When I finally met Norman last year, after decades of reading his work, I wondered why such a smart and accomplished activist would think the U.S. House was the best place to work for progressive political change.
My own experience as a congressional representative in the early 1990s was that despite big numbers, progressives never got much traction in the corporate-dominated, money-drenched atmosphere of Washington, D.C. Even when the efforts of the numerically significant Progressive Caucus were combined with those of the Black and Hispanic caucuses, “leadership” routinely ignored our issues from campaign finance to fair trade to job creation.
Nearly 20 years later, what's changed? If anything, D.C. politics have drifted steadily to the right, and the pernicious influence of money has been even more firmly imbedded in the American political system.
I think what's changed began in the snows of Wisconsin last winter when thousands of people marched and even slept outside the state capitol in Madison to protest the union-busting politics of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The movement spread to Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and other states that faced similar threats against teachers, firefighters, police, janitors and other public sector workers from right-wing, Koch-funded governors and legislatures. The movement soon coalesced in Zucotti Park as “Occupy Wall Street” and quickly spread around the country to become the phenomenon that continues to this day, catapulting the central issue of economic justice to the forefront of the national political debate.
I trust Norman Solomon to not just sit in Congress representing the North Coast. I fully expect him to “occupy” a seat in Congress on behalf of the 99 percent. I expect this because Norman has been a student of politics and a political mover throughout his life, beginning as a youngster of 14 protesting segregation while picketing a whites-only apartment complex near his boyhood home in Maryland. Norman will stand up and fight, putting his own personal comfort and career in second place behind the needs of the people he represents. He will do this with the intellect, grace and integrity he's demonstrated throughout a distinguished career.
Norman's candidacy is endorsed by Daniel Ellsberg, Phil Donahue, Sean Penn (who narrates an excellent documentary Norman wrote and produced titled “War Made Easy”), Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva, Dolores Huerta, Jim Hightower and many local leaders. These are not just “celebrity endorsements.” These are endorsements from leading citizens of our country, who, like Norman, have lifelong commitments to improving the lives of their fellow citizens. They are also known as people who have time and again refused to knuckle under, refused to travel the road of accommodation and convenience.
With the American public finally awakening to the reality of a grossly skewed economic system, to unprecedented threats to our environment and to a corrupt political system, we need to not only play the outside game (e.g., Occupy) but also the inside game. Norman Solomon is the ideal candidate to represent us on the inside, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Another reason for my support of Norman arises out of my current work as a Mendocino County supervisor. Our county, like yours, is under severe fiscal stress. Public safety and emergency services are pressured to do more with less. Mental health services have been curtailed at an alarming rate, leaving thousands of our most vulnerable citizens literally out in the cold. A monster recession, largely brought on by government-sactioned deregulation of the financial industry, threatens our homes and jobs while eroding our tax base.
One North Coast congressman isn't going to fix these problems. But I for one want a representative who comprehends the problems we face on the deepest level and who will never resort to the sound-bite politics to which we -- the abused electorate -- have become so accustomed. Norman Solomon will give us the straight scoop because he understands how we got to this difficult place and because he possesses a clear vision of where we can and must go.
By electing Norman Solomon, we on the North Coast have the opportunity to be represented by a man who has the potential to be a great congressman. Let's not let that opportunity go by.
Dan Hamburg is a Mendocino County supervisor. He represented the North Coast in the U.S. House from 1993 to 1995.
Link to original article from the Times Standard