In a conference call last evening with Organizing for America regional leads in Tennessee, I had the opportunity to hear from Lenda Sherrell, who met with the President and 6 other volunteers from across the country before Christmas. Lenda, who is a former hospital auditor and a supporter of single payer healthcare, was a strong advocate for health reform in Tennessee and has been actively involved for 3 years.
During the call, Lenda noted that the President verbalized clearly a renewed commitment to doing more "bottom-up" organizing instead of what happened during the past 18 months, when the DNC and OFA gave "marching orders" and hoped that activists would fall in line. President Obama clearly articulated (per Lenda's report) an understanding that part of the failure of the Vote 2010 project was that there was not enough creativity and not enough partnership with other groups and organizations. As a result, OFA had difficulty building the kinds of winning coalitions we saw in 2006 and 2008 under Chairman Dean.
President Obama also noted that one way we can improve is by improving our message discipline. I wanted to talk about that today....
A top-rec'd diary this morning is about Alan Grayson, the departing one-term Democratic Congressman from the Orlando area. Grayson, who most certainly has been a "Congressman with Guts" and a key ally for the PCCC and other progressive groups, was outspoken in his criticism of corporatist and centrist Democrats, as well as Republicans who are too beholden to lobbyists.
Those who understand what's going on in Washington DC realize that the "Obama-Pelosi agenda" is to drain the swamp of corruption, graft, and backroom dealing in Congress. And no matter how many scary ads the Republicans put out about Obama and Pelosi, the fact is that they have been more engaged in restoring participatory democracy than any President and House Speaker in my lifetime.
We need to take back our pride in the accomplishments and achievements of the last Congress, and draw distinctions between Obama-Pelosi and Bush-Boehner-McConnell. The fact is that Republicans don't have any real agenda except to repeal, obstruct, and distort the political process in Washington. While the Obama-Pelosi agenda has been an effort to put constituents back in the driver's seat, the Teapublicans have been trying to create more division, disinformation, and distraction.
Of course, Republicans have learned how to win elections by doing nothing. Hope deferred makes the heart sick, and if you can make Obama, Pelosi, and Senate Democrats look like "traditional Washington politicians," then you get to win by saying nothing other than "We're not them."
We don't have to wait for President Obama or the DNC in order to bring grassroots change. One elected official at a time, we can draw the distinctions between Democrats and Republicans. We can help our neighbors and neighborhoods to connect directly with our Senators and Congressmen. And where elected officials cannot or will not do the will of the people, it's up to us to educate and inform voters and present them with better choices.
The next two years will require us to bring our "A-Game". We need opposition research on every Republican in Congress. We need to stay on message when it comes to promoting progressive issues like immigration reform, green jobs, energy independence, civil rights, and military spending. We need to stop the circular firing squads and start figuring out ways to build winning coalitions in 2012.
Don't let the Republican Party get away with anything. Hold them accountable and expose them for who they are.
Case in point: Bob Corker is up for re-election in 2012. He won narrowly over Harold Ford, Jr., in 2006. Corker has been completely sold out to the banking industry he's supposed to regulate as a member of the Senate Banking Committee. His top legislative aide on financial regulations (Courtney Geduldig) is literally in bed with the banking lobby. Her husband, Sam, is a top lobbyist for the banking industry whose clients include the American Bankers Association, the American Insurance Association, the US Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform, the Financial Services Roundtable, and the Consumer Banking Association. (Note: Nowhere do I see Geduldig working for the people of Tennessee.)
Not only is Geduldig
sold out beholden to the banking industry, but he also lobbies for General Motors. This is another conflict of interest, considering that Corker says he's proud of union-busting against the UAW and blamed the UAW for the failures of GM - completely neglecting the catastrophic financing errors of GMAC's Mortgage Banking unit and the problems with the swaps and derivatives market that led to the near-collapse of the global banking system.
Corker played on racial prejudices in the 2006 campaign, and his Call Me ad remains one of the most despicable pieces of race-baiting garbage I've ever seen. While the RNC produced the ad, and Corker tried to make himself look good by speaking out against it, the fact is that Corker's lack of leadership on promoting civil rights and equality belies his good ol' boy mentality.
Corker took heat in the 2006 primaries for hiring illegal immigrants in his multi-million dollar contracting business. So, in addition to union-busting, Corker is the kind of employer who has been willing to cut corners and look the other way when it comes to hiring practices. And the fact that Corker hired illegal immigrants by way of a subcontractor only illustrates Corker's tendency to get others to do his dirty work.
Sen. Corker is hoping that he can press his advantage by using his connections in the business community and by raising ungodly sums of money to push out his message and destroy any potential challengers. But while money can certainly buy influence and attention, it cannot hide the truth.
Tennessee voters will need Democrats' help in 2012 to recruit an outstanding Senate candidate, to run a solid campaign, and to bring attention to the failures of Senator Corker's term in office. Kossacks can help make this happen, but we have to stop attacking fellow Democrats and start closing the ranks to fight the corporatists who bought Corker's election and set the terms of his policies.