Wednesday, November 01, 2006

X Factor

One of the challenging things about political parties in America is that candidates vary so widely that sometimes the party label doesn't mean that much. Other times candidates just try to make it seem that way. Here in Maryland, a U.S. Senate candidate other than Democratic nominee Ben Cardin recently did an interview for FreeStatePolitics.

Kevin Zeese doesn’t seem like a zealot to me. In fact, if you actually listen to what he says, what he writes, what he works for, Zeese seems pretty reasonable in a progressive, populist way and makes some good arguments. But Zeese is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate backed by the Maryland Libertarian, Populist, and Green parties, so we haven’t heard much about him. Since we've interviewed, profiled, and promoted lots of Democrats including long-shot congressional candidates like Jim Corwin in the 1st and Andrew Duck in the 6th, it might be interesting for you to hear about the long-shot U.S. Senate candidate who has a lot to say.

Zeese earns the Populist endorsement of his candidacy when he offers a cogent critique of how the economic deck is stacked against working and middle class Americans, and a call for progressive taxation:

I see the nation as rigging the economy for the wealthiest. We have funneled the money of the middle class up, especially over the last two decades. Currently the top 1% has the same wealth as the bottom 95% of Americans combined. I have several steps I would want to take to create a 21st Century economy. If we do not take steps urgently to transform our economy we will not be economic leaders in the future.

On taxes, I want to see the first $100,000 of income to be federal income tax free. This is how the income tax began -- it was only a tax on the top 2% when it started. By not taxing the first $100,000 we would be given most Americans a 22% raise -- a tremendous spur to the economy. This costs the Treasury $380 Billion annually. I'd replace that with a tiny micro-tax of 1/10th of 1% on Wall Street investments -- stock, bonds, currency and derivatives (options). A tiny micro tax on the purchase of these instruments would raise 1.2 Trillion annually. And, it would lead to taxing the investor class more and the working class less.

On corporate welfare, currently more than $300 billion per year, I would transform that into taxpayer investment and model a program on the successful Alaska Permanent Trust that shares the oil wealth of Alaska and has been doing so since 1978. The national permanent trust would take a small percentage of the profit of corporations that get taxpayer investment and invest it. Then each year every American would get a share of that profit. In Alaska in some years each person gets $2,000 -- a family of 5 gets $10,000. That is money for down payment on a home, starting a business, paying tuition or paying off debt. Alaska is the only state in the nation where the rich-poor divide has not expanded in the last decade. This would create a real ownership society that would share the wealth of America.

Zeese argues for making the tough but necessary decisions to invest in clean, sustainable energy and in our weakening infrastructure, changes that “create jobs that cannot be sent overseas and will put in place a system that will allow a more fair sharing of the wealth. Our GDP is expected to grow by 3 or 4 times over this Century. If we do not make changes like this we will continue to expand the rich poor divide and funnel money to the top.” He argues for fixing education and having a national health care plan (single payer) by using the money from ending the occupation in Iraq and corporate welfare. Zeese has harsh words for those unwilling to step up to the plate: "On health care, the answer is so obvious that the failure to enact it is proof of our elected officials put the profits of their campaign donors ahead of the need of the people." He remind us that "We pay more per person on health care than any country in the world but waste 25% on unneeded health insurance bureaucracy."

While underdog challengers often have strong words for those they wish to overtake, Zeese is particularly pointed in his indictment of the current political system and its leading players, citing them as a major motivation for his run. “I've worked for thirty years trying to change the country for the better on a variety of issues. And, I've found that even if you have the facts and common sense on your side -- or even majority support -- you get ignored as the elected officials only listen to the monied interests that fund their campaigns and not the voters. So, we need to challenge them in their power and get people elected who will put the people’s interests first.”

While most of us believe that the U.S. Senate race is between Cardin and Steele, Zeese is eager to take on the idea that Marylanders have only two options, saying “I want them to know that the only wasted vote is a vote for someone you do not believe in. If you oppose the war, the Patriot Act, corporate welfare, militarism, want health care for all, expanded free education, fair taxation -- then you will not get it from either of my status quo competitors. You will only get change from me as I am the only real change candidate. When I listen to my opponents they both describe themselves as "independent" "challenging the special interests" -- Cardin claims to be an "anti-war candidate" and "protector of civil liberties" -- these are all false claims -- but it shows that they know that is what voters want. I am all those things. So, if enough voters vote for what they want we really have a chance of getting what we want.”

While some might question how one independent could make a change in politics or policy, Zeese proclaims that his “election would give hope to independent politics -- something polls say most Americans want. And, it may wake up the two parties to start listening to the people rather than the money. And, in a close Senate my vote would be sought after by both sides. I think I'd have more power than someone who is a reliable Republican or reliable Democratic vote.” And he's not wrong -- a Zeese victory or even a showing outside of the low single digits would energize independents and others on the margins of politics.

While most political pundits are wondering if the Republican nominee in a usually Democratic state can win, Kevin Zeese argues that “Three-way races are unpredictable” and that in the debates he thinks his message has resonated with activists and voters.

I want all voters to think of themselves as historical actors who actions -- whose votes -- really matter at this critical time in history. I want them to think -- if it was 1850 would I vote for one of the two status quo parties that favored slavery (the Democrats and the Whigs) or would I vote for the abolition parties? And, then think, 50 years from now do you want to be remembered as someone who voted for the corporate-Democrat or the corporate-Republican at a time when the central issue of our times is corporate control of government. Or do you want to vote for someone who will really create a government of, by and for the people. I think the answer is obvious -- don't throw your vote away on a corporate candidate who will not make the fundamental changes that are needed in our government.

Kevin Zeese may be a longshot, but he's got some good ideas and a lot of dedication to making a difference.


Blogger Stephanie Dray said...

If he were a progressive who wanted to make a difference, he should have run in the Maryland Democratic Primary. I probably would have voted for him.

But he didn't, and now he is a distraction and a nuisance at a time when our nation is in far too much peril to play around.

11/01/2006 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger Heather said...


The real distraction is the corporate dollars that are funding the front runners in this race-Democrats and Republicans are both being funded by special interests.

If you would have voted for Zeese just because he was a candidate in the Democratic Primary, then that is exactly why the Democrats should examine the candidates they are supporting. Democrats and Republicans are taking registered voters for granted.

I have been working for 9 months on the Zeese for Senate campaign to get Kevin elected, because he is the candidate that best represents the values and issues of Maryland Voters: health care for all, troops out of Iraq, free college education, first $100,000 of income federal income tax free, internet free from corporate control, and ending the failed war on drugs.

Check out the following link for more information:

I hope that you can vote for the candidate that best represents your issues on November 7th.


11/02/2006 12:49:00 AM  
Blogger howie said...

Zeese doesn't represent my convictions, or even his own.

How's that libertarian conversion coming?

If Zeese had gone into the debates and made his points while attacking the platforms of BOTH major party candidates, I could have respected him. He instead played tag team partner with Steele.

My conviction is that Kevin Zeese is a lowdown political opportunist who will take the nomination of any party to get his name out there (Mr. Goebbels is on line one, Mr. Zeese!) . My conviction is that vote for Zeese helps Michael Steele keep that war going and helps Michael Steele earn the right to vote for Senate bills to help his corporate friends and stick it to the rest of us.

I am voting my convictions on Tuesday.

11/02/2006 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger MikeHersh said...

Ben Cardin's Record - Voting for Progress in Congress

Maryland progressives and liberals know Ben Cardin's record of long public service. Polls show Maryland's US Senate contest is very close, and our choice for Senator in Maryland could tip the entire Congress from Republican to Democrat. With all this at stake, it's helpful to have some facts and figures to use when discussing the US Senate race with other people who may not understand politics and candidates as well as we do.

Cardin's Americans for Democratic Action ratings average 95% over the past five years. Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) and-WILL gave Cardin a 98% - the same as Jim McGovern and Bernie Sanders. Their mission: "WAND was founded in 1982 as Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament. With the end of the cold war, we became Women's Action for New Directions, and have been dedicating our energies to redirect federal budget priorities away from the military and toward human needs."

NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood rated Cardin 100% every year from 1995 to date. Cardin scores in the high 80s or above on animal welfare and wildlife issues on every groups' rankings every year from 2000 to date save 2. Ben Cardin earned high scores from impressive, important organizations for his progressive voting record. The following are some of the highlights:

In 2006 Citizens for Global Solutions gave Representative Cardin a rating of A+. "Citizens for Global Solutions envisions a future in which nations work together to abolish war, protect our rights and freedoms, and solve the problems facing humanity that no nation can solve alone. This vision requires effective democratic global institutions that will apply the rule of law while respecting the diversity and autonomy of national and local communities."

The Friends Committee on National Legislation says Cardin earned a 100 percent voting record in 2005-2006. "The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) is a public interest lobby founded in 1943 by members of the Religious Society of Friends. FCNL seeks to bring the concerns, experiences and testimonies of Friends (called Quakers) to bear on policy decisions in the nation's capital." They express their mission in verse: "We seek a world free of war and the threat of war / We seek a society with equity and justice for all / We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled / We seek an earth restored."

The FCNL assessed Cardin's voting record and found that he voted for "a world free of war and the threat of war" and all the rest every single time. So did several other peace organizations. Nuclear Age Peace Foundation 100 percent in 2004. "The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) a non-profit organization with offices in Santa Barbara, California in the United States. Our goals constitute four principle areas: (1) the abolition of nuclear weapons, (2) strengthening international law and institutions, (3) using technology responsibly and sustainably, and (4) empowering youth to become the next generation of peace leaders."

PeacePAC 100 percent in 2003-2004. "While the mission of PeacePAC remains the same -- the elimination of weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means -- PeacePAC has officially joined forces with our long-time sister organization, Council for a Livable World. PeacePAC will continue to focus on the House of Representatives and the Council will work with the U.S. Senate " Peace Action 100 percent in 2003. "As the nation's largest grassroots peace group we get results: from the 1963 treaty to ban above ground nuclear testing, to the 1996 signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, from ending the war in Vietnam, to blocking weapons sales to human rights abusing countries."

Bread for the World 100 percent from 1999-2004. "Bread for the World is a nationwide Christian citizens movement seeking justice for the world's hungry people by lobbying our nation's decision makers. BFW Institute seeks justice for hungry people by engaging in research and education on policies related to hunger and development." Another FOUR perfect peace voting records by Ben Cardin as assessed by another FOUR peace organizations.

U.S. Public Interest Research Group 95 percent in 2005-2006. "U.S. PIRG is an advocate for the public interest. When consumers are cheated, or our natural environment is threatened, or the voices of ordinary citizens are drowned out by special interest lobbyists, U.S. PIRG speaks up and takes action. We uncover threats to public health and well-being and fight to end them, using the time-tested tools of investigative research, media exposés, grassroots organizing, advocacy and litigation. U.S. PIRG's mission is to deliver persistent, result-oriented public interest activism that protects our environment, encourages a fair, sustainable economy, and fosters responsive, democratic government." U.S. PIRG counted up the votes and gave Ben Cardin credit for standing with grassroots progressives.

Service Employees International Union 100 percent in 2006. "Our union political action program is independent of the Democrats or Republicans or any other party. Our goal is to keep the heat on all politicians to do what's right for working people. We're working together to...
--Strengthen Social Security and Medicare to guarantee the benefits we've been promised.
--Make quality health care affordable and available to everyone.
--Improve public services through better management and training for public employees not by bringing in outside profiteers with backdoor connections to politicians.
--Protect workers’ freedom to choose to have a voice at work by joining a union."

SEIU measured Cardin's voting record and said he was always on our side working to make "quality health care affordable and available to everyone" and "do[ing] what's right for working people." Vote after vote after vote. Perfect record.

Same from the Alliance for Retired Americans 100 percent in 2004-2005. "The mission of the Alliance for Retired Americans is to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens so that they may enjoy lives of dignity, personal and family fulfillment and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities." Ben Cardin voted to "ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens" without fail.

Council on American-Islamic Relations 100 percent in 2005. "CAIR's mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding." They reviewed all of Cardin's votes and found he stood up for them and their mission every single time.

Cardin or Steele - that's the choice and it's no contest

Ben Cardin steadfastly opposes "school vouchers." He voted to "sunset" provisions of the Patriot Act. He supports a women's right to choose against any encroachment. He opposed every one of Bush's enrich-the-rich tax give-aways. Liberal/Progressive vs. right wing extreme. Peace or war. Help for regular people vs. rewarding the idle rich Republican campaign contributors. Freedom rather than tyranny. That's Ben Cardin's real record, refuting Steele's and others' self-serving misrepresentations and fabrications.

Michael Steele would bring a Rove-reliable vote the OPPOSITE way on EVERY ONE of these issues to the U.S. Senate and vote for extremists to the leadership which sets the agenda and runs the committees and subcommittees which enable or block legislation, judicial nominees and much more.

The "Zeese Factor"

The Baltimore Sun published a "valentine" to Kevin Zeese, "Senate candidate Zeese running hard -- uphill" by Matthew Hay Brown October 9, 2006. The Sun loaded the article with quotes from Zeese and his supporters. Still, these quotes stand out:

Zeese says, "I'm not predicting it. But even if I get something as little as 5 percent, it will be a message to the two parties...."

Green Party Co-Chairman Tim Willard says, "It would take a miracle, but that's what we're shooting for."

"I don't expect him to poll more than 2 or 3 percent," says James G. Gimpel, a professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Hoping for a miracle is not a viable electoral strategy. It's not worth gambling that Zeese might possibly get 5% or even 10% in hopes that such a result will "send a message" to anyone. What "message" would be sent anyway? The "message" to Democrats sounds like, "I'll help your right wing opponent win even if you vote against wars, oppose 'trickle down' tax giveaways to the wealthy elite, or fight to protect public schools and women's lives and dignity! I'll teach you to vote that way!"

Well, Ben Cardin already knows how to vote that way. That's his record. No "message" needed. The "message" to Republicans sounds like, "Stay the course, Dubya! Keep lying while people keep dying, Condi! You're doing a heck of job, Rummy! Don't worry Mister Cheney, Kevin Zeese has your back!" Why ask Maryland voters to send "messages" like that when Karl Rove is already doing that? It's not worth devaluing a vote into such a miserable "message." As a progressive who doesn't have the luxury of "sending a message" of dubious clarity with my precious vote, voting for Kevin Zeese makes no sense to me. It's not worth perpetuating the extreme right wing power monopoly to "send a message."

So what about the things Kevin Zeese says about Ben Cardin in debates and interviews? I know Kevin personally, and while he does tend to fly off the handle, he's a smart guy. I urged Kevin to articulate his positions on the issues - rather than misrepresent others' positions - and let the voters decide. I hope he follows my advice. I also hope he and his advocates rethink their quixotic "send a message" rhetoric.

Kevin is smart enough to know he has no chance to win this race. Kevin and his ardent supporters get very angry when I report all this even though they must understand it's the truth. I expect another batch of harsh email after this, but there's too much at stake to let friendship win out over the State's and Nation's critical needs. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about anyway, even Kevin admits he doesn't expect to get 5% of the vote. He just sent me an angry email calling all the above organizations "Democratic front groups" asking, "Have any of these groups done anything except support the Democratic Party when it comes to elections?"

Spreading false assertions about Cardin and attacking people and organizations working for peace and progress can't help Kevin win, but it might tip the election to Steele. That is a miserable and regressive strategy, but no one can stop Kevin from doing that. I don't expect Zeese to drop out of the race, but I do hope he and his supporters will stick to the facts and stop making misleading and irresponsible attacks on Ben Cardin.

Vote Your Hopes In This Critically Important Contest

I understand frustration, impatience, and even anger with politics. I get emails from people saying Ben Cardin hasn't lived up to their expectations and perhaps they have reason for disappointment. Even with his voting record, there are always some who aren't satisfied. Even considering all of that, I hope people vote with their heart and brain, not vent their spleen. I am asking all Progressives in Maryland to vote our hopes and vote for peace and progress. This is a contest as important as it is close. Our choice in the Cardin vs. Steele race could change the course of history. What we do here in Maryland could change the leadership in the Senate. As a fulltime activist working hard on a wide range of issues, I know it will be much easier to make progress with a Senator Cardin than a Senator Steele.

For the millions who lack health care and remain at risk because the reckless, heartless right wing policies. For the millions more who care about those in need. For everyone who wants to keep abortion legal and safe. For people who care about civil rights, equal rights, women's rights, freedom, ending the war and so much more. There's only one real choice. For real progressives, liberals, and those who care about these and so many other imperatives, that choice is not "sending a message" with a vote. That choice is clear. It means voting to send Ben Cardin - not Michael Steele - to the Senate.

11/02/2006 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Mdman said...

Wow, Mike, you summed it up pretty well. It's been my belief all along. Cardin is a public service we can all be proud of, smart, principaled and hard working.

11/02/2006 01:03:00 PM  

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