Blue America Welcomes Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC)

We've been doing these Blue America live chats for almost seven years. Today we're proud to welcome our very first Republican ever, Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina. Join us in the comments section below at 3pm (ET, noon on the West Coast). This isn't a fundraiser or an endorsement session, although I couldn't help noticing that last year the mainstream conservative, libertarian-leaning Jones voted more frequently with progressives on crucial roll call votes than 3 of North Carolina's "Democratic" congressmen.

If you watched one of MSNBC's presentations of Hubris in recent weeks, you must have noticed the spotlight that was shined on Rep. Jones because of the way he reached inside himself-- and reached out through his strongly held religious beliefs-- to reassess his vote for Bush's illegitimate attack on Iraq in 2002. It profoundly changed Walter Jones-- if not as a man (I barely know him enough to say), as a Member of Congress. Now you find him working across the aisle-- with sincere advocates of peace from both parties-- on issues that aren't especially partisan... just especially American. It was Alan Grayson who introduced me to him and when I told Raul Grijalva Rep. Jones would be a Blue America guest today he told me he recalled, vividly, "the long years of the Bush/Cheney machine and how hard it was to find a Republican to speak the truth. My colleague Walter Jones became an almost lone voice of reason in his party and he's stayed true to his word every day since. I'm glad to have him on our side. When it comes to real checks and balances, Congress' oversight duties, drone attacks and warmaking, he's been as right as anyone, and I'm happy to see him get the recognition he deserves for his courage."

Last year John Boehner had Rep. Jones' bill, HCR 107 (which was co-sponsored by, among others, Grijalva, Lynn Woolsey and Dennis Kucinich, as well as Ron Paul and... Louie Gohmert, who, admittedly, will cosponsor anything that uses the word "impeachable") bottled up in committee, where it died without so much as a hearing. The bill simply expressed "the sense of Congress that the use of offensive military force by a President without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under article II, section 4 of the Constitution."

In November Walter Jones was reelected with a robust 63% of the vote, the biggest margin of any Republican in the state-- much to the chagrin of Eric Cantor, who had encouraged a primary challenge against him with money he got from Sheldon Adelson. Immediately upon reelection, Jones reintroduced his resolution, this time as HCR 3. This is the letter he sent to every Member of Congress explaining it, prefaced with a quote from James Madison: allowing the President alone to take the country into war would be "too much of a temptation for one man."

Dear Colleague:

Over the last 20 years American presidents have assumed powers that our Constitution does not explicitly give the commander-in-chief. From the U.S. intervention in Bosnia to the recent U.S. involvement in Libya, Congress did not authorize the use of military force. However, the president continues to send our forces into harm's way without congressional approval. To address this issue, I have introduced H. Con. Res. 3. This resolution reaffirms that the power to declare war resides in the U.S. Congress. Under Article 1, Section 8, except in response to an actual or imminent attack against the territory of the United States, the president must come to the Congress to initiate hostilities. The proceedings of the Constitutional Convention make clear that the framers firmly believed that the momentous consequences of initiating armed hostilities should be decided not by a single individual, but only by concurrence of both houses of Congress.

H. Con. Res. 3 affirms that if a president, any president, violates this most fundamental constitutional provision, doing so would constitute an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article 2, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution.

I ask you to join me as a co-sponsor of this important resolution. Thank you for your consideration.

"[M]y concern has always been," he said last year, "since we were misled with the intelligence to go into Iraq, and all the number of young men and women who have been killed, and loss of limbs, that Congress needs to come back to what the Constitution says, and that is, if you’re going to commit our young men and women to fight and die, you must declare war.” This session he's also co-sponsoring a bill, HR 125 with Rosa DeLauro (R-CT) that has a fascinating genesis. The bill was originally introduced in the Senate by then-Senators Clinton and Obama. Jones simply changed the word “Iraq” to “Afghanistan.” The bill directs the Secretary of State to submit to Congress an unclassified report providing the justification for the President's decision to deny Congress its constitutionally protected role by concluding an agreement on the future of the security relationship between the United States and Afghanistan as an executive agreement." Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) have since signed on as cosponsors. Boehner has it bottled up in the House Foreign Affairs Committee where Ed Royce is sitting on it. (Brooks is also a member of the committee, as is Grayson.)



Blue America Welcomes Back Patsy Keever (D-NC)

The last time Patsy joined us for a chat she was going up against a conservative Democrat Steve Israel had recruited in the North Carolina primary. Patsy won-- and by a lot (Israel's candidate wound up with 26% of the vote)-- not just in her own Buncombe County but in every one of the district's seven counties.

Since then she's been running a grassroots campaign for a seat held by one of the banksters' favorite patsies, Wall Street shill Patrick McHenry who represents part of the district in the current Congress. The video above is a TV ad-- except it's not on TV. Patsy Keever has been one of the most consistently independent and progressive voices in the North Carolina legislature but that hasn't endeared her to the big money special interests she's been taking on on behalf on ordinary North Carolina working families. Meanwhile, as of June 30, McHenry had taken in over a million dollars-- only 2% of it from small grassroots contributions. He sits on the House Financial Services Committee and immense sums of money have flowed into his campaign from special interests with business before his committee. Wells Fargo, sleazy payday lenders Advance America Cash Advance Centers, American Bankers Association, Goldman Sachs, Koch Industries, and Moneytree, Inc. are among his biggest donors. They've been financing his scurrilous political career and counted on him to stab his own neighbors in the backs on their account. He adamantly opposes all regulations to keep banksters from ripping off consumers. And up against his million-plus haul, Patsy's grassroots campaign has raised $482,279. She doesn't have the money she needs to put that ad up on TV and she's going to be pushing it online. Blue America wants her to get it up on television in the 10th district.

Although cable TV is a lot less expensive and we can probably help her get the ad on Anderson Cooper's show in Gastonia, Rachel Maddow's in Asheville and Real Housewives of Atlanta in Hickory, because of the hard fought presidential campaign in North Carolina, broadcast TV rates have gone sky high. In Patsy's part of North Carolina it costs $322 per point. You have to buy 100 points at a time, and 100 points will guarantee that your ad will be seen once by your target audience in the space of a week. So we can say we want to target high-information voters... then 100 points will get us one ad seen by high information voters (during the news) in the space of a week. Would you like to help us try?

This afternoon (2pm, EST, 11am on the West Coast), Patsy will be joining us for a live chat here in the comments section. There are no races in the country where the difference between the two candidates is clearer and more stark. his week Patsy told us that "Patrick McHenry wants to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher system that would cost seniors at minimum an additional $6,000 a year for their health care. I want to keep America’s promise to its seniors and protect the current Medicare benefits that they have earned by paying into the program throughout their lives. I would never support any effort to voucherize Medicare." And that's hardly the only difference between the two candidates. "Patrick McHenry voted to allow taxpayer money to be spent on companies that have outsourced our jobs to China, India and Mexico," she reminded us. "I will vote to support companies that keep our jobs right here in America... I think the flood of money pouring into campaigns from special interests is turning voters off and threatening our democracy. During this election cycle alone, PACs have contributed more than $500,000 to Patrick McHenry’s campaign, with Koch Industries’, Goldman Sachs’ and Morgan Stanley’s PACs contributing $10,000 each. To date, I have received an average donation of $138 from more than 2,700 people, showing I have strong grassroots support from voters who live in the 10th Congressional District."

Here's the page where you can watch the ad and contribute to Patsy's campaign at the same time. Do you have any friends you could send the link to? If they ask you why they should care about a district way out in North Carolina, remind them that, as Patsy told us, "McHenry voted to cut student loan assistance to middle and working class families. As a former public school teacher, I know that every child deserves the opportunity for a quality education–from early childhood through technical school or college. When elected, I will do everything in my power to see that they get it."



Win an Eric Clapton BB King platinum award plaque

Riding with Eric, B.B. and Patsy Keever

... by helping Patsy Keever win her seat in North Carolina. Howie writes it all up here:

When I was a teenager I worked at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village for a stint. It's where I first met many artists I later became involved with, from Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, the Grateful Dead to the Jefferson Airplane and The Animals. In 1967 I saw Eric Clapton, then 22 and a member of Cream, perform with American blues great, B.B. King. More than 30 years later I was the president of Reprise Records when Eric, one of our biggest-selling and most respected artists, told me he had gone into the studio with B.B., who he idolizes, and they had recorded several songs. This turned into a collaborative album, Riding With The King, which hit #1 on the Billboard blues chart, #3 on the Billboard album chart, sold over 2 million copies and won a Grammy Award. The RIAA certified the album "double platinum" in 2000 and the custom award plaque is one of the most aesthetically beautiful RIAA awards ever made. Only a small handful were given out and, of course, it was never sold or made available to the public. Eric and B. B. gave me one. I want to use it to help raise some money for one of the most deserving progressives running anywhere in America, Rep. Patsy Keever, an intrepid Democrat taking on Wall Street shill Patrick McHenry-- much the same way we used the Green Day signed guitar to raise $37,000 for Alan Grayson's campaign a few weeks ago.

Another fighter for working families from North Carolina, Congressman Brad Miller, is supporting Patsy's run. He told us that "The contrast between Patsy and Patrick McHenry couldn't be greater. Patsy is a respected community leader, not a self-promoting political operative. Patsy has strong progressive instincts grounded in her understanding of what people's lives are really like." Patsy's record as a representative of the North Carolina legislature showed she is a staunch believer in helping working families, standing up for civil rights and including everyone who wants to pitch in and work hard in the American dream.

I never talked with either Eric or B. B. about politics and don't know where they stand on the issues... but they did cover Charlie "Hoss" Singleton's classic "Help the Poor" on Riding With The King-- and they're both very decent, generous human beings so... I'll just jump to the logical conclusion. To get a chance to wind up with this plaque on your wall, just contribute to Patsy's campaign-- any amount-- at this ActBlue page. We'll randomly select one person to thank by sending him or her the plaque.

Click over to Down with Tyranny for the full story.

And if you're of a mind to help a great progressive fighter win a winnable seat and possibly win a Clapton-King collectable for yourself, just go here.



Blue America Welcomes Cecil Bothwell (D-NC)

Today we're kicking off a new day for our Blue America chats. Same time as always-- 11am (PT) but on Tuesdays from now on. And what better way than to start with a populist icon whose grassroots congressional just paid off with gigantic dividends a few days ago. Cecil Bothwell will be joining us below in the comments section at 2pm (ET). Last week, his classic grassroots organizing and door-to-door activist campaign astounded the political establishment with polling results that showed him likely to knock off entrenched conservative incumbent, Blue Dog Heath Shuler in the upcoming May 8th primary. Shuler saw the same results and beat a hasty retreat to, suddenly, "spend more time with my family." He actually said that. The 11th CD will never be the same.

Cecil is the Asheville City Council Member who "everyone" said was "too radical" to be elected. But when the at-large primary came around he wasn't just elected-- he got more votes than anyone else in the race. He seemed buoyed when we talked with him after Shuler-- who just months ago tried to rally reactionary Democrats against Nancy Pelosi in a race for House Democratic leader-- hoisted the white flag. "We were confident that we were going to win the primary, based on informal polling across the District. We learned from recipients that someone hired a firm in Raleigh to poll voters here, so my bet is that he was seeing the same results. Now it appears that he has tapped another Blue Dog, his Legislative Director Hayden Rogers, to step into the race. So game on!" Rogers isn't well known in the district but he is on K Street and Inside-the-Beltway. The DCCC would love to talk him into running. Cecil feels confident he could beat him just as he always predicted he would beat his boss.

Cecil is a decidedly progressive Democrat-- a movement progressive-- who has staked out populist positions in favor of federal job creation, single-payer health care and protection of the social safety net, as well as strong support for education. A participant in October's Rebuild the American Dream conference, he endorses "Jobs, Not Cuts!" as a battle cry for middle- and working-class citizens who have been hammered by the Bush recession. Coming from a career in sustainable building and environmental journalism, with more than 20 years spent in a photovoltaic-powered home, he knows the coming green economy from the inside out, and he was one of the thousands of activists who surrounded the White House in November to protest the KeystoneXL pipeline. Although North Carolina is a right-to-work state, he is a member of the National Writer's Union (AFL-CIO) and is unafraid to tell his constituents that unions are essential to introduce democracy into the work place. He is a strong advocate for fair trade instead of our current badly concocted free trade rules, and believes we need to get tough with China over its currency manipulation. Because he believes that black markets always create systemic problems in society he demands immigration reform that facilitates work-permits and a clear path to citizenship, and opposes the catastrophic failure known as the "war on drugs." He has endorsed the Move to Amend and believes that we need to adopt public financing for all elections ASAP.

"We can do better," he tells voters. "And you deserve better. I aim to represent the real people of this District, and I won't take a penny from corporations or corporate PACs." Blue America could hardly hope for a better candidate to back, anywhere. Please consider contributing to a people-to-people campaign that is already paying dividends for progressives in North Carolina. You can do that here at the Blue America ActBlue page.



Blue America Welcomes North Carolina Secretary Of State Elaine Marshall

Blue America tends not to endorse in primary races between Democrats unless one is really excellent and one is clearly abysmal. This year we've taken stands against Blue Dogs Jane Harman, John Barrow and Lori Edwards and against anti-Choice fanatic Bart Stupak by endorsing, respectively, Marcy Winograd, Regina Thomas, Doug Tudor and Connie Saltonstall. But when it came to the North Carolina Senate race we were in a quandary. We really like the current Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall, but one of her primary opponents, Kenneth Lewis, is also an excellent choice. The conservative in the race, Cal Cunningham, currently trying to appeal to Democrats with a laughable and inauthentic feint to the left, is being pushed by Inside-the-Beltway powerbrokers, particularly Robert Menendez and the DSCC. We'd rather not interfere and just leave it up to North Carolina voters. But because of unfair DSCC campaign practices against Elaine we invited her over for a Blue America blogging session today at 6:30pm, EST/3:30, PT.

It's important to keep in mind that there's no incumbent in the country more in peril than Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Burr prides himself on being part of the lunatic right fringe-promising voters earlier this year:

“…it is impossible for any candidate to get to the right of me.”

Yesterday, with Burr pouting and playing games that jeopardize the well being-- and the security-- of every American, including conservative ones, Elaine Marshall suggested he grow up and do his job, when he walked out on an Armed Services Committee meeting just out of spite, using a foolish procedural measure to delay testimony from Adm. Robert Willard, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command; Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command; and Gen. Walter Sharpe, Army Commander of U.S. forces in Korea. These men have more on their minds than partisan petulance from half-wits like Richard Burr.

“Senator Burr and his Republican colleagues need to grow up,” said Marshall. “The health care vote is over, they lost and it’s time to move on to other business. This is one more example of how Washington needs people who will get things done, not people who will stand in the way.”

Burr is the alarmist idiot Senator who has taken millions from Wall Street banks only to proudly tell his wife to take all their money out when the stock market plummeted last year. Hence the nickname, “Bank Run” Burr. He’s up for re-election in November and finds himself with an approval rating of 35% in an anti-incumbent year and leading Elaine by a mere 41-36%, a number that can easily be evened out once the May 4th primary is settled.

I've spent some time following the race and talking with Elaine on the phone. She's feisty, progressive, and refreshing rather like the standard boxed Southern Conservadems we’re used too. Elaine is a populist and not only does she talk a good game, she’s spent a career taking on Wall Street fraud and risky business in the state legislature and as Secretary of State. In fact, her office released figures that she helped return over $130 million from Wall Street scams to the people of North Carolina just last year. "I don't have to promise you what I think can do. I can show you black and white, book and page, my accomplishments. I think that is going to be crucial in this election…”

America voted for change in 2008, and… a lot of people are unhappy because they aren’t seeing it. They look at Washington and they see a lot of politicians and business interests standing in the way of the change they voted for." Richard Burr is clearly one of those politicians.

North Carolina is a prime pick-up for both Democrats and progressives in 2010 and an opportunity we cannot pass up. The state has been trending blue, going for Obama and ousting their Republican Senator Liddy Dole last year; this is a winnable race. The Senate has been where good legislation goes to die this session and we need to elect more bold progressives to the chamber. Elaine is the candidate and she’ll be taking your questions in the comments section below.

Please consider contributing directly to her campaign here.



Live Chat: Blue America Welcomes Billy Kennedy (NC-05)

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.



Blue Dog McIntyre Flip-Flops on SCHIP! UPDATED

DailyKos:

It looks like pressure paid off. Mike McIntyre announced this afternoon that he has changed his stand on SCHIP. More from the release...

Congressman McIntyre stated, "As a long-time advocate for children for over 25 years, and as one who has consistently supported family health issues, I will not support President Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill, and I will vote to override his veto. My objection to the method of funding for this bill and my support of North Carolina's farmers and the economic well-being of our communities are well-known, but I have always supported the SCHIP program and will do what is necessary to preserve it for the sake of children and families in need. As Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee that oversees tobacco, I will also continue to do all that I can to support our farmers and our region's economy. That commitment has not changed with this vote for our children."

This flip-flop comes in the wake of national pressure, local pressure from Wilmington, NC MoveOn members, and bad publicity in the Wilmington, NC StarNews newspaper.

The Bush Dogs are feeling the pressure, as Jane says, two down and three to go...keep up those calls and letters.

UPDATE: Please donate here so we can keep the pressure up with our Blue America ad campaign.




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