As MLive reports, the state Chair of MI’s Democratic Party, Mark Brewer, has asked the Democratic primary candidates in my congressional district to take the democracy out of the primary.
He doesn’t call it that, mind you. His DoubleSpeak for asking Steve Pestka and Trevor Thomas not to talk about each other’s record is “Clean and Fair Campaign Agreement.”
I write today to ask you both to put [commitments to focus on Justin Amash] in writing by signing and abiding by the enclosed “Clean and Fair Democratic Primary Campaign Agreement.”
One of the clauses in the proposed agreement is:
To avoid attacks on each other’s records and positions by any means, including the media, campaign literature, advertisements, phone calls, mailings, e-mail and speaking engagements. [my emphasis]
Apparently, the guy running MI’s Democratic Party thinks it’s “fair” to voters to gag all discussion of candidates’ past records. And Steve Pestka, who said he will sign this gag order, agrees!
A couple of notes about this proposed gag order.
This is yet another attempt (at least the fifth I have heard or witnessed over the course of this primary) by leaders in the Democratic Party–the same one running against the GOP’s war on women–to silence all discussion of Democrats’ own attacks on women’s autonomy. As far as I’m aware, the only part of Pestka’s record that Thomas has addressed (thus far) was his anti-choice votes while serving in the MI House (indeed, MLive suggests that’s what this is about, as well). Pestka’s campaign, meanwhile, just wanders around saying Thomas has no record (ignoring, of course, Thomas’ role in getting DADT repealed; apparently that doesn’t count).
So this is not about gagging discussion on a policy that Justin Amash would use to bash the Democrat, cause he’s rabidly anti-choice too. Rather, it is about preventing voters from learning what Steve Pestka did the last time voters entrusted him to represent their interests. Mark Brewer’s idea of a “fair” primary is to prevent women from being reminded that Pestka’s record includes a history of legislating against women’s autonomy.
Apparently, we girls aren’t allowed to hold him accountable for voting against our interests.
Furthermore, Brewer built this gag order to be asymmetrical. He didn’t ask Pestka and Thomas to avoid talking about their own records–meaning Pestka would be gagged from mentioning he served in the House and Thomas would be gagged from talking about his role in a key civil rights victory. Rather, this gag order would allow Pestka to continue sending out lit pointing to his time in the State House as one thing that qualifies him to serve in Congress, without allowing Thomas to point out some of the terrible votes he made while there.
If you’re going to gag discussion about past records, Chairman Brewer, you’ve got to gag discussion on both sides!
There’s one more really disgusting aspect to this gag order. Brewer attempts to gag not just the campaign itself, but both his reference to “the media” in the passage above and in the scope of those the candidates would have to gag if they agreed to this–”campaign teams, including staff, surrogates, advisors, consultants, vendors and volunteers”–people far beyond Thomas himself. I’m not formally part of Thomas’ campaign at all (I have donated to his campaign, though), but I am “the media.” I also happen to be a 3rd CD voter who finds the paternalistic way the Democrats have pushed Pestka–”shut up girls! don’t talk about his anti-choice record!”–to be profoundly anti-woman. Is Chairman Brewer really proposing that Thomas be fined every time I speak, as a 3rd CD voter and registered Democrat, for the importance of a candidate who fully supports women’s rights?
That’s what the Democratic Party has come to?
Who knows. Maybe there’s a bright side to this. Pestka’s campaign loves to attack Thomas–who grew up, went to college, and worked in the area, then returned home after succeeding in DC–as a “carpetbagger.” Since this gag order also imposes a fine for personal attacks, I assume Pestka’s campaign will start doling out $1000 to a charity of Thomas’ choice every time they continue to make such stupid attacks.
Maybe Thomas should name Planned Parenthood as the charity Pestka will have to donate to?
Curiously, in his chronology of the talking point, “the War on Women,” Dave Weigel doesn’t mention the actual terrorist attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic a few weeks back. Nor does Marc Ambinder in his thoughtful piece on the outrage mobilized by the term. And these men commenting on the Democratic Party’s effort to mobilize its tribes by raising outrage over the GOP’s treatment of women are right, up to a point. In DC, that metaphor, “War on Women,” has been cognitively divorced from what happens when a man conducts a terrorist attack (one not treated as a terrorist attack, mind you) on a clinic designed to help women access the same life choices men get by default.
In their review of the outraged response to Hillary Rosen’s suggestion that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life, neither Weigel nor Ambinder nor just about anyone else noted the unspoken implication of Mitt Romney’s defense of his wife that raising their five children (with help, mind you) was a full time job. Mitt effectively admitted that he wasn’t doing the child-rearing–still a common gender assumption among men of Mitt’s age, but nevertheless stunning in the way no one noticed that Mitt admitted his role as father involves outsourcing all the child-rearing to the mother. The true scandal of the Hillary Rosen poutrage, IMO, is that no one considered the flip side of Ann’s full-time job as mother: Mitt’s abdication of child-rearing as a father. Sure. When his boys were little, he was a busy man and all that–he had people to fire and jobs to outsource. But he was able to focus so closely on those things because Ann did the parenting work for the two of them.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are still going to use GOP attacks on women as a political stunt. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweeted or re-tweeted 7 comments about women’s issues yesterday, in addition to the seemingly mandatory condemnation of Rosen.
I was particularly amused by this DWS tweet:
Bottom line: Choice, affordable contraception, and Planned Parenthood are at stake in this election. http://j.mp/I6A8c0
As it happened, a few hours after DWS sent that tweet, I went to a Debbie Stabenow event hosted by a local women’s group. As we were waiting for the Senator to speak, a top county Democrat was sitting several rows behind me trying to convince some of the women not to support Trevor Thomas. “There is absolutely no way he can win,” the guy said (the polling says he’s wrong, and I suspect he knows that). In addition to saying a gay man can’t win, he also said a pro-choice person can’t win in the district (his listeners pointed out that Stabenow herself had won the district; so have at least two other pro-choice candidates). Then he described Steven Pestka, using the line Michigan Democrats used to defend Bart Stupak as he was rolling back access to choice for women across the country.
He’s with us on everything else.
Last week, for its 2-year anniversary, Democrats rightly celebrated that ObamaCare has made preventative health care–things like mammograms–accessible for free to 45 million women.
And this week, as the ObamaCare hearing represents the biggest event at SCOTUS since Bush v. Gore, Democrats continue to celebrate ObamaCare (which is a good thing, politically; Obama should have done this a year ago).
But no one is talking about the biggest error the Democrats made aside from selling out the public option: letting Bart Stupak, an anti-choice MI Democrat, roll back access to abortion for women in every Congressional District in America. Not only have Democrats forgotten that their own tolerance for anti-women stances hurt Obama’s signature issue (and hurt their chances in 2010), but they’re back at it–recruiting anti-choice self-funders like Steve Pestka rather than backing pro-choice candidates like Trevor Thomas.
It’s as if the Democrats have put a price tag on women’s health, one they’re not willing to invest to pay.
There are a lot of reasons why Trevor Thomas is the better choice to take on Justin Amash in MI’s 3rd CD: his working class background, his push to address MI’s high unemployment rate for Veterans, his call to do something about the looming student loan bubble.
But this week, of all weeks, it’s important to make clear that it is not acceptable to do what the Democrats have done, decide that fighting for women’s issues is simply too much work and too much money.
I was disappointed with Steve Pestka’s announcement to run for the 3rd CD. While he promised jobs, he also repeated the “West Michigan Values” phrase a top Kent County Dem used when telling me and others to shut up. And he suggested he was running against extremists.
“I will fight for jobs and for West Michigan values, instead of for extreme political views from either side that lead us nowhere.”
Really, “extreme political views”? Is Pestka suggesting that Trevor Thomas, who worked for and was endorsed by MI’s moderate former Governor, Jennifer Granholm, is extreme?
Does Pestka think that working in bipartisan fashion to help men and women who have served their country win equal rights is “extreme”? Does he think fighting to help Eric Alva, who lost a leg in the opening hours of the Iraq War, be treated equally by the government is extreme? Here’s what Alva says in an endorsement of Trevor today:
My name is Eric Alva and I was the first American wounded in the war in Iraq. On March 21, 2003, just three hours into the invasion, I triggered a landmine.
I was thrown through the air, landing 15 feet away. As my fellow Marines were cutting away my uniform, I wondered why they weren’t removing my right boot. I would learn later that my leg was already gone. I served my country for 13 years as a Marine receiving the Purple Heart for my service.
I met Trevor Thomas while working with a coalition of bipartisan forces to repeal the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. Trevor was a key voice and strategist in repealing D.A.D.T. He helped me tell my story on World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer.
Trevor worked tireless on behalf of thousands of members of the military to create a more just and equal world.
The suggestion that someone who has fought for a “more just and equal world” is extreme and the invocation of “West Michigan values” precisely when people try to raise Steve Pestka’s past efforts to roll back women’s autonomy concerns me.
Make a case why you’re the better Democrat to represent the working men and women of Grand Rapids. Explain how you’ll help create jobs.
But I always thought Democrats fought for the American values of equality and justice. Folks keep telling me I haven’t lived in Grand Rapids long enough to know about West Michigan values. But if those values say fighting for equality for women and our service members is extreme, then I prefer good old-fashioned American values.
Trevor Thomas got some very nice props last night in his effort to win the Democratic nomination to beat Justin Amash in MI’s 3rd Congressional District: the endorsement of Jennifer Granholm and her former Lieutenant Governor, John Cherry. From the release:
“From day one Trevor has been a fighter for fairness and opportunity,” said former Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. “From the newsroom to the halls of Congress, Trevor has the experience and passion to get results on the issues critical to Michigan families. This is a campaign of inclusion that will stand up and represent all the voices of West Michigan and I am proud to support and be a part of it.”
“Trevor parent’s worked a combined 60 years on the lines of General Motors so he could have the chance to go to college, and now he is fighting for us all in his bid for Congress,” said former Lt. Gov. John D. Cherry Jr. ”Trevor has worked to pass major federal legislation in support of our troops and he put party aside to get the job done. This is the fresh and progressive leadership we need today.”
Governor Granholm seems to get what this race is about.
Steve Pestka, Thomas’ primary opponent, will announce today. Given the DOJ events later in the day, I’m not able to rearrange my schedule to attend that announcement. But it looks like things are heating up (finally) in the 3rd.
Even as Rick Santorum was losing MI, largely because he attacked women’s autonomy, the same local operative who told me I wasn’t well-informed enough to express an opinion on my own congressional district’s politics was telling Howie Klein he should not criticize Trevor Thomas’ presumed primary challenger, Steve Pestka, for his anti-choice views. Here’s what Howie said:
Today we now know Trevor will have a challenger for the Democratic nomination. Steve Pestka, who has started talking to the local media about his campaign, may be a nominal Democrats… but not when it comes to equality for women. This guy is an anti-Choice fanatic of the Bart Stupak school of misogyny. MIRS, the Michigan political news service, reported:
We reported earlier this month about rumors that folks with the local Grand Rapids establishment were looking at an anti-Choice, multimillionaire conservative who’d run on the Democratic ticket. It’s now clear they found Pestka. They apparently miss the fact that this election is going to be about the working and middle class families hurting right now– not millionaires like Pestka and Amash– and it’s quickly now turning to the rights of women.
Trevor is the fighting progressive we need. He comes from a working class family and he has a record of helping to pass major federal legislation, namely the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he needs our help to be the nominee against Amash. As we know, early dollars are critical. Let’s help spread the word and work to stop this faux-Democratic challenge and stand by our party’s platform to help protect women now.
And here’s what Phil Skaggs wrote on Facebook:
Trevor Thomas, I’m calling on you to publicly disavow this attack on Steve Pestka. To call someone who has been a Democratic County Commissioner, a Democratic State Representative, and a supporter of Democratic and progressive candidates for decades a “nominal Democrats” [sic] and a misogynist is simply juvenile and “not consistent with the facts.”
Trevor, when Marcy Wheeler called Grand Rapids Democrats “bigots” for not immediately supporting you, you told me personally that you did not tell her anything of the sort and didn’t believe such things about us. But, again and again, your friends and surrogates have attacked hard-working, long-time Democrats and progressives in Kent County. Steve Pestka is a West Michigan Democrat with West Michigan values. The last thing we need are folks coming from Washington and Lansing carpet-bagging here with their hyper-partisan rhetoric and hatred. That’s not our way.
Trevor Thomas, I call on you to publicly demand that your friends stop their negative and personal attacks on Grand Rapids Democrats and Steve Pestka.
Note, Skaggs didn’t dispute that Pestka is anti-choice. He just objects that someone insulted what he calls Pestka’s “West Michigan values” using language Howie has used to describe Dems across the country–including far more conservative areas than Grand Rapids–who believe women should not have autonomy.
Now, first of all, you’d think Skaggs would be honest enough to mention I apologized (both in a post and to him directly via email) for using the word “bigot.” Apparently, repeated good faith apologies are not enough for him. Or, he prefers to dishonestly leave the impression that I haven’t apologized.
But I’m even more offended that Skaggs talked to Trevor about my post, as if those two men were in charge of what I was allowed to say or not, as if Trevor (or frankly, anyone else) tells me what to say in my posts. (Maybe Phil just repeated whatever political people told him to write back when he blogged, but I do not.)
I am not Trevor’s “surrogate.” I am a voter in Grand Rapids who expressed an opinion about my own congressional district. And in response to that Skaggs told me I shouldn’t speak.
In a democracy, you see, citizens are permitted to express opinions.
I noted last week that we might have an exciting candidate–Trevor Thomas–running against Justin Amash to be my congressman.
He has officially filed his papers to run. So I now have something to officially get excited about for this election.
His video, above, really captures why I think he’ll be such a good candidate.
That’s my city!
(Well, there are a few shots of Battle Creek, home of Kellogg’s, which is also in the district; also, don’t tell anyone, but my building has a cameo in the video but Trevor doesn’t know that).
The video captures the mix that Grand Rapids is: factories, lots of them closed, and an increasingly funky downtown and neighborhoods. It’s a great mix of Midwestern grit and funky revival, a mix of struggle and optimism.
And that’s what Trevor’s story is too: he comes from a family of working people. But he’s also thrived in this newer economy. He will fight for the working people in the area who have been struggling, but he’ll also be able to lead in new directions.
Here’s his website. You’ll be hearing more about Trevor from me.
A funny thing happened when I wrote that I was excited that Trevor Thomas might run for the 3rd Congressional District because he was involved in one of the most exciting underdog victories progressives have had in recent years.
A local Democratic activist (he’s known me for years but apparently hasn’t followed what I’ve been up to) left a comment telling me I had to have the humanity to talk to some people in West Michigan before I spoke about the race. He followed that with a comment claiming I’ve just lived in Grand Rapids for 16 days so I “simply do not have a well-informed take on West Michigan.” (This, at a time when I’ve got a post up reminding Pete Hoekstra about the Laotian-Americans in his own town.)
Now, for any other Democrats who don’t want to bother reading my posts or consulting the voter rolls or lists of MDP members with West Michigan addresses, let me correct the mistaken impression that I’ve lived here just 16 days: I’ve lived in West Michigan for 18 months. I moved to Holland in August 2010, then moved to Grand Rapids last April because I liked its mix of artsy culture and Midwestern grit. As I walk every day though some of the most Democratic neighborhoods in the city, I’ve learned to love the city.
Sure, I haven’t lived in Grand Rapids long, but I’m the kind of person who has been moving to this city of late. I’m the kind of person who has begun to make the city more Democratic. I’m one of many kinds of people local Dems need to understand if they want to understand how their city is changing and how we can win the 3rd CD in November.
I probably shouldn’t have used the word “bigot” in my original post and I apologize that I did. But let me explain why I was upset by the impression that the local party doesn’t want a pro-choice candidate on the Democratic ticket here in Grand Rapids. I’ve lived in MI a long time now. I’m very familiar with the argument that says there’s a particular kind of Midwestern Democrat that is great on economic issues but may be anti-choice, the argument that says women just have to suck it up and accept that.
But then, in 2009, one of those otherwise great Dems, Bart Stupak, decided to risk blowing up the Health Insurance Reform Bill to make sure he got to dictate to women in every congressional district in this country what kind of medical care they could get. One of those otherwise great Dems made it the law in this country that there should be medical insurance, and then separate medical insurance for the lady parts.
Since that time, women have been told more and more they just have to suck it up, sacrifice autonomy over their own medical care because other issues are more important. Our Democratic President ignored the science on Plan B. Planned Parenthood has become the new ACORN. And Republicans have pursued the latter effort even at the expense of cancer patients.
So I apologize I used the word bigot. But let me make one thing clear: I will not take kindly to the Democratic party telling me paternalistically I just have to suck it up, it knows what’s best for Grand Rapids and me and my lady parts. There are far too many women in this country who are losing medical care for things that go far beyond abortion and contraception for that to be acceptable this year.
My lady parts will be voting this year.
First, we might finally have exciting news in my congressional district, where the party has thus far failed to recruit anyone to run against the unpopular Justin Amash even after his own party put a target on his back by making the district more Democratic. One of the key players in the successful DADT fight, Trevor Thomas, is thinking of challenging Amash. Now, local Dems are worried about an out gay and pro-choice man carrying the Democratic banner. Even aside from the bigotry implied by that worry, they don’t seem to be thinking about the benefit of having such a proven campaign winner carrying the banner of working people. Don’t our working men and women deserve the same kind of successful advocate that our gay service members got? (Trevor was also involved in Jennifer Granholm’s thumping of Dick DeVos in 2006, so he knows how to win locally, too.)
Trevor is reportedly going to make his decision in the next few days. If and when he announces, you can expect to hear more from me about him, because I’d be genuinely excited about this race.
Meanwhile, speaking of bigots, here’s the stupid, racist ad I’m going to be treated to during the Super Bowl. Continue reading