We are all emotionally spent from the debacle on the Potomac that played out recently over raising the debt ceiling. The politics were brutal and those who lost will be the same middle class and working class Americans who've been getting the short end of the stick in this country for the past 30+ years, those "ordinary" people. The winners, as usual, will be the filthy rich and corporate America, who remain unscathed by reality and unburdened by conscience. There will be no new tax revenue coming from them to pump into our anemic economy and help fuel a recovery. Their future is secure -- ours, anything but.
The states, meanwhile, will take another hard hit, as the slicing and dicing of imperative municipal services continues while they struggle to deal with fragile budgets and shortfalls. Much has already been written about our dysfunctional government and its inability to govern, and the inability of our "leaders" to even identify what the major national issues are. Jobs, jobs and more jobs has always been the main issue. Our president, at last, has begun his "pivot" to this issue. What will that mean?
We as progressives, public citizens and voters must get involved to take back our democracy and put our country back on the right track (sound familiar?) before the Republicans and their rabid-dog Tea Partiers burn America completely to the ground. When good men and women do nothing, evil triumphs (to paraphrase Edmund Burke), and we have seen over and over again how low voter turnout -- especially in primaries when we really have some choices -- has resulted in victories by radical elements who are dangerously unqualified to hold public office. One only has to look so far as the hijacking of the debt ceiling debate by the Tea Party lunatics in the House to see the results of our failing democratic system.
It has often been said that politics is not a spectator sport. There is no greater truth, especially these days. Yet we do see glimmers of hope surfacing here and there, including in exciting places like Wisconsin, where on Aug. 9th the recall vote was held for the State Senate. Scott Walker's attack on the bargaining rights of state workers set off a national furor, and when state workers in Michigan and Ohio also came under fire, the progressive and union communities finally stood up and said, "No more!" Unfortunately, only two of the three seats Democrats needed to win in Wisconsin were won, and the State Senate majority remains Republican. But the fight will continue, as the defense of collective bargaining and the protection of workers rights (both public and private) are national issues. Wisconsin has been a bell-weather of what will surely occur nationwide if we are not diligent in fighting for a voice in our political decisions. Governor Scott Walker can expect a recall election next year for his gross policies that deny workers rights and hurt the people of Wisconsin.
People from across the country have followed the lead of progressive organizations like the PCCC, DFA and Progressives United, to rally support and donate to the recall efforts in Wisconsin. The DNC could learn a thing or two from these organizations in gearing up for the 2012 elections. The DNC must focus more on educating Americans on the issues, enrolling new voters across the nation, and keeping us informed and active throughout the year -- every year, not just during election cycles. State parties must also coordinate better with the national Democratic party on messaging. We as voters can and must get behind progressive candidates and volunteer in their campaigns, in our own states or outside them, if there is an exceptional candidate that speaks to our own values. But we must become involved and better informed -- it is our responsibility as the citizens and caretakers of this great nation.
Here is the campaign I am committed to outside of my own state:
Dr. David Gill, an emergency room doctor and intrepid campaigner, has launched his 2012 campaign for Congress; will his fourth run finally be the charm? In the past he chased an impossible dream by running in a very conservative district, but this is a new day and a new district, with the newly drawn 13th IL offering an evenly divided voter pool that boosts his chances of winning considerably. Due to the demands of campaigning, Dr. Gill can only work 8-10 shifts per month, down considerably from his usual 16 shifts. As an hourly paid employee, he pays for his own health insurance and knows all too well what a burden a deductible-heavy healthcare plan can be. After his shifts, Doc Gill then heads out on the campaign trail. His commitment and sacrifice to serve is enormous, and he deserves our support. We should remember that Senator Dick Durbin is from the same state, and the current Majority Whip, ran four times for Congress before succeeding. Now he is the second in command in the Senate, no small potatoes.
The only real hindrance for Dr. Gill is, as usual, "da money," as the Democratic party establishment continues its disheartening practice of supporting incumbents (even if they are deadwood and deadbeats) and party insiders, so long as they can raise money. Meanwhile, fresh blood like Dr. Gill is neglected and, at times, even actively dissuaded from entering into public service, another maddening Catch-22 in our political system. Merit does not seem to be a factor in selecting who the party should support, only "da money."
So this extraordinary ER doctor is building his grassroots campaign with many new and longtime volunteers, taking his message to the highways and byways of rural America in a district 150 miles from the bustle of Chicago. He is going directly to those ordinary Americans who struggle every day, as he does on the battlefield of the toughest branch of medicine, treating his neighbors in the emergency room. The people of his community have depended on Dr. Gill for 20 years, and his commitment to service has compelled him to run again for Congress. Who better to understand the needs of the People than this doctor toiling for an hourly wage in a hospital's ER, who is also a husband and a father of six.
Dr. Gill is an unapologetic, proud progressive and Democrat, and I asked him to tell us in his own words why he is running for Congress again and why he is willing to endure the brutal rigors of another campaign for the next 15 months?
Dr. David Gill, Democratic Candidate for Congress, IL-13:
"I am an Emergency Room doctor-not another career politician. Washington, D.C., is swarming with professional politicians. We need citizen legislators with common sense who understand the conflicting pressures of daily life and the needs of people struggling to get access to health care, find jobs, and make a better life for their children.
"Every day at work, I encounter patients who must weigh impossible tradeoffs: go to the hospital or pay rent; pay for tests and medical procedures or risk their own lives. I'll never forget a patient I had two years ago.
"She came to my Emergency Room with a heart attack in progress, and we were unable to save her. While talking to her distraught husband afterward, I learned that she had been treated for chest pains recently and had been advised to get surgery. She and her husband knew how deadly important it was that she get the needed operation, but they had no insurance and they just didn't know how they could afford it. She was only in her 40s.
"Now my Congressman Tim Johnson and other Republicans in Washington want to replace our current Medicare system that guarantees seniors' care with a voucher program. The Republican plan tells seniors that if their medical problems cost too much money, they're on their own. Seniors will have to make tough decisions that my patients face every day-whether to buy food or medical care-on fixed incomes. That's not acceptable-not in America.
"I ran in the past in an overwhelmingly Republican district to hold Tim Johnson accountable. This time, I'm running to win. We're taking back IL-13 for the people.
"Year after year, Johnson has been more in touch with the needs of lobbyists and millionaires than with the needs of families on Main Street in Bloomington and Springfield, Illinois. During his 40-year political career, he hasn't sponsored even one significant piece of legislation. Illinois' 13th district needs a Congressman who will stand up to corporate-written trade deals and stop the outflow of good union jobs from places like Decatur.
"Working families, young people, returning veterans and senior citizens who cannot afford to retire want to know, 'Where are the jobs?' Yet, in a time of economic insecurity, the 112th Republican-led Congress has cut the social safety net, restricted women's reproductive rights, choked funding for sorely needed financial and health care reforms and done nothing to create jobs or improve the economy. All the while, these politicians have been diligently looking out for the priorities of corporate lobbyists and Wall Street. Tim Johnson has been an enthusiastic foot soldier for John Boehner's job-killing agenda every step of the way.
"I will work to protect our social safety net for seniors, children, and veterans. I will champion collective bargaining. I will insist that future trade agreements carry sufficient environmental protections and do not outsource American jobs. I will bring good-paying jobs to our district through wind farms and sustainable energy policies. I will work tirelessly for an Improved Medicare for All health care system that favors patients' interests over the corporate bottom line. Most of all, I will be a strong independent voice for the people of Central and Southwestern Illinois, not multinational corporations.
"I ran better than most statewide Democratic candidates in 2006 and 2010, including incumbent governors who were re-elected both times. When redistricting transformed our district-the most Republican in the state-from one President Obama lost in 2008 into a lean-Democratic district he won by 11 points, I knew Tim Johnson's time in Congress was finally up. We can take IL-13 back from the Republicans. I hope you'll join me in bringing common sense to Congress.
"We must return common sense to Congress. If you want to be part of a grassroots campaign powered by real citizens, then I ask for your support today. You can join our campaign on facebook (David Gill for Congress) and follow me on Twitter @davidgill2012."
You can also find out more and donate to Dr. Gill's campaign on his website, www.gill2012.com.
For more information, read this CNN article entitled "45,000 American deaths associated with lack of insurance" and see my Huffington Post article "The DNC, DCCC and DSCC Need Makeovers."
- with Jonathan Stone