Mike Thompson, our very own Congressional Representative, recently signed on to a letter asking Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers to begin Impeachment hearings on Cheney who from all reports is still trying to throw that long ball into Iran. This puts Mike more or less in the vanguard of a still weak Congressional movement led by Florida Congressman Robert Wexler and overwhelmingly made up of Progressive Caucus members (13 out of 19 signers). Mike is the only Blue Dog caucus member to take this step and he deserves our approval in breaking ranks with his conservative band of Democrats who can always be counted on to support Bush and the Empire in just the right numbers.
For instance, Mike’s Blue Dogs showed their muscle recently when 80% of them (36 of 48) voted to appropriate additional billions for the Iraq war in 2008, giving the Republicans a secure majority. Mike was absent on hospital leave but he has consistently voted against the yearly appropriation. In fact Mike became number 83 or 84 among the 100 plus Congressional signers of Progressive leader Lynn Woolsey’s manifesto to only fund the Iraq war to bring the troops home. Another reason to cheer him on.
Mike is a very intelligent politician. He may hang with the Dogs, but he is often quick to vote with the Progs. Some of us may wonder what secret thrill Mike gets from clanking his can of Coors with the Curs, but in fact his two-faced approach may be a major reason he has risen in the estimation of insiders to be among the couple dozen most influential members of Congress. His pivotal positioning has enabled him to make the kind of assists that builds a reputation as a valuable team player.
Up to now this strategy has worked superbly in his district where no very serious challenge has surfaced among fellow Democrats. Having a slam dunk district- with only vanity Republican candidates to run against - has left him free to raise large amounts of money and spend it on other people’s campaigns. As with Pelosi, being a champion fund-raiser is another sure ticket to leadership in the Party.
The political landscape however is changing daily. Since the 2006 elections people have come to expect results. The old game – where Mike is for impeachment but won’t do anything about it - is bankrupt. Dissent in the antiwar, impeachment and 911 Truth movements can no longer be stifled by the Good Cop Bad Cop charades that still terrify many activists in the older labor, women’s, environment, Gay and Civil Rights Movements. We even have a candidate for President who dares the unthinkable – raises our expectations!
This year, besides strong challenges from without by the Green Party, Mike is being challenged from within the Democratic Party. Coast resident Mitch Clogg has entered the contest and will face Mike on the June primary ballot. Democratic Party voters will now have a chance to choose someone who hasn’t made a career running with the Republican Lite Brigade. This is after all a Congressional District that rejected the Lieberman Liberalism of the Clintons by a decent margin. Now voters will have a chance to support someone like Mitch who won’t just be dragging his feet at Obama’s heels. Congressman Clogg could be a significant player pushing President Obama to actualize significant changes.
Congressman Clogg could even be part of a fresh class of Congress members willing to finally rid the Legislature of its current complicit Democratic leadership. This is the leadership - a la Speaker Pelosi - that knew all about waterboarding. (No wonder impeachment has been off their wet little Democratic Party table.) This is a party where Progressives – whose caucus numbers 70 – totally bought into the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Actof 2007, Pete Stark and Dennis Kucinich excepted. (Jane Harman, Congresswoman for the Rand Corp. which penned this Act, is trying out for the Joe McCarthy part where crimethinkers from the antiglobalist, environmentalist, animal activist, anarchist and 911 Truth movements are among the explicit targets. Jane had a ringside seat along with sister Pelosi a couple years ago when various Congress people were let in on the wonders of waterboarding.)
Mike meanwhile has a long way to go before he satisfies those of us who have been demonstrating weekly at his offices in Eureka and Ft. Bragg. He has made it a strategy to be out of step with his constituents, preferring to throw in his lot with the little Blue Dog clique of Reagan Democrats who for some reason couldn’t make the transition to the Republican Party in their districts.
Although Mike may be moving to Party Center as a member of its leadership, this means he is only too willing to vote yes on bills like the Peruvian Free Trade agreement. The party leadership pushed hard for that bill and indeed got it – but the majority of the Democrats in the House broke ranks and rebelled.
This is an agreement which will force Peruvian farmers to compete with highly subsidized American products like cotton, corn and wheat and also undermines public health efforts in that country by restricting generic drug competition, which will increase prices for new medicines in Peru.
Corporate agribusiness and pharmaceuticals will prosper but of course U.S. workers can expect more of the same in the way of job loss produced by Clinton’s NAFTA where five years ago the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, DC, estimated had eliminated 879,000 jobs.
Mike has not been the principled fair trader we need in Congress. He has voted for free trade agreements with Chile, Singapore and the Andes Preference extension. His stand on the WTO has been ambiguous. Its time for Progressives and leftists to question support for an incumbent whose closest cronies are Dixiecrats. This is not the “Deep North,” is it?
Note: this is guest commentary. Paul Encimer is District 1 peace and social justice activist.
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Mike Thompson is the current elected member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 1st Congressional District.