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Civility -- and Why Bobby Rush Should Be the Ranking Communications Subcommittee Member

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"I do believe there is hope for civility. I do believe there is hope for progress and that's because I believe in the resiliency of a nation that has bounced back from much worse than what it is going through right now."

Those were President Obama's words in the wake of one of the most uncivil election seasons since the early 1800's.

Almost all of the uncivil rhetoric that infected political discourse this year came from the right.

What was the most common uncivil slur? Fabricating "questions" as a substitute for actual facts. "Was Obama born in Kenya?" "Is he a Muslim and a Communist?" "Will health care kill Granny?"

This is right wing talk. It's not us. It's not who we are.

And we progressives can't flinch in calling out our own when they stoop to that.

So, with the greatest respect, I am going to call out ColorofChange's James Rucker for denouncing Congressman Bobby Rush's candidacy for Ranking Member of the House Communications, Technology and the Internet (CTI) Subcommittee.

The basis for Rucker's objection: Rush has opposed one of the six elements of net neutrality.

Yet that position is on all fours with the Open Internet policy endorsed by the labor unions, all the minority intergovernmental organizations and virtually every national civil rights organization except ColorofChange.

The congressman has supported five of the six Open Internet principles, but he's quite properly concerned about the FCC's proposed economic non-discrimination principle on jobs, on minority online entrepreneurship, and on broadband access, affordability and adoption by the poor.

These are reasonable concerns that demonstrate Congressman Rush's commitment to underserved communities and low income people who are not online. While these people are not representative of Color of Change's many online members, Rush's commitment to them should hardly disqualify him from congressional leadership.

Congressman Rush's well thought out concerns surely do not fit Rucker's fabricated charges against him.

This all leads me to wonder: When did progressives start drinking tea?

And of all people, Bobby Rush did nothing to deserve Rucker's or anyone else's smear campaign. Complete integrity and not a hint of impropriety throughout his 18 years in Congress. A consistent A+ NAACP and ADA voting record. Strong opponent of Bush-era affronts to democracy and free expression. Led the fight against telecom redlining. Wrote the disadvantaged business provision in the broadband stimulus bill. Fought to restore the minority media and telecom tax certificate. The strongest critic of weak civil rights enforcement at the FCC.

Bobby Rush has more than earned the ranking membership. And James Rucker should consider the difference between hubris and humility.

David Honig is the co-founder of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications and broadband industries, and closing the digital divide.