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There's a bunch of fuss and bother today about "carpetbagging" due to the stories about Harold Ford considering running for NY Senate and Ed Schultz already being encouraged into run for Sen. Dorgan's spot back in North Dakota (he recently moved to Minnesota).

All of this discussion reminds me of a similar brouhaha, on a much smaller scale, here in Michigan.

In 2006, Nancy Skinner ran for Congress against Joe Knollenberg here in MI-09 (she lost, but thankfully Gary Peters won 2 years later). Skinner had been a progressive radio talk show host in Chicago for awhile before running an ill-fated campaign for U.S. Senate (she lost, badly, to several other primary candidates, including one Barack Obama). She then moved to Michigan, was back on the air with the local Air America affiliate, before her second attempt at public office against Knollenberg.

Now, this certainly has all the makings of a "carpetbagging" label--except that Skinner grew up here in Michigan. According to her Wikipedia bio:

Nancy Skinner is a native of Royal Oak, Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan. She received a BBA degree with an emphasis in finance and accounting in 1987.

After graduation, Skinner worked for the Ilitch family, helping to renovate the Fox Theatre (Detroit) and relocate Little Caesar's International (LCI) corporate headquarters to the Fox Office Building. She also worked on area redevelopment projects in Downtown Detroit, serving on the Grand Circus Park Redevelopment Board and helping plan for the theatre district's future. (Skinner introduced the Second City Theatre project to billionaire businessman Mike Ilitch).

So, she was born and raised not just in Michigan but in the same district she was running for office until she was around 22, and was pretty active in various local community projects/issues and so forth.

Then she moved to Chicago for a number of years before moving back to Michigan.

Now, running for U.S. Congress in one state 2 years after running for U.S. Senate in a different state isn't exactly flattering, the question here is whether doing so can really be called "carpetbagging", considering that she grew up in the same district that she had moved back to?

The same year, in the same district, Andy Levin--son of long-time U.S. Congressman Sandy Levin (MI-12) and nephew of long-time U.S. Senator Carl Levin--ran for a different position: State Senator. Again, he had grown up locally (in Berkley, Michigan) until he was 18, then went to college out of state, but then moved back to get his M.A. from U of M. He then got his law degree from Harvard, but worked as a nursing home worker advocate here in Michigan and was active with the AFL-CIO, although I believe most of that was done while living in DC.

He then moved back to Michigan again, and ran for Michigan State Senate in the same district that he had grown up in.

Now, it's pretty obvious that he was hoping to use the famous (in Michigan) Levin name to help him win, and it's entirely possible that the major reason he moved back here was specifically to run for state senate, but again...can that really be considered "carpetbagging" if he grew up here?

To me, "carpetbagging" implies that not only did you move to a new state/district/whatever "just" to run for office, but also that you don't know a damned thing about the local situation--the people, the society, the economy, the environment, etc, and that you don't really give a crap about it as long as it helps you win elected office.

Skinner and/or Levin may or may not have been guilty of the former, but it's laughable to suggest that either one was guilty of the latter. Both had/have very strong ties to the local area, in terms of family, friends, colleagues and memories.

In Levin's case in particular, well, of course he tried to use his family name; why wouldn't he? Both Carl and Sandy Levin are very well-respected in Michigan; even Republicans can't deny their dedication to public service. Politics is a strange field--it's one of the few fields where people going into the "family business" are chastized for doing so (think the "Bush/Clinton Dynasty" meme that was touted a couple of years ago). Nepotism notwithstanding, there's nothing inherently wrong with someone following in their parents' footsteps--*as long as they're otherwise qualified to perform the job*, which was the real issue in the case of, say, George W. Bush.

In any event, both Skinner and Levin's situations were a far cry from, say, Alan Keyes "moving" halfway across the country from Maryland to Illinois (where I'm fairly certain he never lived) at literally the last minute to run against Barack Obama in 2004.

Originally posted to Brainwrap on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 11:07 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    "When even Arlen Specter is asking why the Dems got him to be their 60th Senator if they weren't gonna use the 60 votes, you know something's wrong!" --nyceve

    by Brainwrap on Wed Jan 06, 2010 at 11:07:33 AM PST

  •  If the voters don't give a damn (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brainwrap

      and elect them, who are we to complain? Seriously, this is $50,000 worth of criticism for a $10 crime.

      It rarely works unless one has a national profile and the opposition is too ghastly to think about (look at HRC vs Rick Lazio).

      Who cares? People can run for office wherever they choose. That's the beauty of America. Let them run. In Ford's case, he'll go nowhere.

  •  Silly DailyKos Pie Fights (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brainwrap
    This whole "carpetbagging" thing is just another one. "X is a carpetbagger!!" "No, Y is a carpetbagger". "No, No, I say carpetbaggging means blah blah blah". "No, I say it means yak yak yak."

    Words have meanings. We don't get to choose our own meanings for words. To do so would render meaningful communication hopeless.

    Thats why we have standard dictionaries:

    car⋅pet⋅bag⋅ger  ˈkɑrpɪtˌbægər  Show Spelled Pronunciation [kahr-pit-bag-er]  Show IPA
    Use carpetbagger in a Sentence
    See web results for carpetbagger
    See images of carpetbagger

    -noun 1. U.S. History. a Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War and became active in Republican politics, esp. so as to profiteer from the unsettled social and political conditions of the area during Reconstruction.
    2. any opportunistic or exploitive outsider: Our bus company has served this town for years, but now the new one run by carpetbaggers from the city is stealing our business.  

    http://dictionary.reference.com/...

    So by that definition (#2), anyone could be classified as a carpetbagger because proving opportunism or exploitiveness is rather subjective. Even defining an "outsider" can be subjective.

    Good luck to all of those arguing about who is a carpetbagger and who isn't.

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