Sunday, July 22, 2007

From the Grass Roots to the House of Representatives

When Cindy Sheehan "came out of retirement" to announce that she would run against Nancy Pelosi as an independent if the Speaker did not move to impeach George Bush by July 23, I was not sure how to react. Since I live in California's Eighth Congressional District, this would affect me personally. However, this also means I know a thing or two about the cost of declaring residency in the District; and I wondered whether or not Ms. Sheehan had factored that into her plans (and that would be before worrying about financing an actual campaign). In other words I reacted as someone who appreciates passion, particularly when it involves my own strong beliefs, but also recognizes that passion has to be balanced against pragmatics. Now I actually had several reasons for not voting for Ms. Pelosi last November, but one of them was that I knew that the polls were giving her a pretty safe majority. Thus I could use my own ballot to register discontent without jeopardizing Pelosi's chances, and I still believe that this was a good thing to do. So the pragmatist in me could not help but wonder to what extent Ms. Sheehan was thinking beyond the passion of the moment to the consequences of her action.

Today, the day before the "deadline" she declared, she published an opinion piece in the "Insight" section of the San Francisco Chronicle; and it provides at least some indication of the extent of such thoughts since the made the announcement a couple of weeks ago. She began by raising the question of whether or not her announcement had prompted support:

The feedback I have been receiving since I announced that I would challenge U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, for her House seat -- unless she gives impeachment the go-ahead -- has been running about 3-to-1 positive.

Some people have offered to quit their jobs to move to California's Eighth Congressional District to help my possible campaign. People are lining up to donate and help, and I am again very grateful and touched beyond belief by the generosity and energy of my fellow Americans.

My guess is that her numbers are pretty informal. We do not even know if that 3-to-1 ratio is based on a statistically valid sample space; and while I am sure that people are "lining up to donate and help," we have no good way of assessing the extent of either their checkbooks or the amount of personal time they are willing to commit. Then, of course, there is my initial question of moving into the District in time to change the base of the electorate already there. At least Ms. Sheehan confirmed that she had given this factor of the equation some thought!

However, there is also a question of the mentality that Ms. Sheehan would be bringing behind her challenge. This is where I found a paragraph that made me a bit nervous:

I was a lifelong Democrat only because the choices were limited. The Democrats are the party of slavery and were the party that started every war in the 20th century, except the other Bush debacle. The Federal Reserve, permanent federal income taxes, not one but two World Wars, Japanese concentration camps, and not one but two atom bombs dropped on the innocent citizens of Japan -- all brought to us via the Democrats.

This is where I worry that the balance between passion and pragmatics has been knocked way out of kilter (or, as they probably still say in the military, "fouled up [or words to that effect] beyond all recognition"). What particularly concerns me is the way she lumped the Federal Reserve, perhaps the most important effort in regulation to stave off a repetition of the Great Depression, in with the two World Wars (the second of which had been supported by some of the most extreme opponents to the first due to the nature of the enemy) and the Japanese internment camps created out of the same irrational passions that now drive our "homeland security" policy. Pragmatism is, among other things, a matter of finding an appropriate perspective from which to assess every situation. Perspective is one of those traits that is sorely lacking in our current Executive Branch. It is more present in the Legislative Branch because, if nothing else, the new leadership has enabled more exchange of perspectives than the previous set of puppets to gave the Executive everything without question.

This brings me to my strongest fear, which is that Ms. Sheehan is no better than President Bush when it comes to making decisions. Both of them are ruled by their passions, and the fact that Ms. Sheehan's passions are closer to my own is not a determining issue. For all the unpleasant qualities that a "political animal" must have, just by the nature of the work, I would rather be represented by such an animal than by a candidate who speaks from the heart, however much I may sympathize with what her heart tells her.

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