Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Letter to Senator Mark Warner

It's been a long time since I've posted here, and I really wasn't sure I'd ever return to this blog, but I had something I wanted to get off my chest, and it didn't fit in my newer foodie blog: Yesterday I noticed a Huffington Post story in which Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia is quoted as equating the "super left" of the Democratic Party and the " crowd" with the extremists of the Tea Party movement.

As it happens, Sen. Warner spent part of his young life in my home town of Vernon, CT, and graduated from the local high school. I've met him on a couple occasions at fundraisers for Vernon resident, Congressman Joe Courtney, and I cheered as loudly as anyone when Warner was elected to the Senate in 2008, replacing the retiring Republican John Warner (no relation). I knew he was more conservative than I am, and that Virginia is more conservative than Connecticut, but his attack on Democratic progressives saddened me, and I felt I had to respond. Here is the text of the letter I just posted to his Senate website:

Dear Senator Warner:

I am not a Virginia constituent, but I am a proud resident of your old home town of Vernon, Connecticut. I’ve met you on a couple occasions when you’ve been gracious enough to lend your presence to fundraisers for my congressman, Joe Courtney, and I had a brief friendly chat with your father at the polls this year on primary day. Vernon and Rockville High School are proud to call you our own.

So it was with more than a little dismay that I read your recent comments equating the “super left” of the Democratic Party and the “MoveOn crowd” with the Tea Party movement on the right. Obviously I don’t have the inside knowledge you do, but to a relatively well informed, engaged layperson like myself, this comparison smacks of the very same sort of false equivalency that has folks claiming Rachel Maddow is a mirror image of Glenn Beck, and that leads the media to treat paranoia about “death panels” and birth certificates (or, more recently, assertions that the president is spending $200 million per day to travel to India) as if they were legitimate news stories, on the same level as stories based on actual facts.

I recognize that both your state and you personally are relatively conservative, and there are surely factions of the Democratic Party that are well to your left. I don’t think MoveOn is really as far to the left, ideologically, as the Tea Party seems to be to the right, but even if we stipulate that it is, there’s a world of difference between rational, principled advocacy of an ideological position, on the one hand, and the sort of inchoate rage and fact-free fearmongering I have personally witnessed from the Tea Party.

Last summer I attended several of Congressman Courtney’s Town Hall meetings on the topic of health care reform, at which the crowds were dominated by self-identified Tea Party activists. I’m quite sure you would have been shocked to see the rage and personal insult directed at your friend Joe Courtney, who is as thoughtful and principled a man as I have yet met in public life. These remain the only political events I’ve ever attended at which I have been nervous about my physical safety; these crowds were much ruder – and much less rational or well informed – than anything I’ve ever witnessed on the left… including several passionate anti-war rallies hosted by MoveOn and similar groups during the Bush administration. And based on what we witnessed during the run-up to the recently completed elections, the Tea Party has gotten worse rather than better since those angry summer days.

Clearly you have philosophical differences with some Democrats to your left (including, no doubt, me), and more power to you for speaking out. But please refrain from making sweeping equations between our party’s left and the craziest elements of the American right; such comments can’t possibly add anything useful to our already severely challenged political discourse.

Thank you for your attention…

I actually agree with Sen. Warner that extremism in our political discourse can be toxic, but I think we far too frequently mistake strong ideological differences with extremism, and we too quickly judge the worth of ideas by their distance from the ideological center rather than by their rationality, humanity, and basis in fact.

No doubt there are thoughtful people in the Tea Party movement, but that doesn't mean it and MoveOn (for example) are comparable: The most "extreme" progressives and liberals I know are by no stretch of the imagination equivalent to the hateful, rude, and stubbornly ignorant people I have personally met and experienced among self-proclaimed Tea Partiers. I respect Sen. Warner's opinion, but there really aren't always two equal sides to every contest.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Call Your Representatives To Support Healthcare

I've been meaning to resuscitate this blog for a while, now, and as before, it's a political imperative that's gotten me off the dime. This coming week, the U.S. House of Representatives may finally take the crucial step in getting healthcare reform passed. While you may have already registered your support with your members of Congress, it's important that you do so again: The opponents of reform are more active and vocal than ever, and your representatives need to know not only what your opinion is, but that their constituents have their backs on this. It's personal for me, but it's also an important step forward in this nation's public policy.

At the risk of repeating myself a bit, here's the text of an e-mail I've just sent to my local political friends and associates:

It looks like the U.S. House of Representatives may take the crucial votes on passing healthcare reform sometime in the coming week. I've just called Joe Courtney's district office in Enfield (860-741-6011) to register my support for passage, and I'm writing to urge you all to do the same.

Many, if not most, of you know Joe and have spoken to him on this issue, but while Joe already knows where we stand (and we know where he does), he's mentioned to me in the past that numbers of phone calls, letters, and e-mails -- for and against -- matter, because his office gets requests for the tallies. So even though this is something that ought to "go without saying," it's important that we call and actually say it. And please pass this reminder along to your other friends within the 2nd CD, post it to your Facebook page or blog, or do whatever else you can to get the word out. It's important that our representatives hear from all of us.

You can call the Enfield office any time -- no need to wait for business hours -- and leave a voicemail. And while the action this coming week will be in the House, it wouldn't be a bad idea to also call our senators (Sen. Dodd's CT office phone number is 860-258-6940 and Sen. Lieberman's is 860-549-8463), and to remind the White House that it's crucial the President continue to lead on this issue.

Healthcare reform is a vital issue for all Americans; we need to be sure the voices of the naysayers don't drown ours out.

If you're reading this from somewhere other than the 2nd Congressional District of Connecticut, here's a tool to help you contact your own congressperson and senators. Please do it today!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Letter to the President

Well, I've been meaning to reanimate this blog (again), and today's news that Barack Obama plans to announce a multiyear freeze on much of the discretionary federal budget has sufficiently pissed me off to finally prompt a new entry. Actually, it prompted me to write a letter to the White House, already delivered through the online system, with a signed paper copy going in Wednesday's mail. Rather than reinvent the wheel, let me just tell you what I told the president:

Dear Mr. President:

My name is Bill Dauphin, and I’m proud to be your constituent and your supporter. You called the nation to hope, and I responded with time and treasure, phonebanking and canvassing for you in the Hartford, Connecticut, area during both the primary and general election campaigns. When I stood on the Mall, just over a year ago, and watched you sworn into office, it was one of the proudest moments of my nearly 50 years of life.

In today’s news comes word that you plan to announce a long-term freeze on discretionary nondefense federal spending. As I write this, of course, you have not yet given your State of the Union Address or announced the details of your proposal; perhaps the final plan will not terrify and disappoint me as much as what I have heard today does. But for today, I am both disappointed and terrified: At a time when we desperately need a robust government, acting in meaningful and sustained ways to reform our healthcare system, create new jobs, develop new green energy technologies, address climate change, rebuild our infrastructure, reform public education, end our wars and bring our troops home, and rebuild the shattered trust of the world… at a time when we so urgently need to move forward on all of that, an a priori promise to freeze the budget seems instead like a retreat into the pernicious Reagan-era falsehood that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

I beg you, sir: don’t give in. I know the American people seem angry, but surely you realize much of that anger is born of manufactured fear, the result of deliberate and cynical manipulation on the part of the enemies of progress. You must not let your policies mirror the people’s fear: This is a moment instead for leadership. Where federal programs are truly ineffective or wasteful, by all means you must cut them. But you also know that much of what the government does, it does better, and more efficiently, than the private sector can, and much more of what government does is that which the free market would never provide at any price. To accomplish the things you dared us all to hope for will require investment, not parsimony. Raise taxes if you must – raise my taxes – but do not abandon our nation’s future, my daughter’s future, for the sake of a superficial veneer of “fiscal responsibility” and a brief moment of political calm.

You called your book The Audacity of Hope. Well, we’ve had the hope; it’s time for the audacity.
As I say in the letter, maybe it'll all look better after the big speech... but frankly, I ain't waitin' underwater. For all that some have been frustrated with him, Obama represents the best combination of intelligence, progressive ideals, and political pragmatism we've had since the 60s; if he can't outwit, outlast, or outplay the lies and fearmongering of the nattering antigoverenment mob, we are well and truly hosed.

Anybody know if they sell a Rosetta Stone program for New Zealandish?