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Sep 28, 2009
We had an interesting gathering at our house last Tuesday night. Some 22 folks gathered for a fundraiser and meet and greet. The object of our interest was Jonathan Tasini, an advocate for labor's rights, single-payer health care (aka Medicare for all), gender equality and peace in the Middle East. Tasini, you might remember, challenged a hawkish Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary when she ran for U.S. Senate from New York. He was the only one to call her on her unbending support for Bush's war on Iraq. It wasn't until she ran for President that she began to read the handwriting on the wall and shifted her position - still never apologizing (as many other Senators finally did) for her initial vote giving Bush permission to launch that hideous aggression against an innocent people. She was quoted then that voting for the war was one of the hardest decisions of her political career. But I wrote back to Clinton because I believed she had it backwards --
"Quite frankly, it was probably the easiest because you cast principle and honesty aside in favor of opportunism and cheap politics. It’s difficult to stand on principle in the face of pressure from the opposition. It’s easy to cave in to that pressure from the media and the warmongers."Interestingly, in the debate taking place now inside the Obama administration over expanding our latest endless war (in Afghanistan) Clinton, true to her self, is reportedly on the side favoring escalation. Some people never learn. But back to Jonathan Tasini.
Brooklyn folks turn out for a fundraiser at our house last Tuesday.
Click photo for a larger view.
When voters increasingly started to understand the true nature of the Bush regime they began to punish the Republican party by defeating long-standing incumbents in Congress. This was the 2006 election and that vote presaged the coming victory of Barack Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress two years later. Kirsten Gillibrand was one of those candidates, elected in 2006 in upstate New York's 20th congressional district. She was propelled into office, defeating right-wing Republican incumbent John Sweeney, a veteran of four terms in the House. on what had become a broad wave of disgust with the Bush policies, even among many Republican and increasing popular opposition to the war in Iraq as well as anger stemming from a deteriorating economy.
But despite her victory over right-winger Sweeney, Gillibrand is no liberal --
- The daughter of a politically connected father, a lobbyist with strong ties to powerful Republicans, she was a member of the blue dog coalition of conservative Democratas during her tenure in the House. (Yes, those are the same bloc of right-wind Dems who, along with Republicans, are preventing the American people from obtaining real health care reform).
- A strong supporter of gun-rights, she has the backing of the gun lobby and received a 100% rating from the National Rifle Association.
- In the late 90's, working as an attorney for the firm of at Davis Polk and Wardwell, she represented Phillip Morris and was involved in major litigation battles brought against the tobacco industry in civil lawsuits and by FBI probes of criminal activity. She has accepted contributions from that pernicious industry, money that many Democrats refuse.
- On immigration issues, Gillibrand has had a distinctly conservative position, opposing the granting of amnesty to undocumented immigrants and supporting English as the official language of the United States.
The election for U.S. Senator is in 2010 and the pressure is on, led by New York's other Senator, Charles Schumer (aka "the senator from Wall Street" for his close ties to the banking and financial industry), to continue with the coronation of Gillibrand by the state's ruling elite. One by one, Democrats who thought about challenging the appointment with a primary run in 2010 have dropped by the wayside. Jonathan Tasini, not part of that party apparatus, is the exception. A dyed-in-the-wool progressive, Tasini comes out of the labor movement and takes strong positions in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act which would finally level the playing field for workers trying to organize against the wishes of multi-national corporations with unlimited deep pockets to fight unionization.
He calls for democracy to be realized, not merely in platitudes, but in the very real world around us, particularly in the economy where it's "time for the people to make the rules." Tasini says "We’ve let corporations set the rules for too long-—and they’ve been helped by politicians, in both major political parties, who put special interests ahead of the interests of Main Street" and working people.
In the Middle East, an issue that has politicians tripping over each other in their eagerness to express fealty to Israel without regard for right or wrong, Tasini stands almost alone, and unequivocally "supports the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, consequently ending Israeli occupation of these areas because such a solution is the only way to ensure Israeli security. The current situation in Gaza is intolerable and unconscionable" he states. With a nod to justice for all who inhabit the region, Muslims, Jews and Christians, he says, "The final peace settlement has to accommodate Israel’s security requirements but it also has to ensure a viable, thriving, independent Palestinian State which has territorial contiguity and is not broken into cantons."
And so on. On every issue of concern to progressives, I believe you will find Tasini to be a candidate worthy of support with strong principled and progressive positions. He'll make a great United States Senator and he will inject issues into next year's campaign that must be raised but that won't be raised in his absence.
Can he win? Tasini says he can! And, after hearing him speak, I believe it. But at the very least he'll give Gillibrand a damned good fight to the finish and speak out on the issues we want discussed. The only obstacle will be, as always, money. Which is why we had folks over last week and raised over a thousand dollars for Jonathan's campaign. We'll need thousands of dollars more to guarantee the people of New York state are given an opportunity to vote next year for a candidate who truly represents their best interests and not those of the corporations that have wreaked such terrible damage to our economy, our state, our country and our world.
You can check out Jonathan Tasini's website where you can learn more about the man and his positions and where you can make a generous contribution. These are terrible times but they are also times of great promise and potential for progressive change. The Tasini campaign for U.S. senate is about making that promise come true.
Go to www.jonathantasini.com for more information or to contribute. Thanks.