When I first heard North Carolina farmer/carpenter Billy Kennedy-- an actual progressive, non-Blue Dog, real-life Democrat-- was going to run against lunatic fringe hatemonger Virginia Foxx, I was very excited and I realized that Americans from all over the country would be interested in this race. There are few members of Congress as bigoted and contemptible as Foxx. But as I've gotten to know Billy a bit I realize that regardless of how awful Foxx is, he'd make a truly exceptional, classic Representative of the people.
He sounds, refreshingly, like a real life, common sense American, rather than like some politician. If there's some good stuff coming out of the Tea Party movement-- once you wade through all the psychotic racism and extremist rhetoric-- you find the kind of populism many of us crave, including Billy. Believe me, this just doesn't appeal to progressives and Democrats alone-- Billy on the stump:
“The bank bailouts didn’t help keep homeowners in their homes. It only helped the banks who are still paying outrageous bonuses. The mortgage crisis is not over, and keeping families in their homes needs to be a priority.”
When the House passed HR 4626 this week-- a bill to end the anti-trust exemption for Insurance monopolies (which Foxx, predictably, voted to kill-- Billy had a clear response that anyone, even people without law degrees, could understand:
The insurance companies spend most of their waking hours trying to figure out how to avoid paying for people’s medical expenses so they can boost their profit margins. They get away with massive premium price increases and benefits cutting because they have virtually no competition. This is because they enjoy an anti-trust exemption which allows them to engage in price fixing and collusive activity.
The result? By 2008, according to the American Medical Association, a single health insurer controlled 30% or more of the health insurance market in 90% of the metropolitan markets in the country. And, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health premiums have gone up by 131% for family coverage from 1999 to 2009.
If we are serious about promoting competition among insurance companies to hold down costs, the repeal of the anti-trust exemption is a no-brainer.
People get that and when Blue America announced a couple of days ago that we would be endorsing Billy's candidacy today, there was an immediate outpouring of grassroots contributions that stunned John, Digby and I. We're hoping to give his campaign a boost today with the chat at below in the comments section. But even announcing it has inspired Democrats who still believe in (real) Hope and (real) Change. When Billy explains healthcare reform by saying "It’s not fair for people to work all their lives and then loose everything when they are sick," people who hear him know he's going to go to Washington and work for ordinary North Carolina families, not for the kinds of wealthy and powerful vested interests Virginia Foxx is always catering to (when she isn't demagoging against gay people, public education and regular working families in her own district).
There aren't going to be any clearer choices between an advocate of people-oriented good government and an advocate of maintaining the status quo on behalf of the wealthy powerful special interests than the race in NC-5 between Billy Kennedy and Virginia Foxx. Foxx doesn't think her wealthy backers should be forced to pay taxes to educate a bunch of poor people's children. Billy has a very different perspective on the role of government in a healthy society:
“America needs a vibrant middle class and successful small businesses to survive. The middle class depends on quality public education available for all and jobs that pay a living wage... People have been benefiting from government programs for a long time in this country and still are. What would our Fifth District be like had the rural electric cooperatives not been started by the government? The government is our common wealth, our school systems, secure banking, police and fire departments, roads and water systems belong collectively to us all. And it’s our responsibility to manage our collective wealth wisely.
"No one makes it all on their own. We all benefit from successful government programs. Virginia got her BA, MA and ED from our outstanding public North Carolina Universities and she’s been on the dole ever since. She’s been living off the N.C. taxpayers, gaming the system and now she wants to deny the same opportunity she had to everyone else. Just last weekend she said that she didn’t believe that federal funds should be used for education.
"I went to college with the help of federal programs. Last year’s federal stimulus money went to our colleges and local schools supporting, and in some cases saving teaching positions, in this tough economy. Students don’t get a second chance; you can’t abandon them. If their basic educational needs are not met, they become economically disadvantaged, costing us all more in the end. Countries with higher literacy rates have more developed and thriving democracies. Investing in education is money well spent. We need an educated workforce to compete. We need good jobs. We need to be leading the world in new technologies, green technologies. We need to promote these new green technologies with tax credits at the state and federal levels. We need to renew our manufacturing base. Bring the work back home."
NC-5 in northwestern North Carolina isn't exactly prime territory for an outspoken Democrat running a grassroots campaign. Not only does the district have a horrifying PVI of R +15, the DCCC is ignoring the race entirely-- which explains why there isn't a Blue Dog running, and Billy's campaign is a 100% people-powered effort. Boone, Mount Airy (the model for Andy Griffith's Mayberry), and the Piedmont suburbs of Winston-Salem only gave Obama 38% of its vote in 2008, while re-electing Foxx with 58% of the vote. But between a Tea Party candidate campaigning against Foxx from the right and Billy's plain-spoken on the ground outreach, the anti-incumbent wave building nationwide this year could unseat an entrenched Republican in a red district, which is just what Alan Grayson and Eric Massa did with our help last year. Please consider contributing directly to Billy's campaign here at the Blue America page.