A few weeks ago I wrote a HuffPost piece likening the Dallas "Dream" of twenty years ago to a dream the McCain camp has been trying to sell. They've been pretending that the eight years of Bush, years to which McCain is inextricably linked, never actually happened. Well, I've lately become impressed by the real dream of another man. Russ Warner, a democratic businessman who's never before run for public office, has been working day and night to accomplish his dream of unseating the Republican representative from his district, one of the most Bush-faced Republicans in the Congress of the United States. And you know what? Warner's dream may be coming true.
It was seeded during a phone call with Russ's son, Greg, who was doing a seventeen-month tour of duty in Iraq. Russ heard heavy firing followed by a long silence from his son. Finally -- it took a terrifying amount of time -- Greg got back on the line and assured his dad he was all right, that they weren't shooting directly at him.
Neither Russ nor his wife Kris had wanted Greg to go to Iraq, but as did so many other American parents who were against George Bush's unnecessary war, they supported their son's decision when the young man signed up. When he returned, however, alive, thank God, father and son had a talk. Learning the strength of Russ's feelings against the war and against the pit into which the Republicans had sunk the country, Greg encouraged his father to do anything he could to change things. As their home and family business were in a district whose representative was one of Bush's staunchest supporters, the decision was made for Russ to run against him. It was a long shot, sure; it was a dream -- their opponent had ruled the district for 28 years. But the family put personal aspirations aside, left the business in Kris' hands, and set out to make it come true.
With a tiny band of dedicated supporters, they printed fliers and pamphlets, bought voter lists and fanned out over the district, knocking on doors to get Russ known. And known he has become. For the past year-and-a-half, Russ has run an increasingly sophisticated campaign. He's raised over one million dollars - far more than any of his opponent's prior challengers, and has gotten his message of change to the voters.
Warner's opponent, David Dreier, is a man who, according to Congressional Quarterly, has voted with George W. 93.6% of the time. He rode to power on the Reagan wave and has had nothing but underfunded and under-organized challengers since; which is why he's not been defeated. So imagine the respect that began pouring in to Warner's very modest campaign when Democratic party higher-ups started seeing how narrow the race had become. The two candidates are now running neck and neck. For good reason. What the Warners have learned as they walk the streets of California's 26th - it stretches from East Pasadena almost to Fontana - is that David Dreier is simply out of touch. One wonders if he has any concept how many of his constituents are suffering under his party's insufferable policies, how many hate the war, how many are in foreclosure or near it, who have no health or dental care? How could he? Dreier has very little presence in the district; he rarely comes back for a visit.
Warner has asked many times for a debate, but, like his party's VeepNom mom, Mrs. Palin, David Dreier is afraid of debates; he's turned down every request. No time, he claims. But he's had time to support some of the most corrupt politicians in Republican Washington - including Tom DeLay and Randy "Duke" Cunningham. He contributed thousands to their campaigns. Yup, this he did, rather than fight for meaningful ethics reform. Oh, and although he has strongly supported the Bush-McCain war, he couldn't bring himself to vote to give the troops who are fighting it - like Russ and Kris Warner's son - a combat bonus. He wouldn't even vote for a bill to increase Veteran's education benefits so the men and women coming back could afford to go to school, something many of them counted on when they enlisted. Then again he has voted ten times to give himself a pay raise!
Russ Warner is far from the David Dreier mind-set. He wants to help rebuild an economy that will offer his three sons a chance like he had when he started the family business - another dream - around the kitchen table in the 80's, after he'd been downsized out of his job. Like Barack Obama, Russ wants the war ended as quickly as is feasible, wants our troops and our billions of dollars brought home so America can go back to trying to forge a life that Republicans like Dreier have stolen from us. Warner has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, the California Federation of Labor, and sixteen Democratic members of Congress. The rest of us need to endorse him too, with cash or boots, sneakers, even sandals on the pavements of his district, so that our dreams, like Obama's, which is no different from Warner's, can start coming true.