Sunday, March 25, 2018

PA congressional contest: it wasn't about 'moderation' but about class

The usual TV talking heads and dead-tree scribblers from the liberal commentariat are all bloviating about the just-concluded contest to represent Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, which Hillary Clinton had managed to lose by 20 points to Donald Trump.
Lamb: played the class card, not the 'moderate' scam

The claim is that Conor Lamb's victory shows that to win in the fall, Democrats need to run militarized, prosecutorial tariff-supporting, gun-toting, right-to-lifers, Republicans lite.

"Lamb, 33, a handsome (and clean-shaven) military veteran, was straight from central casting and had no extensive political record to contradict stances so moderate and squishy that he could be mistaken, well, for a Republican," said columnist Frank Bruni in the New York Times.

So you'll be surprised to learn that as far as I can determine from Conor Lamb's campaign material on YouTube and the Internet, the axis of his campaign was not Washington litmus-test, left-right issues but class. As in working class.

What tipped me off that the Wall Street media was perhaps being less than 100% honest was listening to Lamb's election-night victory speech on MSNBC, which Brian Williams  interrupted after a couple of minutes.

Of course, it must have been a mere coincidence that Lamb had just begun talking about defending Social Security and Medicare. Because the broken news that Brian Williams delivered was that he and the rest of the press had no clue as to who had won the election. And what could possibly outweigh the urgency of the media's own cluelessness?

But it made me suspicious because I worked for 21 years at CNN and know Brian Williams was ordered to interrupt by the line producer talking in his ear from the control room, and the line producer was ordered to do so by higher-ups outside the control room.

The interruption purportedly was to make clear NBC News had not "called" the race for Lamb even though he had been introduced as congressman-elect from the podium. But if the anchor or the producer had thought it necessary, that would have come right after the intro, during the applause, or if that chance was missed, once Lamb finished speaking, not 2 minutes and twenty seconds into his speech when he'd just gotten to the meat. Nobody --not even Brian Williams-- has such bad news judgment.

So I searched for an uncensored version of Lamb's speech.

What does Lamb say he is for, how does he identify?

1) He is for Social Security and Medicare.
2) He is against dark corporate PAC money and did not have to take any thanks to some 86,000 (mostly) small donations.
3) He is proud to have been supported by, and to support, the union movement. His victory is part of the unions regaining their rightful place and influence.
4) He will work to make jobs and pensions secure.
5) He learned in the marines: "leave no one behind."
6) He inherited being an FDR democrat from his grandfather.

Here's another example of the same censorship, from Amber Phillips on the WaPo's political blog "The Fix."
Conor Lamb launched an ad over the weekend that makes him sound more like a Republican than a Democrat. He is campaigning on the fact that he won't support House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for House speaker if Democrats win back the House in November. 
“My opponent wants you to believe the biggest issue in this campaign is Nancy Pelosi,” Lamb said in the ad. “It's all a big lie. I've already said on the front page of the newspaper that I don't support Nancy Pelosi.” 
Even though Lamb has said he won't support Pelosi, so powerful are Republicans' Pelosi attacks that he felt he needed to shout about it in this ad.
Phillips stopped there, so, can we can assume that ad keeps on attacking Pelosi? Well, here's how Lamb continued:
The real issues are the ones that affect your lives. I'll protect Medicare and Social Security. My opponent would cut them. I'll protect health care and education. My opponent won't. My opponent will work for the special interests that are spending millions to elect him [over a newspaper clipping of 1.5 million in PAC money backing the Republican] .
The ad ends, "I'll work for you."

I leave aside that not being a Pelosi fan boy hardly makes you a Trump acolyte.

The plain fact is that Lamb centered his campaign on class identity.

Not on Pelosi and certainly not on abortion, guns or tariffs, the issues that the columnists and talking heads insist were key to establishing his "moderate" acceptability to the supposedly die-hard Trumpeteer voters of the district.

As for those issues, during his campaign he waffled.

On abortion: as a Catholic he is personally against but doesn't think the government should ban it.

On guns: He is for common sense gun control but against taking people's guns away. And likes to shoot.

On Trump's tariffs, this article claims both Lamb and his opponent supported them, but all it has are just garden variety declarations in support of protecting jobs and fair trade.

The more you look the plainer his campaign strategy becomes. Subtle it ain't.

His first TV ad says he went to a Catholic High School, college, was a marine (and "still loves to shoot," a safe way of not saying anything about gun control), was a prosecutor and now he's running for Congress.

Why?

"To fight for jobs, health care and social security." And "he's the only candidate that's refused corporate PAC money."

As for his much-touted opposition to Nancy Pelosi, the ad says he is also "the only candidate who says Democrats and Republicans need new leaders in Congress."

That may sound like a capitulation to gain Republican anti-Pelosi voters, but much more plausible is the suggestion that he wants to establish himself as independent from the Clinton party establishment. You know, like that Bernie guy.

And he attacked another congressional leader by name: House Speaker Paul Ryan. It is in a single-issue ad which starts "Paul Ryan will use term 'entitlement reforms' to talk about Social Security and Medicare as if it is undeserved or some form of welfare. But it's not any of those things. People paid for it." And it is Lamb himself that is speaking, not some off-camera voice of God.

My argument is not that Lamb is trustworthy, a working-class hero, Eugene V. Debs reborn or even a Sanders-wing Democrat.

It is simply that he did not run and he did not win by identifying as a "moderate" or "blue dog" Democrat, but as a working class Democrat.

The axis of Conor Lamb's campaign was class, which is at right angles to the left-right political spectrum that is the only thing the capitalist media understands or is willing to talk about.

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