Blue America '16

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Join The Resistance

A few days ago I flew back from Beijing on Air China and they had a very limited English-language movie library for the 11 hour flight. I watched Roman Polanski's award-winning 2002 film with Adrien Brody, The Pianist, and a less well-known new movie set in Prague, Anthropoid. Both films dealt with the resistance to the Nazis. There was an especially chilling moment in The Pianist in which 3 middle-aged Jewish men are about to be loaded onto a train bound for the Treblinka extermination camp. One says the Jews shouldn't just march to their deaths without a fight and an argument ensues about practicalities and difficulties in mounting such an operation. They and their families all die in the camp. Eventually the Warsaw Ghetto does organize and rise up against the German deplorables.

Anthropoid is about how fiery Czech nationalists murder the Butcher of Prague, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the 3rd-ranking Nazi, a Steve Bannon-like character.

A few weeks ago Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) kicked off a kind of symbolic resistance to Trump when he announced he wouldn't be attending the inauguration. "I really don't feel comfortable standing next to a man as he swears allegiance to this country and president of the United States of America, after he said that Mexicans are murderers, rapists, drug dealers and that that's all we are. I just can't un-hear the despicable, terrible things he said about women, about Muslims, so I won't be standing... When I went to George Bush’s inauguration I didn’t feel he was a threat to my presence in America, to my daughter's presence in America. I want to look at my girls in the face and say, I didn't normalize that kind of speech."

Katherine Clark (D-MA) soon followed and now there are over a dozen members of Congress who have publicly stated that they are not going to be at the inauguration, most notably, civil rights icon John Lewis, who told Meet the Press why he doesn't see Trump as a legitimate president. (Trump struck back yesterday morning by claiming Atlanta is "in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested)" and accusing John Lewis of being "all talk, talk, talk-- no action or results." When John Lewis was on the front lines of the civil rights movement, getting his head bashed in by a KKK thug (like Trump's father), Trump was beginning his lifelong criminal behavior of systematically denying housing to prospective tenants based on race.

As progressives, we must resist. We must prepare ourselves for the sacrifices it will take to rescue our country from the gaping maw of fascism it's fallen into.

A growing number of courageous congressmen and congresswomen boycotting the Trump inauguration this week is a symbolic step in that direction. Blue America wants to offer our members an opportunity to show the participants that we support them. Please consider making a symbolic contribution to the reelection campaigns of the members who are taking an early stand against Trumpism.

Two weeks ago, Congresswoman Clark told her constituents that she "had hoped the President-elect would use the transition period and his appointments to change course and fulfill his promise to be a President for all Americans; however, this has not been the case. After discussions with hundreds of my constituents, I do not feel that I can contribute to the normalization of the President-elect’s divisive rhetoric by participating in the Inauguration."

Similarly, Earl Blumenauer told Oregon Public Broadcasting that "Here is a person who ran a campaign that is the antithesis of everything I’ve worked for in public service" and that that attending "not a productive use of my time."

The list of members not attending the Inauguration of hate keeps growing. We're keeping a running tally here.



There is only One Way to Stop Trump

photo credit: Justin Lane/EPA

Blue America hasn't spent precious time since the election asking you to sign petitions for impractical symbolic appeals to the electoral college, or to waste your money on an unwinnable pointless Senate race in Louisiana.

We are very focused on what can be done-- politically-- to break the back on Trumpism. And that focus is, clearly, taking back the House in 2018.

If Trump and Ryan do half the damage they promise, even an incompetent DCCC won't be able to keep the two dozen seats that need to change hands from flipping, effectively put ting the brakes on Trumpism.

Blue America is working daily to recruit solid progressive candidates in districts from coast the coast. You can follow-- and support-- the results of our progress here.

Let me introduce you to one of our first recruits, Jimmy Gomez-- if only they could all be this good!-- a young guy from my neighborhood. When Xavier Becerra was appointed by Jerry Brown to become California Attorney General, my first thought was to wonder if Jimmy could be persuaded to run for the congressional seat. It's a deep blue district and there's no Republican who could ever compete there. Obama got 83% of the vote in 2012.

It's going to be a campaign about who who will be the best Democratic candidate, the one with the best proven vision for the job. Before Jimmy decided to run, I started tweeting about his accomplishments and suggesting that Congress needed his unique combination of heartfelt progressivism and hard-headed ability to work with political adversaries to accomplish his goals. The first "push back" I got came, not unexpectedly, from Sacramento. It was from a top staffer of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. "Please," the staffer wrote to me, "don't do this. We desperately need Jimmy here in Sacramento."

Eventually Jimmy decided he would run-- and Speaker Rendon endorsed him, as did the President Pro Tem of the state Senate, Kevin de León and dozens and dozens of Jimmy's colleagues in the legislature. Monday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti weighed in on behalf of Jimmy as have virtually all the progressive office holders in the state.

Tuesday, our old friend, former congresswoman, former Secretary of Labor and current County Supervisor Hilda Solis added her name to the growing list of public servants backing Jimmy. She wrote that "Jimmy Gomez has proven to be the State Assembly's most effective and dedicated champion for working families. He wrote the nation's strongest family leave laws, and stands up for equality in the workplace, in our schools and colleges, and for women's health care. In fact, I've been proud of him from the days he worked for me in Congress, from his years fighting for better health care for all at the United Nurses Association of California and throughout his career in the Assembly. We need him in Congress, protecting the people of Los Angeles, and I'm proud to support him."

Last week I had dinner with Jimmy and his wife Mary in a neighborhood diner. He talked to me about his vision for the people in his district and how he's gone about implementing it in the state legislature. Halfway through I cursed myself for not having a tape recorder. Knowing how busy he is organizing his campaign in a field that grows more and more crowded every day, I asked him if he would write down everything he had just said so I could share it. I think he stayed up later than he wanted to to do it. 

Making The Progressive Reform Agenda Work For Everyone, Including Those Who Need It Most ----by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez

I’m proud of California because we are a state of firsts . . . we are the first to pass paid family leave, the 15 dollar minimum wage, paid sick days, and groundbreaking climate change legislation to reduce green house gas emissions and preserve our environment for future generations.

Yet, California isn’t perfect. Although our state continues to improve, we still rank last or near last when it comes to a number of social indicators: education, health, economic and environmental.

Why?

Why are the laws that we pass not working the way we intend and why are we not seeing the improvements we would expect to see?

Why are certain parts of the state getting left behind, while others are thriving?

I believe it's because a lot of our laws, policies, and programs are built on a misguided concept that anything that divides the pie equally must be fair and it must be effective in dealing with the problems we are trying to solve.

As we know, that is definitely not always the case.

There is a big difference between what is equal and what is equitable. And policy makers and politicians confuse the two. And just because it is equal doesn’t make it fair. And it definitely doesn’t make it effective.

A good example of this is California’s first-in-the-nation Paid Family Leave program that provides workers with a 55% wage replacement for up to 6 weeks to bond with a new child or care for an ill family member. Although the program has benefited millions of Californians, a Senate Labor committee report found that the people using the program the most were those making $82,000 a year or more, and those who were using it the least were workers making minimum wage or barely above minimum wage. Why is that?

Because it is unrealistic to expect a worker who is already living paycheck to paycheck on 100 percent of their salary to use a program for 6 weeks at only 55 percent of their wages. For many workers, California’s current Paid Family Leave program was simply an illusion. That’s why I authored AB 908, to fix this inequity and ensure all who pay into this vital program can afford to use it, regardless of their income.

Simply, my bill AB908 restructured the Paid Family Leave program and State Disability to increase the wage replacement for workers earning minimum wage to 70 percent, and 60 percent wage replacement for all other workers. This bill ensures that every worker gets the necessary funds to actually use the program and spend time with their newborn child or sick family member. When Governor Brown signed AB908, California was not only the first state to have paid family leave, it also became the first state to have a paid family leave program built on the concept of equity. A program that ensures that every family on the economic ladder gets what they need. And I’m proud of that.

This has been some year for all of us with highlights like helping elect Pramila Jayapal and Jamie Raskin followed by the unspeakable triumph of Donald Trump, something we have to be very clear and very focused in defeating. Don't get distracted; keep your eye on the ball: winning back the House in 2018.

Meanwhile, thanks for all you've done and... have a safe and healthy holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from your friends at Blue America.



Why It's Not All Gloom And Doom Around Here


A few years ago Blue America's list of endorsed candidates had the biggest success rate of any PAC recruiting and endorsing candidates. We beat NARAL, the Sierra Club, the Human Rights Campaign and the League of Conservation Voters that year-- not to mention the NRA and Club for Growth. I laughed when I read the stats. Blue America isn't about picking candidates who will make the PAC look good. Blue America is about endorsing and working with the candidates-- like unlikely winners Donna Edwards, Alan Grayson and Elizabeth Warren-- who will fight for the legitimate aspirations of working families.

Last year, for example, we worked hard to elect Eloise Reyes to Congress in the Inland Empire. The DCCC had their own candidate, corrupt conservative Pete Aguilar. Aguilar won-- and promptly joined the New Dems and ran up one of the worst voting records of any Democrat in Congress. ProgressivePunch-- whose CEO argued with me when I told him how terrible Aguilar would be before the election-- gave him an "F" this year and, according to their algorithm, shows his crucial vote score for his one term to be less progressive than all but 10 Democrats, 2 of whom (reactionary Blue Dogs Gwen Graham and Brad Ashford) are leaving Congress in January.

Meanwhile, Eloise took stock of her loss, learned the appropriate lessons from it and one week ago absolutely clobbered one of the most corrupt conservative Democrats in the California state legislature, Chevron Cheryl Brown, beating her decisively and spectacularly catapulting herself into a position where she can do a lot of good for the working families she represents (who Brown had ignored). We count that as a big Blue America win, even though it isn't something you'll read about in the Washington Post or NY Times or hear about on MSNBC.

Eventually, all the progressive groups came around and endorsed state Senator Pramila Jayapal for an open seat in Seattle and we all worked to raise her the money she would need to win a tough primary and then the general election. Blue America was the first to endorse, and encourage her compelling leadership style, and emphasize it to other national progressives, some of whom whined about how it was "unfair" to take sides because the other candidates were good too. Last week Pramila made history, as the first America with South Asian roots to win a congressional seat.

When Nanette Barragán, a small town mayor and environmental activist, decided to take on the entire stinking California Democratic Party establishment by challenging their handpicked conservaDem candidate to fill a deep blue seat in one of Los Angeles' poorest congressional districts, Digby, John and I invited her to dinner, got to know her and Blue America became one of the first national PACs to endorse her and help make her case and raise her the money she needed to beat the "impossible" odds she faced in beating the establishment-- impossible odds she overcame to win a jaw-dropping victory last week.

Blue America didn't look for candidates who were likely to win; we looked for candidates who had a reasonable chance to win-- with help-- but who would likely be great legislators. We look forward to seeing Ruben Kihuen (NV), Jamie Raskin (MD), Carol Shea-Porter (NH)-- along with Nanette-- and possibly Doug Applegate (ballots in his tight race against arch-villain Darrell Issa are still being counted today) take eventual leadership roles in a House Democratic minority that sorely lacks cohesive and inspiring leaders.

And this was a good year for Blue America in terms of helping build a progressive, activist Democratic bench on the state legislative level. Aside from Eloise, we helped elect Marcia Ranglin-Vassell and Mike Connolly, both of whom beat powerful, entrenched corrupt Democrats to win seats, respectively in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Stanley Chang-- like Eloise, a 2014 Blue America congressional candidate-- came roaring back this year and beat the last remaining Republican in the Hawaii Senate-- and in the reddest district in Hawaii! Justin Bamberg, our Berniecrat candidate in South Carolina, was reelected and Wenona Benally, another 2014 congressional candidate, introduced to us by Raul Grijalva, won a hard-fought Arizona congressional seat last week. And our Berniecrat legislator in Colorado, Joe Salazar, not only won his state House seat but was already leading the Denver mass anti-Trump protests this weekend.

But before we say thanks for helping make this possible with your generous contributions, I want to point to one more victory-- an old one. When Sheldon Adelson suddenly struck in 2014 in the open CA-33 seat, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into a last minute sneak attack, then-candidate Ted Lieu went to Steve Israel at the DCCC for help in responding. Israel flat out refused-- not one dime, not one nickel to answer Adelson's half million dollar SuperPAC. So Blue America did it instead. Ted won, was elected congressional freshman class president, has been one of the most outspoken and successful bipartisan advocates on a series of crucial issues, from cyber-security to peace and climate change, and this weekend was in the news again, standing up against Trump’s "crazy shit", urging concerned Americans to follow him in becoming a supporter of the ACLU, while other congressional Democrats just cower in fear or plot personal career advancement. Ted Lieu-- one of Blue America's best ever investments!

So, from the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank the mind-boggling generosity of the Blue America members who gave-- and then gave again and again-- and helped progressive champions get into office where they are needed more than ever. And, fyi, right now we're busier than ever recruiting progressive candidates to run for what could be a really good 2018 cycle.



Nothing Matters Now But GOTV

I ran into an old friend, a Democratic operative, the other day. He's kind of Old School and when I asked him why contributions this late in the cycle-- after all there are only 10 days until all the ballots have been counted-- are important, his response was sickening. "Walking' around money," he said... "You know, so we can stuff the pockets of the policiticeras or the black ministers or whoever can turn out some late votes." (He mostly works for Blue Dogs and New Dems, so, yeah... that's what you'd expect.)

I decided to ask some of the Blue America candidates what they will do with the last minute money that comes in. I asked the ones I could find-- most are out knocking on doors-- what they would do with another $1,000 between now and Nov. 8.

Tom Wakely, who's running for the central Texas seat held by the science-denying chairman of the House Science Committee, Lamar Smith, would be one of the biggest stories on the cycle if he wins, a distinct possibility now as Trump turns off suburban voters in Bexar, Travis and Comal counties.

"Our campaign," he told me, "has always been about our field efforts and making contact with folks in the district. My job as the candidate has been heavily focused on retail politics. Every bit of support we've received has been directed to literature, signs, gasoline, and the occasional breakfast taco for the hardest working volunteers in Texas. It's about having as many voters to meet or talk to our amazing team. The clock stops at 7PM on November 8th. We won't be stopping anytime before then. We owe that much to our family, our friends, our volunteers, and our supporters. There's no sleep when our future is at stake."

Mary Ellen Balchunis is in a similar position. The DCCC has starved her campaign of the money it takes to run a mass media campaign and she's doing it the old fashioned way-- the way she won her landslide victory in the primary: grassroots politics.

"First, I have been overwhelmed by the tremendous grassroots support for my campaign from progressives across the country," she told me. "With only a little over a week  left before the election, our campaign is running along at full speed. Our amazing volunteers have been knocking doors and phone banking, but they cannot do it alone. Later this week our campaign will be releasing a digital ad and a comparison piece with Pat Meehan and myself to get my message out to even more voters in the 7th District. With the support we've gotten from Blue America and other progressive groups and from our union friends, we will be able to keep our field team going to the last hour on November 8th and push our new ad out to as many voters as possible."

Mary Hoeft's district isn't just the biggest-- and most rural-- district in Wisconsin, it takes up about a third of the state! Door knocking only goes so far to reach voters there. And, like Mary Ellen's and Tom's campaigns, the DCCC hasn't given her a dime, even though the district voted for Obama in 2008 and, until recently, had a long-time Democratic congressman, Dave Obey.

Mary is supplementing her field campaign with radio advertising and she told us that "with just 12 days remaining, every dollar I receive in donations goes toward another commercial. In this part of Wisconsin radio air time costs $15 for 30 seconds.  If you donate $15 to my campaign, another thousand people may hear my ad. It isn't too late to have the name Mary Hoeft for Congress heard!!!  And trust me when I say, YOU WOULD LOVE the nasty ad about Sean Duffy that your money will buy!"

This is probably the last time we'll be asking for contributions for our candidates this year, so please give as generously as you can afford to. Thanks-- and thanks for helping these candidates all year. Now we pray-- and hope people walk into the voting booth thinking about how Trump has made the whole election so ugly!

UPDATE: I just got an e-mail from one of the (REALLY GREAT) candidates we're counting on to lead Congress in a more progressive direction, Pramila Jayapal from Seattle. Her opponent launched an attack ad against her this week and now a superPAC has come in with $285,000 in independent expenditures attacking her on TV-- "so that is a total of over $400,000 in negative TV attack ads on me in the days leading up to the general election," she told me. "We are fighting back in numerous ways, and have gone up with a spot of our own on TV to counter theirs. People have been amazing and stepping up, but I need help." Let's give it to her.



No Exaggeration: The Survival Of Mankind


This week we've been working with our friends at ClimateHawksVote to win House seats for candidates committed to ameliorating climate change-- candidates who are in winnable districts that the DCCC is ignoring. With Trump's dysfunctional campaign and crude bigotry dragging down the whole ticket, it looks-- for the first time this cycle-- that the Democrats actually have a chance of recapturing the majority and retiring Paul Ryan from the Speakership. Imagine a House where Ryan's willingly ignorant committee chairmen no longer set the agenda!

The DCCC doesn't like taking on GOP committee chairmen. We do-- and we are. Our candidates are all running, in part, to address global warming, combat the fossil-fuel industry, and support renewable energy. If climate hawks are part of a winning coalition that takes over Congress in 2017, we can work towards halting toxic fracking, towards stopping extreme-energy projects; we can start the work it will take to put a price on carbon pollution, and we can make sure subpoenas are sent to ExxonMobil instead of climate scientists. Our candidates want to invest billions in renewable, resilient infrastructure to restore climate justice and end the fossil-fuel economy-- before it's too late.

Taking back the House is a big challenge-- Republicans currently hold a 30-seat advantage. But all across the country, Democratic registration is up and Trump's continuous stream of bile is turning off mainstream conservative voters who are telling pollsters they won't be voting for Republican candidates November 8.

Progressive candidates in the suburbs of Philadelphia (Mary Ellen Balchunis), Austin and San Antonio (Tom Wakely), New York (Zephyr Teachout and Duwayne Gregory), Los Angeles (Bao Nguyen and Nanette Barragán), Kalamazoo (Paul Clements), Miami (Alina Valdes), to name a few, weren't looked at as winnable by the DCCC.

That's all changed now... and if we're going to have a House ready to work on, for example, climate issues, it means taking back the House and not taking it back with Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the ones who opposed single-payer and the public option and stuck us with a very flawed Obamacare. So... please dig as deep as you can comfortably do and pick out a candidate or two-- for the future of the country and the species and the planet.

Want to get a feel for how strongly our candidates feel about climate as an issue? Mary Ellen Balchunis told us yesterday that "While the Republican party is still debating whether climate change even exists, I am prepared to enact legislation that will reduce carbon output on day one. I will fight for a carbon tax while encouraging investment in clean, sustainable technologies to shape the clean energy economy. Beyond this, I will support public transit development and a modernized electrical grid, to make sure that we have the infrastructure to sustainably meet demand in the future. Unfortunately, my opponent Pat Meehan claims to care about climate change, but has voted to repeal the only carbon regulations on power plants, end research into the effects of fossil fuels, and even permit pipelines to run through our national parks and monuments. Pennsylvanian's deserve a legislator who prioritizes a healthy environment for their children's future ahead of oil and gas companies' balance sheets."

And our candidates have records of leadership on progressive issues. Take Nanette Barragan, for example. "While my opponent was filling his coffers with Big Oil special interests money from the most disreputable lobbyists in Sacramento," she told us, "I was leading a successful fight to prevent the drilling of 34 oil and water injection wells in Hermosa Beach and into the Santa Monica Bay. If you care about climate change, retire Isadore Hall and send me to Congress. We both have records that are as crystal clear as the water still is off Hermosa Beach." Does that sound like someone you want on your team, fighting for your issues? Her opponent, Isadore Hall, is one of Sacramento's most corrupt legislators, a disgrace to a legislature that can't wait to see him leave.

Paul Clements isn't just one of the strongest advocates of climate change action of any candidate running for Congress, he's up against the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Rep. who buries every climate proposal. "In this election, we have the opportunity to replace one of Congress's leading climate science deniers," he said. "Fred Upton has been called, appropriately, 'Congress's Number 1 Enemy of Planet Earth,' and has been using his position to block any meaningful action on climate change. Congressman Upton has taken $931,000 from the oil and gas industry, and has used his role as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee to keep energy companies from being held accountable for their actions, especially companies like Exxon and BP, in which he owns a quarter of a million dollars in stock. Despite his record, an outside group recently had the audacity to come into our district to promote Fred Upton as a 'clean energy champion.' The outrageous nature of their lies show just how important Fred Upton is to oil and gas, and how threatened they are this year. If Congressman Upton is reelected, we can expect two more years of obstructionism from Congress, and a dangerous lack of action on climate, our nation's most critical challenge. I look forward to working in Congress to reverse the damage that has been caused, and prevent climate catastrophe."

Tom Wakley is running against Science Committee Chairman and chief climate change denier, Lamar Smith. "What truly gets me worked up," he told us, "is this idea that you have to 'believe' in climate change. The notion that it takes some great leap of faith in order to see and feel destruction or pollution is simply maddening. This is basically a matter of rejecting reality. There is no option when it concerns our climate. We have to act now. We must end fossil fuel subsidies and find market based initiatives to turn over a new leaf. There's no going back if we continue to wait for the corruption to subside or wait for the oil to run out. Lamar Smith and anyone of his ilk must be retired. The livelihood of future generations depend on it."

You want the government to deal seriously with Climate Change? Help us bring on congressional change.




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