^ John Tierney / Rich Tisei : will this be another campaign of generic GOP (Tisei) versus dumb attacks (John Tierney) ?
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The fight for who will be my Congressman next term has already begun. It would be nice if the candidates chose to voice issues that matter to a large number of actual people, but that’s not how campaigns for Congress usually play out these days. The issues that get voiced are those that big-money PACs and single issue pressure groups want voiced. Most of us do not belong — thank goodness — to single issue advocacy groups. Lives are not lived in a single isssue thimble. Lives face many issues, many that matter quite a lot. It’s hard to carve one issue without mutilating oneself, but many Congress candidates prefer to mutilate than to take up a whole person. As for big-money PACs, they have zero interest in you in me. Politics for them is all about them. Theirs is a Me, Myself, and I world.
That’s the context in which I, as a voter in the 6th Congressional District in Massachusetts, am asked now to vote whether John Tierney should be re-elected or if one of three challengers should re-place him. As it happens, I’m no ordinary voter; I’m also a journalist covering politics as my beat. I get to know a lot more about a lot of politicians than most voters have time to find out. Still, I’m not free of my own agendas, stuff that matters to me and which i think matters quite a bit to most of you. So let’s start with the agendas — the issues that I think really matter right now :
1. the income gap is growing, the opportunity gap expanding. It hurts the economy, and it hurts many of our fellow citizens living in the economy. If our Federal politics has any mission, it is to use Federal powers to abet opportunity and promote the income of everyone. Doesn’t the Constitution say, in its Preamble, that it aims to promote the general welfare ? An economy is everyone of us. If many of us can’t participate, the economy suffers just as much as the people who can’t participate.
2. student debt has become a huge impediment to economic growth. Yes we want to educate young people; that’s how they get the jobs of tomorrow; but education costs so much that only the wealthy can graduate free of debt. Student debt repayment commands a large part of young workers’ take home income. Student debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Deferring payments only increases the interest accruing. We are growing an entire generation of young workers indentured to student debt. If they’re lucky, they can pay it off by the time they reach age 40. If they aren’t lucky, they can never repay it. Indentured service was, in our nation’s early days, a way forward for a growing nation, yet it was only legally different from slavery, because indentured people in the early 1800s were shackled financially to individuals. Today, student indebted people are shackled to student lender corporations. Less personal, perhaps, definitely less confining, but no less burdensome.
3. Many states are enacting laws to suppress or discourage voting rather than easing access and encouraging. Many states are also trying to enact laws so restricting of women’s access to abortion and contraception that in effect they are taking access away. The people being hurt by such laws are those with very little access to income and for whom increased stress means even less likelihood of stable employment.
4. Some states are enacting laws taking away public workers’ rights to organize unions. Some states refuse to grant undocumented immigrants drivers’ licenses, in-state tuition fees for their children, or access to health care. Thereby the people targeted by these laws become less able to participate in the economy.
You will notice that all four of the situations that I think most significant in the nation today involve the economy, either directly or by consequence. We say we want to grow the economy, but how can we grow it best if we make it harder for many people to participate in the economy to their best potential ?
That said, how do the four candidates seeking to be my next Congressman respond ?
1. John Tierney just sent out a district wide mailing in which five (5) of his top six initiatives address the problem of student debt. (The sixth initiative calls for all kids to have access to early childhood education.)
2. Rich Tisei, who will be the GOP nominee and who came within 1100 votes of beating Tierney in 2012, sent out a mailing whose big point was that Massachusetts’s universal health care law should prevail over the ACA. His other point was that taxes on business should be lowered.
3. Seth Moulton, who is challenging John Tierney in the Democratic primary, calls upon Tierney to reinstate the veterans retirement pay cut that he voted for as part of the $ 1.1 trillion budget deal recently enacted in Congress. A bill to do exactly that is now making its way through Congress. He also calls the mild-mannered, pro-choice, pro marriage equality Tisei “too extreme for the families of this district.”
^ Seth Moulton : not much to say so far that merits attention
4. Marisa DeFranco, who is also challenging Tierney in the Primary, has this to say : “It is time for real talk about solutions and substance, not more of the same empty cliches. You are the real heroes and the real people who make a difference, and you deserve someone who knows you and will fight for the people of the Sixth District.”
^ “real talk” redefined : Marisa DeFranco
I would hope that the above paragraphs speak for themselves.
Tierney has addressed one major issue that really matters. The other folks address less significant issues, issues given to them by PACs, a generalized negativity, or no issues at all. Early advantage, then, goes all to Tierney.
Advantage, too, in facing not one but two primary challengers, one (Moulton) unknown, the other (DeFranco) barely known.
But early advantages, terrific for the Primary, mean not much in the final election. Tisei is well known and liked, clearly perceived, an unique figure even in Massachusetts’s reasonably useful GOP. Tierney has badly injured his case against Tisei by allowing a spokesman to say that Tisei is “simply another vote for John Boehner and the Tea Party Republicans.”
The remark insults the intelligence of our district’s voters. Does John Tierney really think we’re that dumb, that blind, that dismissive of an opponent who has a long record of bipartisan accomplishment ? Tierney tried this attack last time, and it almost cost him his seat. (He would clearly have lost had not an independent candidate taken a full 5 % of the final vote). This time it’s a joke stale as well as bad.
But it won’t seem so much a joke if, darn soon, Tisei doesn’t address the issue overriding all : gaps in income and opportunity, inequality on the increase, and massive student debt. Many solutions are now on offer in Congress, in particular raising the minimum wage, increasing the earned income credit, or a compromise combination of the two. Last time, Tisei ran a generic GOP campaign with no local flair and not even a soupcon of originality. Even when prodded — by me at a couple of Town halls — he stuck to the same old same old.
Tisei needs to THINK. To speak to our District, not the GOP playbook. Yes it will cost him some PAC money : so what ? It’s time for PAC money to go take a hike anyway; it’s done nothing but distort and damage the nation’s governance. Tisei is well advised to run his own campaign, on his own turf — lose the same old — and to make income inequality issues his top mantra. if he does not do that, he’ll give Tierney’s stale bad joke a second life.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere