Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Dear Jon…

Since you asked, yes, yes and yes.

Oh yeah, the rest of you probably want to hear the questions before the answers…

Jon Stahl at Evergreen Politics notes Sen. Maria Cantwell's early endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters and wonders aloud…
...is it hard for you to get over Maria's war-mongering, too? Or am I just being a grump? Am I under-estimating LCV's grassroots mobilization prowess?
You bet it's hard to get over the vote Maria cast for the resolution Bush abused to take the country into war. I don't get it as a vote for war-mongering, though. Not in Maria's case, not in the case of all but perhaps a very few Democrats. It was sold as a vote for saber rattling, not war mongering. There's an argument against either, I suppose, but the one against saber rattling is weaker, and the argument for posing a potent threat to force Saddam to submit to full inspections is strong. In fact, the saber rattling part worked, making the war part superfluous except to the gang of thugs that comprise Bushco™ .

Beside, she's taken worse votes in my view, in circumstances that actually made a difference. CAFTA, anyone?

But yeah, John, you're being a grump of sorts. Maria's good on more than not, and exceptionally good in some areas - veterans, the environment, privacy, technology. She's been an excellent Senator for this state. Does her record stand up to progressive purity tests? Nope. Could she hope to be re-elected if it did? Probably not.

Time to get over it and gin up some enthusiasm, brother. We gotta win this one.

As far as the LCV's ability to generate grassroots activity, it's more powerful than you seem to imagine. I'm not sure why you think they didn't operate on the ground in Washington until '04, but my first experience with their work, including mass canvassing, in these parts was 20 years before that.

Interestingly, there's a Maria Cantwell story involved. Some will remember that Maria came out here in '84 to ramrod Alan Cranston's Presidential campaign. When that closed down, she took the reins of the Congressional campaign of Brock Evans, who came home to run after establishing himself as one of the top environmental lobbyists in the other Washington.

At the time, I was running for the state legislature. I was a recruited candidate facing an entrenched Republican incumbent. The House caucus wanted to challenge the seat to tie up some Republican money in the District. They didn't want to spend too much on the effort, though, and when it was time to put my last mailing together, I could afford to print it, but I couldn't afford the postage.

Enter Maria Cantwell and the LCV. Hearing of my plight, Maria told me that she had hundreds of LCV volunteers hitting the streets over the following weekend. If I could get my boxes of brochures to the Evans office in time, she'd see those canvassers got them to the doorsteps of voters in my Legislative District, which was completely contained in the Congressional District Evans was running in. I did, she did, they did.

I didn't win, of course. Neither did Brock. The LCV can't do miracles. They can, however, round up a lot of folks and deliver a lot of paper. It's not everything, but it's something. Just one thing that might be the one thing that makes the difference.

A postscript. Shortly after the election, I moved out of the old 44th (I'd used some of my rent money for that printing bill). Two years later, my opponent in the House race vacated the seat to run for the State Senate. I'd performed pretty well for an under-funded challenger and got some encouragement to move back into the District and take another shot. I passed, for a variety of reasons, and Maria Cantwell entered the race and won the seat. Now she's in the United States Senate, while I blog and bartend.

So it goes...

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