government-by-faith, I would be overjoyed to see that arrive in the Capitol.
Rush Limbaugh's bloviations notwithstanding, there aren't a lot of communists hanging around here. Most of us have nothing against business, we have something against business done wrong. Bill Foster and Electronic Theater Controls have done it right. He started the company at age 19 with his brother and $500. These days, "Source Four", ETC's flagship, means spotlight like "Kleenex" means tissue. They own the market because they make a good product (see awards at the bottom) and they take care of their customers. And 33 years after the founding of the company, where do they build this stuff? Shanghai, right? Guadalajara? Middleton, WI. Taking a little tiny bit of money and turning it into a very large amount of money doesn't prove you're a morally superior human being, but it does prove that you know your way around a dollar bill. Coincidentally, there are a lot of those floating around Washington, just waiting for someone to blow them on a trip to #($*ing MARS. I do not think Bill Foster is going to do that. And in the mean time, if he wants to take his ETC money and drop it all to overtake the seat of Hastert, I won't begrudge him the privilege.
I know this is where I'm going to take heat. Bill Foster did, after all, say he admired the Blue Dogs and intended to work with them. The line concerned, and concerns, me too. But as far as I can tell, the original quote (which I can't find now, will be happy to link if someone finds it) spoke of his admiration of the Blue Dogs for one specific reason - their commitment (as strained as it is with their support of the Bush tax cuts) to fiscal responsibility and paying down the national debt, a very specific connection he's continued to make:
Like most of us, I believe we need to invest in education, in small business assistance, on health care and other domestic priorities to strengthen us here at home. But the debt built up by President Bush and Speaker Hastert is preventing us from doing this. Paying down this debt must be the first order of business. I intend to work with the Blue Dog Democrats in congress -- a group dedicated to curing this by making the hard decisions necessary -- as well as any other groups that make deficit reduction their top priority. I'm sure that I'll be at odds with the Blue Dogs on more than a few issues - for example mortgage industry reform - but when it comes to deficit reduction, we all agree that we have to get our house in order.
And even that aside, I think Chris Bowers said it better than I can when he pointed out the difference between Blue Dogs and Bush Dogs. My old congressman from Pasadena, Adam Schiff, caucuses with the Blue Dogs, gives money to Dems all over the place, and had a 100% key vote party unity score in 2005. Frankly, if saying you'll work with the Blue Dogs disqualifies you from being a Democrat, let's dump Obama by the side of the road too for saying he'll work with Republicans (moot point for those of you who have suggested doing so. Thanks for reading my traitorous filth!).
But what makes me think Bill Foster's going to be any kind of Democrat? What's my proof? Well, the fact he worked on the Patrick Murphy campaign, writing him software to target key voters in his '06 upset over Mike Fitzpatrick, is a good start. So's the fact that he showed up to YearlyKos. And that he touts his support for universal healthcare. And that he promises "Whether the troops come home by applying pressure to Bush administration, by the installation of a president with new ideas, or by the election of veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress -- the troops will come home." And the fact that his longest issues position is on energy - something you might say he knows about - tells me where his priorities are going to be: right where I want them.
Oh yeah, and he just hired NYBri. Ya know, if you like that kind of thing.
So that's how I see it. Is the guy going to be the next Bernie Sanders? Probably not. I wish he'd engage us a little more - his account's been inactive since December - and all told, he's just not going to fall that left of center. Hell, for all I know, the moment he gets into office he's gonna moon us, reveal his Legion of Doom Secret Decoder Ring, and introduce the Let's All Eat a Baby Act of 2008. But that's always a risk, isn't it? There's a risk in any investment, and all the evidence I see says that Bill Foster's a worthwhile investment to make. Whatever happens between him and the worthy John Laesch, Bill Foster has three weeks - three freakin' weeks - to put his game face on and knock Jim Oberweis out of the park. He's going to need some coin and some manpower to do it. I'm in. Anybody else?