To the Editor:
One of the more interesting races in the May 8 Democratic primary is the race for U.S. Congress (the N.C. 11th Congressional District) between Cecil Bothwell, a progressive Asheville City councilman, and Hayden Rogers, a “blue dog” Democrat who resembles his former boss Rep. Heath Shuler both fiscally and physically.
Blue Dogs have not fared well recently: their members in Congress dropped from 54 to 26 after the 2010 election. Today there are only 19 remaining in Congress due to “early retirement,” etc. Some even say the Blue Dog is a dying breed.
Yet conventional wisdom continues to tell us a liberal Democrat is unelectable in the now more conservative and Republican 11th District — after it was redistricted by the Republican majority in Raleigh.
Conventional wisdom doesn’t quite know what to do with the growing significance of the Independent/ Unaffiliated voter: more than 30 percent of voters are now in this category. These voters are mainly dissatisfied with “politics as usual” and have a low opinion of Congress, whose national approval rating is around 9 percent. A Democrat can win the 11th, but only by appealing to the Independent voter.
I believe Bothwell is the more appealing candidate: from his website (www.bothwell2012.com) one learns he accepts no PAC or corporate funding. His campaign is grassroots, sustained by small donations and over 1,000 volunteers. Rogers’ campaign is corporate driven and managed from Washington by the national Blue Dog Coalition.
Clearly one of the great differences between Bothwell and Rogers is defining the role government will play in job creation. Despite corporate tax rates at historic lows (15 percent) and absolutely no evidence that tax breaks = job creation, Rogers argued in a recent (and rare) debate appearance at Haywood Community College that government should “simplify and lower the corporate tax rate to make the nation more competitive…” In the same debate Bothwell argued for “shovel ready projects” to repair our aging infrastructure, investing in green energy, and putting cash into the economy NOW.
What I do not want from a Democratic congressman is somebody fixated on deficit reduction by “reforming” Medicare through vouchers or other privatization schemes, somebody who buys into Congressman [R] Paul Ryan’s budget resolution for “Repairing the Social Safety Net” through huge cuts in spending on Medicaid, food stamps, Pell Grants, and so on — all of which will unquestionably damage the social safety net and make life harder for millions of Americans.
What I ultimately want is a congressman with a Democratic “heart,” not the soul of a future lobbyist; a congressman who is more comfortable in a street festival than in a board room. Cecil Bothwell is that candidate.