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Anti-union, pro-war, anti-abortion, immigrant bashers
Meet the lesser evil in 2006

October 27, 2006 | Pages 8 and 9

HOWARD DEAN, Rahm Emmanuel and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment like to call it the "big tent."

The Democratic Party can't be a party limited to pro-labor, antiwar, pro-choice, civil rights-loving liberals, they argue. It has to embrace the values usually attributed to the Republicans--God, big business, a strong military. It was the Democrat Dean, remember, not a Republican, who said in 2004 that he wanted to be "the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks."

Many of the Democratic Party candidates in November's midterm elections reflect this thinking--and then some.

If they don't seem like what most people think of as Democrats, in some cases, it's because they only became Democrats recently--fleeing the Republican Party out of fear that Bush's unpopularity will rub off on them. And as the Democratic Party policy agenda moves ever rightward, going Democrat isn't such a big jump to make.

ELIZABETH SCHULTE looks at a few of the astounding curiosities in the Democrats' big tent for the 2006 congressional elections.

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Jack Davis | NEW YORK
Millionaire crackpot

"I'm a white Anglo-Saxon millionaire owner of a nonunion factory," 73-year-old Jack Davis, the Democratic Party candidate for the 26th Congressional District in Upstate New York, told the Washington Post. "When the Democrats first asked me to run, I said, 'Yeah, great idea, except I'm a Republican.'"

What else to read

The International Socialist Review magazine contains regular coverage of U.S. politics from a socialist perspective. For a further look at the Progressive Democrats of America, see "Wading in the Democratic Party's 'Muddy Waters.'"

For the classic socialist statement on the politics of lesser evilism, read Hal Draper's article "Who's Going to Be the Lesser Evil in 1968?" Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, edited by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn of CounterPunch magazine, makes the case against the Anybody-But-Bush mania that dominated the 2004 election.

You can also download an ISO Web book by Lance Selfa, The Democratic Party and the Politics of Lesser Evilism, which is based on articles that appeared in the ISR, Socialist Worker and elsewhere.

 

Funny thing is, Davis might just win--since his Republican opponent, Rep. Thomas Reynolds, is caught in the thick of the Tom Foley congressional page scandal. As of last week, Davis was 17 percentage points ahead of the well-connected Reynolds in the polls.

This, even though Davis isn't actively campaigning. Or the fact that he could be described as a protectionist, anti-immigrant kook.

Davis used to be a big Republican campaign contributor; now he's spending that money on his own race--$3 million so far.

He loves immigrant-bashing CNN host Lou Dobbs and supports high tariffs on goods from "Red China" and strong fences on the border with Mexico. "I see radical Mexicans saying President Polk took their land in the war with Mexico," he told the Washington Post, whacking the table. "Well, here's what I have to say: You lost that war, baby!"

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Bob Casey | PENNSYLVANIA
The other man of God

If the goal of Democratic Party candidates is to out-Republican the Republicans, Bob Casey has his work cut out for him in his race against one of the most notorious right-wingers in the Senate, Rick Santorum. But Casey is giving Santorum a run for his money.

In addition to calling for strict restrictions on immigration, Casey touts his religious credentials as a Catholic who opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and embryonic stem cell research. His support for so-called religious values and concern for the sanctity of human life has not, however, kept Casey from maintaining his support for the death penalty.

When asked whether he thought Roe v. Wade--the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal--should be overturned in an interview last year, Casey responded, "You can't say you have the position I have and not believe that."

Eric Sapp, a minister and a political consultant with Common Good Strategies, has been advising the Casey campaign since January on how to bring in the religious voters.

On support for Israel, Casey is as loyal as any Christian fundamentalist. In an October 2005 interview with the Philadelphia Jewish Voice, Casey asserted, "No senator will be as vigilant or as supportive as me in maintaining and strengthening our special relationship, our unshakeable bond with Israel. And that support must take a variety of forms. We need to continue our military and economic support of Israel. We need to take a tough stand on Iran's pursuit of nuclear arms. We need to ensure that laws like the Syria Accountability Act are enforced."

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Jim Webb | VIRGINIA
The other good old boy

You might think that there's an easy prescription for victory in the Virginia Senate race against racist epithet-hurling, Confederate flag-hoisting incumbent George Allen--try to look like a human being. But this may prove to be too much for Democrat Jim Webb.

A former Marine commander who fought in Vietnam, he wrote an article titled "Women Can't Fight" that appeared in Washingtonian magazine in 1979, three years after women began attending the Naval Academy.

In it, he argued, "No benefit can come to anyone from women serving in combat. I have never met a woman, including the dozens of female midshipmen I encountered during my recent semester as a professor at the Naval Academy, whom I would trust to provide those men with combat leadership." Webb is also quoted as saying, "Being in the Naval Academy is a horny woman's dream."

A former Republican, Webb served as assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration.

Webb has written several novels and worked on a couple movies about his war experience. "In his 1983 book A Country Such as This," wrote the Washington Post's Libby Copeland, "Webb writes of a power-hungry feminist named Dorothy Dingenfelder who 'had given up on trying to be pretty" and who enjoys a swanky hotel despite her 'publicly egalitarian views.'...Dorothy organizes a protest against the Vietnam War in which the protesters begin to attack the soldiers."

Webb characterized the Navy's 1991 Tailhook sexual harassment scandal as a witch-hunt, and in 1997, decried "The War on Military Culture" in an article with that title in the right-wing Weekly Standard.

In the 2000 Virginia election for Senate, Webb endorsed--who else?--his current opponent George Allen.

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Harold E. Ford Jr. | TENNESSEE
The scapegoater

Hysteria about "illegal" immigrants flooding across "our" borders is a fixture of this year's elections, with both parties trying to depict themselves as tough on immigrants. The Senate campaign of Rep. Harold Ford Jr. in Tennessee is leading the way.

"I'm the only person on this stage who has ever voted for an anti-illegal-immigration bill--matter of fact, the strongest in the country," Ford said in a recent debate, boasting about his support of the anti-immigrant HR 4437, authored by Republican James Sensenbrenner.

Ford also voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Ford accuses his Republican opponent, former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, of employing illegal immigrants, who were discovered by federal agents in a recent raid.

The 36-year-old, three-term, African American congressman has voted for outlawing gay marriage, repealing the estate tax, amending the Constitution to ban flag burning and posting the Ten Commandments in courtrooms around the state. While campaigning, Ford reportedly hands out business cards with his name on one side and the Ten Commandments on the other.

In December 2001, Ford was the only House Democrat--along with Joe Lieberman, the only Senate Democrat--to sign a letter from members of Congress urging the Bush administration to go after Saddam Hussein.

In an October 10 debate, he had this solution for the disaster in Iraq--carve up the country into ethnically cleansed partitions. "There are other options, other than stay-the-course or cut-and-run," he said. "I believe that we can decentralize Iraq and still keep it together."

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Mark Parkinson | KANSAS
Nowhere better to go

Mark Parkinson used to be the chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, but this year, he's running for lieutenant governor on the Democratic Party ticket.

Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius--whose name is circulating as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2008--is credited with several "conversions" in the state. "My favorite kind of revival is going to a place where someone says, 'I've been a Republican all my life, and I've seen the light,'" says Sebelius.

She says that Republicans like Parkinson, who support embryonic stem cell research and teaching evolution, felt "banished" by a party where the Christian Right increasingly calls the shots.

Parkinson and eight other Kansas Republicans running for office this year fled the anti-Darwin, anti-abortion GOP--into the arms of the next best thing, the Democrats.

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