Blue America '16

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Progressive Veterans Running For Congress

Unless you live in his district, you probably never heard of Ohio teabagger Warren Davidson, the Trumpist nut who won Boehner's seat when GOP extremists forced their own Speaker out of office. Last week Butler County's Journal-News reported Davidson told a room full of veterans that one way to clean up the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system is to get the "moochers" out of it. "Part of the problem," he said, "is there are some vets that are moochers and they’re clogging up the system. And we do as taxpayers want to make sure the VA filters out these folks that are pretenders." A spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars responded that "Honorably discharged veterans with service-connected wounds, illnesses and injuries, or who are indigent due to circumstances beyond their control, are not moochers."

If you feel, like we do, that the real moochers we have to worry about are careerist conservatives in Congress, please check out a new Blue America ActBlue page we just started to support progressive military veterans.

Recently Veterans For Bernie founder and National Director, Tyson Manker, announced his group's endorsement of U.S. Marine Colonel Doug Applegate, the Blue America-backed progressive running for the CA-49 seat (Orange and San Diego counties) that Darrell Issa operates out of.

"Colonel Applegate deployed to Ramadi, Iraq in 2006," said Manker. "He shouldered the burden with the 2.5 million Americans who laced up their boots and headed down range after September 11th. I know the Colonel will ask the right questions and ensure we are only sending our forces overseas when it is the last choice, not our first option. Veterans swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic... We must elect Representatives with proven leadership. We must elect those that have the skills to reach across the aisle to end the paralysis that has brought our Congress to a stand-still. Colonel Applegate’s opponent, Darrell Issa (U.S. Army veteran), voted to authorize the Iraq war, voted to cut an increase to military benefits, and dismissed 9/11 as 'just a plane crash'. That is why we endorse our brother, retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate to be the next Representative of California’s 49th Congressional District."

I came away from my long interview with Doug Applegate with a feeling that part of why he's running for Congress is because he felt that 95% of Congress who never served in a combat zone, has sent our sons and daughters to endless wars without any real strategy since 9/11. He told me clearly that he knows we "can't kill our way out of the world’s problems." He has experienced the realities and trials of war and learned firsthand how decisions to use our military impacts our all-volunteer force and everyday Americans. An infantry officer and a military lawyer since 1980, Doug already understands and stands ready to provide the type of leadership Congress so sorely lacks. I asked him in which areas specifically he felt he could make a difference in Congress. He talked about Congress' being lacking in what he identified as “4 critical areas:”

  1. sexual assaults in the military
  2. defense contracting that wastes trillions of American taxpayer dollars
  3. restructuring of the Veteran Administration that is inadequate, underfunded, overcrowded, and ill-prepared
  4. renewable energy program repeatedly needed and requested by the Defense Department

Doug doesn't sound anything like Warren Davidson.

Neither does Tom Wakely, a Blue America-backed candidate in the Austin-San Antonio area of Texas (TX-21, a seat held by Trump-fanatic Lamar Smith). "Simply put," he told us this week, "I've always put my country before politics. It's not hard to do. Though I was a noncombatant, I signed up with the Air Force right after I graduated high school. I understood that when your country needs you, it's important to answer that call. Our country's in dire need of elected officials who understand the most basic concepts of duty and compassion. I'm ready to answer the call again in District 21." He got right into the issue that separates him immediately from Davidson, Smith and the other Trumpists-- support for the V.A. 

As a veteran, I receive all my healthcare through the VA. I've seen the lines. I've experienced the service (or lack thereof). We've come a long way in reforming the VA but we must go much further. Our veterans deserve so much better. I've met with many veterans across the district who are ready to see real change. The media is happy to cover the return of our troops from overseas but oftentimes once those same troops become veterans, they become afterthoughts. We must keep them in our hearts and minds if we're going to progress as a nation. It must be all of us, together. That's why I'll be urging Congress to provide for the VA to cover full vision and dental. What good are we as a nation to our veterans if they can't see or incur serious periodontal disease?  It's why I want to work with various veterans and medical policy institutes to develop a new comprehensive mental health program at the VA which focuses on behavioral therapy and counseling as the true first line of defense. I'm personally a believer that healthcare is a human right and as this country moves toward that direction, we can learn a lot from what we are able to do in the VA. All too often our veterans become over-prescribed and misunderstood.

Lamar Smith is always ready to send our troops into harm's way, but votes against raising combat pay and properly insulating our barracks abroad. Being pro-war doesn't grant you the mantle of being pro-vets, pro-troops, or even pro-country. That hasn't stopped Smith from claiming a right to all of the above despite a record that proves otherwise. I'm ready to tackle the issues veterans face because I live it. I'm ready to listen. I'm ready to answer that call.

Our candidate on the South Shore of Long Island (NY-02), DuWayne Gregory, is the Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature. A native Long Islander from a military family, DuWayne enlisted in the Army right out of college. He served as a lieutenant in the field artillery and he told us that his time in the Army taught him the importance of working together and refusing to back down in the face of any challenge-- lessons he brings to politics.

"My service in the military," he said, "was the greatest honor of my life. I saw great acts of bravery; I saw displays of courage and conviction. But I also saw firsthand issues that need to be addressed, such as men and women working over forty hours a week living in poverty.

I learned many important life lessons while serving in the military, the most important of which is the importance of leadership. Peter King's leadership has fallen short when it comes to important issues pertaining to our veterans. He and Congress have failed those in our military who are living on public assistance. They have failed when it comes to reforms in the VA. They have failed when it comes to the high unemployment rate for returning war veterans. I will use my military experience to lead on these issues and to demonstrate the commitment our veterans deserve. When there is a job to do, partisan politics shouldn't get in the way. I will provide the leadership that Congress needs to get the job done."

Please consider helping us make sure that when Congress considers military matters, not all the voices come from the far right, like Issa's and Davidson's. Let's make sure there are more progressives with military experience, like exemplary Blue America alumnus, Ted Lieu, in Congress.



Time For Some Real Talk

Friends, just 50 days out, it’s time for some real talk.

There is a very real possibility that this country is going to elect a white supremacist, nationalist demagogue as president of the United States. Yes, it makes no sense. One would think it's impossible. But after watching the media shit show unfold daily, it’s quite obvious that it can happen here. The polls right now are very, very tight.

If it does happen here, on the morning of November 9th we will wake up to a different world. Allies will understand they need to distance themselves from the US and rivals will feel emboldened. Trump's promise of a massive military buildup will be met by an equal build-up all around the planet. Other nations will logically see that the world's only superpower has gone rogue and the post war security regime that we have known for 60 years will probably fall apart all at once.

Even those of us who believe we should find a way to end the American imperial project cannot believe it is a good idea for it to end in chaos at the hands of a torture-loving nationalist who believes that any perceived ”disrespect" demands military action. 

Then there's The Wall, "Operation Wetback" Redux, banning of Muslims,"law and order" and more on top of his standard GOP policy atrocities, including plans to enact a massive tax cut on the wealthy and end virtually all government regulations, the list of which reads like a lobbyist's letter to Santa. He even proposed to end all food safety regulations

And yes, he's a climate change denier and will reject the Paris Climate accords and anything else that seeks to deal with a problem he believes is a hoax made up by China. And of course we know he is a documented racist, misogynist, nativist, xenophobic, anti-semite which is what millions of his most enthusiastic backers like best about him.  That's just for starters. 

And yet, with all that, right now he is tied with the mainstream, center left Democratic candidate who is running for President Obama's third term and has been endorsed by people as diverse as Elizabeth Warren to Warren Buffet to every union and . That is insane. 

Unfortunately, we have a problem within our own ranks: One third of voters 18-29 are planning to vote third party and that could easily make the difference. 

Bernie Sanders has something to say about that:

"Look, I was a third-party candidate. I began my career running as a third party, getting 2 percent and then 1 percent. I'm the longest serving independent in the history of the U.S. Congress, but I think that before you cast a protest vote, because [Hillary] Clinton or Trump will be president, think hard about it. This is not a governor's race. It's not a state legislative race. This is the presidency of the United States."

"If you are a working person, do you really think that billionaires need a large tax break? Which is what Trump is proposing. If you are an ordinary American who listens to science, do you think its a good idea that the President of the United States rejects science and says that climate change is a hoax? I think that if you look at the issues—raising minimum wage, building infrastructure, expanding healthcare—Clinton, by far, is the superior candidate."

It probably won't matter in big blue states if people vote third party. But there's a good reason not to. The Democratic platform Sanders fought for is also on the ballot. Clinton has not repudiated it or run from it and that is to her credit. If a majority of the country votes against her there are plenty of people in the media and both parties who will blame that platform and her embrace of progressive policies for the loss.

As Bernie says:

"Let us elect Hillary Clinton as president and that day after let us mobilize millions of people around the progressive agenda which was passed in the Democratic platform." 

So, that's where we are right now. Clinton is falling in the polls and Trump is rising. There's a very good chance we may wake up on November 9th in a different world if he pulls this off and progressives have the most to lose, especially our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. This isn't politics as usual, friends. This requires all hands on deck.

You can donate through Blue America's Clinton page here. And if you can't do that you can do phone banking from your home or canvas in your neighborhood. I urge all Blue America members to take this seriously and do whatever you can to help Hillary Clinton win this election.



Why Bao? Lou Correa's Record Proves He's Not A Democrat

Northern Orange County-- Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange-- includes a deep blue congressional district in which Obama beat Romney 61-36%. It's an open seat and the primary yielded up a Democrat vs Democrat general election contest. Our candidate is Garden Grove Mayor and Berniecrat Bao Nguyen and his opponent is a former state legislator who had made a name for himself in Sacramento as the most right-wing Democrat in state government, Lou Correa.

Bao was endorsed by Blue America as well as by other progressive groups from PDA, DFA, and the SEIU to the Sierra Club, the Mexican American Bar Association PAC and the Nurses Union. Meanwhile Correa was endorsed by both the Blue Dogs and the New Dems, although in the long list of organizations that have endorsed him, he names neither group. After all, the two make up the Republican wing of the Democratic Party in Congress and CA-46 isn't that kind of district. So Correa tries his best to downplay where he stands and what kind of a record he's built for himself.

In a majority Latino district, Correa isn't just keeping it quiet that the joined the New Dems and Blue Dogs, but also that he voted against SB-60, which would have made drivers licenses available for all qualified Californians regardless of immigration status. His vote was a complete betrayal of the Hispanic population. Nor is that the only time he voted with the Republicans against working families-- far from it.

Although Correa claims when he campaigns that he's committed to affordable higher education, that sure isn't what his record shows. When Assembly Speaker John Perez proposed AB-1500 and 1501, the Middle Class Scholarship Act, to provide scholarships covering 60% of fees and tuition at all California State colleges and universities for families with household incomes of under $150,000, Correa crossed the aisle and voted with the GOP again. Perez took the unusual step of going on the record and single out Correa for killing the bill.

"Today was an opportunity for the State Senate to join the Assembly in approving tax fairness for California businesses and college opportunity for middle class families. Unfortunately, even though most Senate Democrats supported the Middle Class Scholarship Act, we could not reach agreement with Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) or Senate Republicans that would achieve the two-thirds vote necessary... It is disturbing that Senator Correa and so many Republicans would refuse to stand up for the middle class and instead continue to support a tax giveaway that favors out-of-state companies over our own." In a disturbing pattern that defines Correa's life, he pocketed campaign contributions from International Paper-- which vehemently opposed the bill-- 10 days before he voted against AB-1500, and more loot three weeks after the disgraceful vote.

If killing the Middle Class Scholarship Act wasn't bad enough, Correa also helped kill a 2014 attempt by Democrats in the legislature to raise the minimum wage. Although 63 of his fellow Democrats were co-sponsors of the bill, he claimed he voted with the Republicans against it because it was too long and he didn't know what it meant. It's almost as though he was already practicing to be a New Dem or Blue Dog!

He also worked with the GOP to restrict women's access to family planning and abortion services and to push the NRA's agenda. Planned Parenthood gave him a big fat ZERO rating and labeled him anti-Choice. He's actively supported loopholes to make sure assault-style military weapons would wind up in California neighborhoods. Again, Correa's sick record is not what Orange County Democrats and independents (nor even Republicans) want to protect society from gun massacres. 

I bet you could guess he's also an environmental disaster, right? You'd be guessing right. California's League of Conservation Voters says he has the worst environmental record of any Democratic elected official in the state. He always sides with special interests to protect corporate polluters, consistently failed to protect the state's water sources from lead and contamination, and voted against ensuring Californians have a right to clean, safe and affordable water. Year after year the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) gave him the worst rating of any California Democrat.

Sounds like a nightmare? The Democratic Establishment loves Correa. Steny Hoyer's PAC gave him $20,000, the most of any 2016 candidate. And the state party has endorsed him as well. And then Democrats wonder why voters don't find enough clear differences between the two parties and feel less loyalty towards the Democratic Party.

Please help Bao overcome the heavy odds he faces-- the way he did in the primary-- and let's help him win a victory in November that will send a message to establishment Democrats.



The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party

Steve Israel says he's stepped down, but he still has his hand up Ben Ray Lujan's bottom part.

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Credit: @WMXDesign

When I was growing up I always thought Labor Day picnics marked the beginning of the election season. Now it seems to be the beginning of the final stretch of a campaign that's been raging for a year. We hope no Blue America members are focussing solely on the presidential race. Congress makes up a co-equal branch of government and if President Hillary is going to accomplish anything worthwhile-- or if President Trumpanzee is going to be kept in check-- we will need more progressives in the House and Senate. Today we want to take a look at the House and the candidates worth supporting... and the worst of the candidates worth avoiding.

It's not that hard to figure out who the dozen worst House Democrats were this session. ProgressivePunch keeps track of all the votes and in a category called "crucial votes," which doesn't include any routine stuff like naming post offices, they rate every member on how he or she voted during 2015 and 2016. From horrible to even more horrible this is the worst of the worst among Democrats. (It's worth noting that there are 5 Republicans whose records aren't as bad as some of these Democrats!)

• Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
• Pete Aguilar (New Dem-CA)
• Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)
• Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
• Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
• Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
• Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
• Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
• Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
• Gwen Graham (Blue Dog-FL)
• Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE)
• Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)

In terms of the House, that's the heart of theRepublican wing of the Democratic Party-- and, predictably, every last one of them is a Blue Dog or a New Dem. In fact, most of the Blue Dogs are also New Dems.

These are where Boehner and Ryan get their votes to make horrible GOP proposals "bipartisan." These are the "Democrats" who want to kill Wall Street reform and gut Elizabeth Warren's CFPB, for example. From this list comes the climate change deniers, the homophobic fanatics, the anti-Choice throwbacks, the TPP supporters and anti-healthcare kooks... the "Democratic" votes for almost any cockamamie proposal the Koch brothers and the extreme right come up with. Ryan knows he can always count on Henry Cuellar for anything-- even more so than many members of his own party-- and that if he can't count on gay right-wing lunatics like Kyrsten Sinema and Sean Patrick Maloney to vote with him to penalize the LGBTQ community, at least they'll always be there to help him give Wall Street a free hand to pillage the American people. These are the members with their hands out for special interest money from Big Oil, Big Pharma, from the pay day lenders and the most contemptible banksters and polluters.

But how do we know about candidates who haven't been accruing voting records in Congress, the newbies running for the first time? Who will be the next batch of candidates for the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- all of whom the DCCC is trying to pass off as solid Democrats, even calling some of them "progressives" to trick voters who are too busy to learn the details on the garbage candidates the DCCC is offering this year. Well, it turns out there is a way-- we can just dig a little and look to see who the Blue Dogs and New Dems are endorsing.

A candidate has to go to these organizations and ask for an endorsement and prove that they fit in and will be make-believe Democrats likely to help the NRA or the anti-Choice groups or the science deniers... any of the standard GOP fare, but most of all-- first and foremost-- that have to be Big Business-friendly and pro-Wall Street.

So far 19 Democratic candidates for the House have been endorsed by the New Dems and/or the Blue Dogs. Very few of them advertise that on their websites or mention it to voters in their districts. They just tell big campaign donors. Most of them hope to keep it hidden until after November. But we want to share the list with you... so you can use it when you decide how to vote (or not vote) in November. This year's worst House candidates:

• Lou Correa (CA)- Blue Dog and New Dem
• Lon Johnson (MI)- Blue Dog
• Isadore Hall- New Dem
• Darren Soto- New Dem
• Gretchen Driskell (MI)- Blue Dog
• Brad Schneider (IL)- Blue Dog and New Dem
• Shelli Yoder (IN)- Blue Dog
• Josh Gottheimer (NJ)- Blue Dog and New Dem
• LuAnn Bennett (VA)- New Dem
• Matt Heinz (AZ)- New Dem
• Salud Carbajal (CA)- New Dem
• Pete Gallego (TX)- Blue Dog and New Dem
• Gail Schwartz (CO)- Blue Dog
• Val Demings (FL)- New Dem
• Monica Vernon (IA)- New Dem
• Kim Myers (NY)- Blue Dog
• Tom O'Halleran (AZ)- Blue Dog
• Emily Cain (ME)- New Dem
• Doug Owens (UT)- Blue Dog

A bit of good news is that in two cases, bad Democrats can still be defeated without a Republican winning. Both are in California Democrat vs Democrat races and both are in the L.A. area. Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen is running for the seat the Blue Dogs and New Dems are trying to capture with Lou Correa and Nanette Barragán is running against New Dem Isadore Hall. For the rest of these, you'll have to make up your own mind if you want to vote for a fake Democrat likely to vote around half the time with the GOP on crucial issues or skip that line on your ballot. It can be a tough call for a lot of people. One thing, though, shouldn't be tough-- no matter how you decide to vote, don't give anyone on that list of 19 conservaDems any money. Instead, please support Bao and Nanette and the other vetted progressives on the Blue America endorsement list. All of these candidates have won their primaries and will be facing conservatives in November and almost all of them are being ignored-- or worse-- by the DCCC.



An Advance In Grassroots Campaign Phone Banking

Phone banking is one crucial way for grassroots candidates to reach out to voters but I've been hearing from savvy candidates for several years that the commonly available phone banking software for small grassroots campaigns is subpar. One of the sharpest and most agile of the 2016 Blue America primary candidates, Alex Law, worked on creating a phone banking application called Partic, which is extremely simple on the front end for unpaid volunteers. Candidates can have their volunteers make calls from anywhere in a simple system with the best scripting function out there. It has all the features any campaign needs and none it doesn't. Blue America would like to contribute the system to some of the campaigns we felt would make the best use of it.

Can you let us know which campaigns you would like us to donate the system to? We'll pick 2 campaigns this weekend based on the number of contributions our candidates get on this ActBlue page, not the amount of money, just the number of contributions. So if you want to help a candidate, please contribute any amount you can afford to his or her campaign.

Meanwhile, I asked Alex to explain the system in a guest post.

Why Partic? Why Now?
-by Alex Law

Many of you may remember my race in New Jersey's 1st Congressional District against corrupt Donald Norcross. I appreciate everything the Blue America family has done for me. This was the first organization to believe in me.

While we ultimately didn't win the race, we did run one of the most efficient campaigns in 25 years and become the first campaign ever to be endorsed by a major East Coast newspaper against an incumbent in a primary without any major scandal. I know this is just the beginning for me, and I will certainly keep the Blue America family posted with what I do next in politics.

With that said, I know our work isn't done now. You may have read my letter fundraising for my friends Tim Canova, Alan Grayson, and Zephyr Teachout. That was successful, but I want to do more for the progressive community. Even though I am not in a position to be able to significantly contribute financially, I do have a lot of knowledge about campaigns. To this end, my partner and I built a phone banking application called Partic.

When I looked for a phone banking application during my campaign, I really didn't like the options. Everything was geared towards robo-dialing. The user experience for actual live callers (our volunteers) was terrible on most applications. This is because the major phone banking services are primarily geared to larger volume enterprises that pay their phone callers. When you pay your callers, you can instruct them to deal with what ever the system is. To those of us who have volunteered on progressive campaigns, we know that just isn't how it works. If the program isn't simple and easy to use, volunteers simply won't use it. This is why so many campaigns, especially small progressive campaigns are forced to rely on incredibly inefficient and expensive solutions to phone banking (usually paper, pen, and landlines).

Partic changes that. We built our application with the volunteers in mind. Everything on the front end is incredibly simple. There is no syncing with your cell phone-- volunteers can make calls with a push of a button on the computer. The scripting function allows campaigns to create incredibly detailed scripts, but the volunteers will only see one piece at a time to make communication as easy as possible. All of the data is automatically tracked and available in analyzed reports at any time. Soon, pre-recorded voicemails will be able to be dropped in by the volunteer if no one picks up. This application drives efficiency with great tools but also with great simplicity.

I want progressive campaigns to use this tool. Not to make money, but because better organizing is key to our progress as a movement. As such, I told the leadership at Blue America that I would make our system available at cost to any Blue America campaigns. The better organized we all are, the more seats we can win together.

Blue America wants to give a grassroots organizing advantage-- Partic-- to two deserving progressive campaigns. Tell us which ones you want us to give gift subscriptions to, by donating any amount to your candidate on this ActBlue page. This weekend we'll tally up who got the most "votes" (via contribution) and award the top two with a subscription.




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