Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ruben vs. Raskin

Dear Readers,

The incumbent and the challenger each successfully raised serious doubts about the other at the July 20th Takoma Voice sponsored debate between State Senator Ida Ruben and challenger Jamie Raskin.

Each made a credible case for him- or herself, but each did a much better job making a credible case AGAINST the other. Ida Ruben does indeed talk as though she’s a cog in the party machine system. Jamie Raskin does make grandiose statements that are a bit naive, and he does sound as though he thinks he is or wishes he were running for higher office.

Sen. Ruben makes no bones about her ability to work the system, though she took umbrage at being called a “machine” politician, and cited examples of independent votes she has cast. But in the course of the forum she hammered on two points: “Budget-and-Tax,” her pet name for the powerful Senate Budget and Tax Committee, of which she is a member. and the millions, and millions, and millions more she has “brought home" to District 20, as easily as you or I might say we’d brought home a bag of groceries from the co-op. She even bragged that she knew about back-room deals.

Mr. Raskin was shocked by the very idea of back room deals and assured the voters that he would never be involved in such. He would accomplish his progressive agenda, not with back-room deals, but with coalition building. Ms Rueben scoffed at this, citing examples of her own coalition building. Coalitions are fine, she said, but they don’t always hold together, in which case a politician needs other tactics. Mr. Raskin came out of that exchange looking a bit pollyanna-ish in Gilbert’s opinion.

Sen. Rubin’s intimation that Mr. Raskin . . . continued at granolapark

- Gilbert

PS. Don't miss the last post's pithy comments on several candidates:

"George Leventhal. . . , besides being one of the evil End-Gridlockers, gets a lot of credit for promoting other environmental programs, notably getting Montgomery County to obtain a percentage of its energy from renewable resources such as wind-power. George proves it is possible to walk the right path even with one's head up one's . . . um, in the dark.

"Ida Ruben, incumbent candidate for District 20 State Senator, stayed in her convertible, waving and smiling. Her supporters bobbed their yellow balloons at her (most of them in this case being too young to vote, but old enough to reach out for a free balloon). Some cheered her, including an old friend of Gilbert's, a resident of District 20 but not of Takoma Park, who is less than impressed with Ruben's challenger, Takoma Park's own Jamie Raskin. He grumbled that Raskin seemed to be campaigning against George Bush, not Ida Ruben. He found this to be presumptuous and inappropriate. . . .

"The man who covets her seat, Jamie Raskin, prowled the sidelines of the parade route, looking very much the earnest-man-of-the-people in his shiny white shirt and tie (no coat, and shirtsleeves rolled up, of course). Dozens of blue-t-shirted campaign volunteers went the rounds with him, or in other groups. His signs were more numerous than mushrooms after a heavy rain. The smell of inevitable victory drifted through the air like the sweet, appetite-rousing scent of a neighbor’s barbecue.

"Meanwhile, city councilmember Joy Austin-Lane has dropped out of the county council race, and Marc Elrich is still running, but, this week anyway, for an at-large seat, not for county district 5. His fans were everywhere - both the human and cooling sort. His effort is not as giddy as Raskin's, though he is also a favorite son.

Both Austin-Lane and Elrich jumped off the track the moment Valerie Ervin, aka "Astroturf Val," declared her District 5 candidacy. Astroturf Val is on the county Board of Education (though she has served a mere 19 months of her term). Until recently she was chief of staff to county councilmember George Leventhal, and as such already has a close working relationship with the existing council, all of whom, she says, endorse her. The head of CASA endorses her (signaling that she will carry the torch of Tom Perez, the departing District 5 representative who has strongly represented Latino interests). Joy Austin-Lane has endorsed her and even joined her campaign rather than run against her. Clearly, Astroturf Val is the Anointed One.

Why then, is Gilbert filled with foreboding? Despite her reputation as a progressive and her endorsements from All The Right People, Gilbert is troubled by a number of things. Not least of these is the feeling that the advantage she enjoys in the race as a councilmember’s staff-person is not only unfair but disturbingly close to incestuous. Gilbert wonders if she would act more as a representative of the council than the citizens. More disturbing is that her rhetoric is full of phrases that sound good but don't amount to much. On transportation issues, for example, her opponent (more on him below) clearly states a plan for promoting light rail and limiting development, whereas Astroturf Val calls for “a transportation plan that makes sense.” Makes sense to who? She calls for “clean air and water and green spaces,” yet she advocates replacing the county schools’ grass playing fields with artificial turf. [Homework assignment for Ms Ervin: a one page essay on how “Urban Heat Island Effect” from artificial turf will impact on the health and safety of young players on the field and contribute to the Metro region’s artificially-high temperatures and air pollution.]

Her stump speech, as presented at the Takoma Voice candidate forum June 24, was a string of Hallmark Card platitudes, such as “The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step,” interspersed with the standard list of voter issues - safety, education, affordable housing, clean air, civility, transparency and so forth, with no actual positions stated on any of them. Then she rounded it out with a Martin Luther King quote: “"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right." Odd, since she had just said nothing remotely unsafe, impolitic, or unpopular. She finished up with the rousing yet circular and meaningless statement, “I am running . . . because it is the right thing to do.”

If this is “progressive,” I’ll eat a plate of artificial turf . . .

Her opponent Hans Riemer was also present at the parade, but campaigning on the sidelines since he is not an elected official. Riemer looks very young, but he says he is a highly accomplished activist of national stature having served as a director of the Rock the Vote voter registration group, and as a lobbyist working to defeat Bush’s Social Security reforms. These and other experiences show he is able to accomplish big things, he says to counter Ervin’s advantage as a council insider.

"Your Gilbert does get a whiff of Great Ambition from Reimer due to his national experience and the fact that he’s only been registered to vote in Montgomery County since 2004, and he wonders if the county council is just Reimer’s quick stop on the way to higher office. Still, Gilbert prefers a “progressive” candidate who backs up the claim with substantial proposals - or at least more substantial proposals than his opponent. Reimer is a staunch supporter of the Purple Line and has definite ideas about how it should be built (ground-level in Bethesda, tunneled in Silver Spring). Ervin supports the Purple Line as well, but notes the “concerns” about the routing of it in the Sligo community. Reimer says that the Purple Line is just a start, he envisions a countywide light-rail system. He wants to further the use of mass transit by encouraging the establishment of town centers that are transportation hubs. This would mean, of course, curtailing development in areas that would subvert this plan - especially in the northern part of the county, and along the route of the ICC, if it is actually built.

"Another earnest young fellow running for office is Aaron Klein, candidate for District 20 state delegate. Mr. Klein, every inch the former magnet-program student from Montgomery Blair High School, is yet another insider (congressional aid) running for office, as are most of the other new District 20 state delegate candidates (does this happen in other parts of the county, or is it a Washington, DC area phenomenon?). Aaron is another champion of the Purple Line (so far, no Purple Line opponents have surfaced). Your Gilbert has had the pleasure of chatting with him and thinks he has the Right Stuff. . . .


Blogger jsmdlawyer said...

I find your purported "review" of the Raskin-Ruben debate to be cynical, manipulative and completely contrary to the progressive principles to which you claim to hew.

Your bottom line is that local and state politics is all about money -- to be more blunt, it is all about local communities "getting paid" by pitting themselves against other local communities in what you perceive as a zero sum game. "I better get mine before they get theirs, or there won't be any left."

This is a deeply flawed and completely anti-progressive view of politics. Putting aside the entirely valid point that it is entirely consistent with Ida Ruben's worldview, it is (1) anathema to the views of the vast majority of the denizens of the community of Takoma Park, and (2) essentially Republican and more specifically Rovian in its disdain for anything more than rank self-interest as a political motivating force. What kind of progressive are you?

Full disclosure: I am a Raskin supporter. I respect those who support Ida Ruben, although I do not share their views. I believe very strongly, despite the cynicism of your post, that diverse groups cutting across geographic or ethnic or cultural communities can come together for larger political purposes, such as universal health care, an end to the death penalty, and campaign finance reform. I believe that this belief is a bedrock principle of progressive politics.

Your politics (or at least your pose) is completely at odds with your community, and utterly unworthy of it. If it's a pose, stop it. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Second point -- I found much of your purported "analysis" of the debate facile and catty, but I want to concentrate on one particularly obnoxious portion -- the idea that because Jamie Raskin went to a D.C. private school and Harvard, of all places, that he is somehow suspect in his professed allegiance to progressive principles.

First off, this is a particularly stupid, ahistorical, anti-elitist, anti-intellectual argument. Have you ever heard of Franklin Roosevelt? You know, the patrician, aristocratic guy who pretty much saved this country? Or John Kennedy. Or any of a host of other Democratic and progressive leaders who had the misfortune to be brought up in privileged surroundings.

You want to criticize Jamie Raskin, have at it, no problem. But casting aspersions on him based on his background is appalling, and once again completely anti- progressive.

Second, your criticism of him is particularly offensive in light of his ACTIONS, not his words, in support of progressive principles. For many years, he has supported students and workers and tenants and countless other PROGRESSIVE constituencies, with pro bono legal representation and other support. Is that type of action somehow suspect because of the circumstances of his upbringing?

Your conclusion that the most competitive legislative race Takoma Park and Silver Spring have seen in decades will leave us screwed either way is appalling, and unworthy of the space it occupies on the Voice website. Voters can only win and the legislative process enhanced by vigorous and serious competition for elected office. If you can't handle that, find something else to write about.

7/23/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Blogger jsmdlawyer said...

Is there some reason that you (a) refused to post my comment at either Free State or Granola Park, AND (b) refuse to respond to my request that you send me back a copy of my post?

At the very least, you can acknowledge my communications and honor my second request. Basic politeness would dictate as much.

7/27/2006 03:48:00 PM  

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