Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices


    Dude, Where's Your Base?

    "Take a magic marker, cross out the word "objectivity". Your constituents want you for your opinions, your philosophy, for you subjectivity." - Shelly Runyon, The Contender

    I bet if you wanted to get your base back the quick answer would be grow some balls. What? Too easy?

    The long answer? It still involves growing some balls but perhaps I should say it in a far gentler way. But let me think about it...nope. Just man up and get your shit done. Enough said.

    Everyone suddenly wants to get their game face on and get all up in the grill of not just their opponents but their supporters. During a September 27th fundraiser, Vice President Biden told a group of contributors to tell the [Democratic] base to “stop whining”. Which came to applause because no one wants to listen to another person’s endless bitching (this is where I should plug No Pasa Nada and the concept of ‘irony’). That said I’m sure the Democratic base - African Americans, the middle class, labor families, the LGBT community - would do less complaining if congress and the administration made more of an effort to, I dunno, HELP.

    It seems so simple, at least in my head, and probably in yours as well. I mean if you want the middle class to be into you then maybe you should pass middle class tax cuts. Then again their really is no middle class right now. There are the uber-rich and the rest of us who are facing 25.9% APRs from Chase who recently received its own bailout via TARP payments while we all sit here and enjoy Ramen.

    Man, I love this place.

    No one loves Congress more than me but it’s the idea of Congress and, as I have mentioned, representative democracy, that makes me swoon. And here we sit in this very, very wealthy nation, wringing our hands, cutting coupons and “playing chicken” with filling up our cars with gas because, I could use that extra $2.89, dammit! Perhaps if the administration and the entire House of Representatives which is currently shitting its pants as we get closer to November 2nd, did something to focus on the people who elected them (let's see, I've already mentioned tax cuts but what about Don't Ask, Don't Tell)  in the first place, then maybe...just maybe...their base would be there. Here we, the middle class, are working our asses off going from paycheck to paycheck and there sits congress at home with Democrats shrugging with a meager "Well, we tried..." Perhaps there wouldn’t be that ‘enthusiasm gap’ and apathy of those representing us weren't apathetic about the public.

    But, sadly, this is not where we are. There are, of course, exceptions to all of these rules. I know House members who want nothing more than to help their constituent struggling even with Medicare or those on the cusp of a layoff. That’s not enough though; those 20 or 30 out of 535 will never be enough. And yet we’re supposed to hop out off our couches, away from Gossip Girl in order to help them. Help us, help you. Do something for us and perhaps we - as your base, the middle class, the people to whom you made promises to - will help you.


    So, about the midterms (Part II) 

    Part I

    "There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle."  ~Alexis de Tocqueville

    Two weeks ago I was on a conference call on policy which quickly turned into politics. In particular the House and what they would get or could get done before the end of their brief fall session. We all guffawed at that one. They’re much too focused on themselves right now, someone said through laughter. I’m sure there were nods in agreement because “focusing on themselves”, their futures, their aspirations; is what got so many of the current members of the House into the trouble they find themselves in today. It’s hard not to question whether their focus was on their constituents, a higher authority, or perhaps 2012, 2016 and 2020.

    As far back as I can remember I have wanted to be a member of the House and now I am realizing that I could never do it. No way, not ever. I couldn’t be pulled in - literally 70,000 - different directions. Are they even allowed to listen to their gut or is it tainted by all of the other opinions? You and I would go with gut and find the outside chatter superfluous but members of congress rely on the ‘superfluous’. Crazy (some) or not, they are the voters. Whatever it is, right now everyone hates the incumbent.

    In New York, the details of which I will get to shortly, I have the immense - and I mean that - pleasure of knowing some stellar members of the House. They’re just nice people. And I’d be quick to call someone out on their bullshit or falsies but nope, they’re kind and seek me out in a crowd. They even ask how my mother is doing. OK fine, it might be BS on their part but it’s well played if it is. I am inclined to believe that a majority of members of the House of Representatives want to do right by the people in their districts. They are there because they really do want to help with the Upstate economy. But of course the few bad apples give the rest a bad name. But the others - the masses - believe in a higher authority that isn’t the will of Nancy Pelosi but representative democracy. That is what I’ve encountered and it is what I will believe until proven otherwise. Yet so many have not had that experience.

    Joe is angry about his health care costs and “socialized” medicine. He expressed his anger, loudly, at a Town Hall meeting last summer. Unfortunately his congressman voted for it.

    Susan’s a public employee who is recently laid off. She needed that $10 billion bail out or else she would surely drown. Unfortunately her congressman voted against it. It passed but she deserves to be angry.

    People are scared. The recession, though supposedly over, is still felt across the country. There are still so many questions to be answered - TARP, Afghanistan, how the Affordable Health Care Act will affect families. But what people are finding is that those who voted for these proposals don’t necessarily have the answers.

    The above is what House incumbents face and right now it seems as if they are failing while bearing the brunt of Americans’ anger. Even members who have been considered safe for so long are feeling the heat. For the last several weeks polling has been quite the indicator of voter dissatisfaction; showing most incumbents (most of whom are Democrats as they are in the majority) trailing or without a comfortable lead against a challenger. When Larry Sabato and Charlie Cook, two powerhouses in handicapping races, said that the GOP would take the HOuse by 40-44 seats...well...that’s when my heart sank. Only 37 seats are needed to flip the House. And then comes the “we’ll shut down the government...” threats.

    Things are not good. So what now? Well now we wait and see. There’s that whole polling hubbub that keeps people on their toes but I prefer someone with cool calculation like Nate Silver of the famed FiveThirtyEight blog. It’s another good place to keep your eye out and check to see how your member is doing and whether or not they have a fear of falling or failing.

    Now to New York (courtesy of the New York Times):

    You guys, you don’t hear this often, or ever but I have so much respect for my congressional delegation. I cannot say it enough. So much of the policy that happens in Washington cannot be done without the House going first (of course then that starts a whole back and forth between the House and the Senate where the House gets shit done and the Senate likes to filibuster. Say it with me now, “I love democracy”.) These are the races in  New York that everyone is talking about. The ones to watch, if you will.

    (click through to see a description of each race)

    CD-1 Tim Bishop. He’s whip smart on policy and will ask you questions to which you must answer “I don’t know, Congressman”.

    CD-13 Michael McMahon
    . Voted against health care reform but voted for a recent education jobs fund that would provide public employers in his district with funds to hire back laid off employees. Public employees like teachers and firefighters. That’s a good thing.

    CD-19 John Hall. He recently jammed with Pete Seeger and hangs out in my favorite downstate town, Beacon.

    CD-20 Scott Murphy.  As far as elected officials go, I totally dig him. He’s a genuinely good guy and smarter than I will ever be. Smart and nice. That doesn’t happen very often in Congress.

    CD-24 Michael Arcuri. Another good guy who wants to do the right thing but is also a Blue Dog Democrat, so doing the right thing shouldn’t put us even further in the red.

    CD-23 Bill Owens. He’s like magic. He won out of the blue in a race that everyone thought he would lose. And now he’s that guy who likes to sit and chat about everything going on and always, always, always wants to find the best solution for the people he represents.

    CD-25 Dan Maffei.  Another nice guy (do you see a pattern here?). Amiable. In tune to his constituents which is a key factor in getting elected.

    CD-29 Eric Massa resigned from this seat. There are two gentlemen running and I can’t even begin to tell you who might win.

    So there you have it...FOR NOW...There will be changes and I will do my best to keep people updated on the happenings of the midterms in New York State and other fun (I use that term loosely) things.

    Any questions?

    Because elections bring out the worst in (some of) us...

    "Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be."  ~Sydney J. Harris

    I feel the need to write about this particular topic because it’s a trend I’ve been seeing, oh, since...forever. The trend isn’t anything cool like brooches or statement jewelry it’s the trend of being an asshole when it comes to politics. Election time comes along and people catch a fever that forces them to dig down to the cruelest depths of their soul to spew hate at those who might have an opposing view point. A sickness is the only way to describe such awful behavior. All under the guise of “the first amendment” or “disagreement”. That, my friends isn’t simply disagreement. That is what I like to call being an asshole. Now stop it.

    I like living in a representative democracy. One where we are each afforded the right to speak our minds and vote without fear of retribution. We don’t have to watch our backs each time we disagree with the powers at be. In fact, it’s encouraged not to follow blindly but to lead boldly. Plain and simple, it’s nice here. But then the elections come around and suddenly a select group of people are in dire need of an exorcism to rid them of their piss poor behavior.

    Listen, I can understand the need to be passionate about what you believe and stand by your convictions. I can also understand becoming frustrating by those who refuse to listen or for some reason cannot comprehend your political beliefs. But this is politics, not a cage match. The beauty of living in a country such is ours is that we are afforded the right to peaceful political discourse. Emphasis on PEACEFUL. We can discuss politics and policy not in absolutes but in how it could be and should be. We can vote for the people we would most like to see leading this country and if we don’t like their job performance, we can vote them right on out. We get to see change with our voices and by a simple pull of a lever. Unfortunately it’s not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing, it’s an everyone thing: We have these rights.

    To shout at each other, to call each other awful names, to use racial slurs, to demean one’s religion and - I cannot believe I am saying this - to threaten bodily harm to someone and/or their family, directly violates and quite frankly shits upon the rights we have been afforded. It is the aforementioned behavior which keeps people from wanting to participate in a political discussion for fear of being called awful names or disrespected based on their personal vision of this country.

    I don’t think everyone is correct. I can be seen rolling my eyes at the Tea Party more frequently than not and the thought of Sarah Palin as President gives me a rash. But I listen, I observe and I am respectful. That last part being the most important. I enjoy debates and the political process but I hate the spiteful digs and the genuine acts of evil that can be the result of an election. So...please? Pretty please with one hundred cherries on top, let’s try to be kind to one another for the next six weeks. Let’s look at this process not as something that needs to form ugliness but instead form thoughtful discussion on where this country is and what it needs to move forward.