Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Before You Vote

On Tuesday, Democrats in the 10th district will choose a candidate for Congress. I am supporting Ilya Sheyman because he will be an outstanding congressman who will aggressively and effectively promote the progressive agenda which I believe this country needs.

Unfortunately, this contest has turned into something that neither Ilya or I expected or wanted it to be. It has turned into a contest between Ilya, who represents the future of the party and the country, and his main opponent, who represents the timidity that has kept us from achieving our goals at the national level.

Ilya is supported by Russ Feingold, Howard Dean, Larry Suffredin, Daniel Biss, and Robyn Gabel, people who have fearlessly stood at the forefront of the progressive movement among Democrats. His opponent is supported by some of the national leadership of the right-leaning wing of the party, and by a handful of retiring local lawmakers.

Ilya wanted the campaign to be about ideas and values that will move this country forward. His opponent has turned it into a campaign about trying to trick Republicans into voting for a moderate Democrat instead of for Republican Bob Dold. As President Harry Truman said, that never works – Republicans will always choose the real Republican over the Democrat who is trying to appeal to Republicans.

The strangest thing about the campaign is that Ilya's opponent, who spent the entire campaign claiming to be just as progressive as Ilya, has now, in the final weeks, turned his campaign into an attack on Ilya for being too young and too liberal. He has called the progressive groups which support Ilya, which include MoveOn, the National Organization for Women, and the Sierra Club “outside special interests” and “extremists.”

Ilya's opponent has also attacked Ilya for sending out negative campaign literature and robocalls – even though the literature and calls were not sent by Ilya's campaign at all, but by a respected independent liberal group, MoveOn, which wanted to help Ilya but which did not understand the distaste the voters in this district have for negative campaigning. By law, Ilya's campaign was not allowed to even know about MoveOn's efforts, and in fact Ilya's campaign scrupulously followed the law. If it could have, I am sure Ilya's campaign would have asked MoveOn not to take such a negative approach. Ilya's campaign has not sent out a single robocall.

What Ilya's campaign did was tell the truth – that while Democrats worked to elect a Democrat in the district, year after year his opponent donated thousands of dollars to Republican Mark Kirk to help him get re-elected. Ilya's opponent has admitted that he made those donations. He has also admitted that he donated to a bunch of right-wing Republicans all over the country. He said he did it because they were good for Israel. He hasn't answered the charge that he is a single issue voter and contributor who seemed to have no concern that his donations were setting back innumerable causes, including women's health.

Nor has Ilya's opponent explained why he would think that Kirk would have been any better for Israel than any of Kirk's Democratic opponents. He has not explained why he supported Kirk and the other Republicans when they were helping Bush take our country into war and destroy our economy. All he has done is to complain that by telling the truth, Ilya has been negative. When someone said to Harry Truman, “Give 'em hell, Harry,” Truman replied, “I don't give them Hell, I just tell the truth about them and they think it's Hell.” All Ilya has done is to tell the truth.

I did not want to even address the “negativity” charges, but as we learned when John Kerry was Swiftboated, unfair charges can mislead the voters if they are not answered. I understand that Ilya's opponent does not have any experience in politics, and I will assume that he has simply taken bad advice in making the charges. But it is going to be difficult to unseat the current congressman, and we do not need a candidate who is unprepared to make sound decisions.

I hope this email does not contribute to the dissatisfaction that some people are feeling about the campaign, and I do not want anyone to refrain from voting because they think the rhetoric has become too heated. This has, until just these last days, been a very positive campaign all around. If mistakes were made, we must be mature enough to overlook them, and cast our votes based on what is real and what is important, not on matters of style. This has been a vigorous primary, and we should be proud of the efforts the candidates have made on our behalf. We are all going to have to pull together after the primary. Please, cast your vote for the candidate whom you believe will go to Washington and work hard to set this country on the right course. I think that person is Ilya.

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