Tuesday, October 18, 2005

''Winning the House could stop the Iraq War and prevent more''

"I spent Saturday morning doorbelling in drizzle, so Saturday afternoon I embraced the chance to get warm and dry for a few hours listening to Congressman Jay Inslee answering questions from his constituents at a coffee just over the border between my district and his. (Congressman Inslee represents Washington's 1st Congressional District)

About two hundred people had shown up for the occasion - one of three such coffees he was doing in his district that day. He answered questions covering a broad spectrum of issues and viewpoints, but one question in particular stood out for me: "If President Bush decided to invade Iran, could Congress stop him?"

Could Congress, indeed? President Bush has amply demonstrated he believes there are no limits to his power. The current Republican-controlled House and the Senate have not stood in his way.

And the independence of the judicial branch, our last resort, is endangered with the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts and the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

The Constitution was set up with a system of checks and balances to keep power distributed; can we make those checks work?

Of course, we have to start by regaining control of some piece of the government.

Let's start with the comparatively low-hanging fruit: suppose we win the fifteen seats we need for a majority in the House of Representatives in 2006, and suppose that is all we gain. If we control only the House - but not the Senate or the Presidency - can we stop him?

The answer is yes, going back to the Constitution itself - but it's not straightforward.

The bad news is that the Constitution names the President the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, and a Supreme Court predisposed to find expansive executive power is likely to interpret the powers inherent in being the Commander in Chief very, very broadly.

The President might be able to deploy American troops over the objection of the Congress and the American people without any Congressional declaration of war - and President Bush will surely interpret it that way.

However, he'd have to pay them -- and the House controls the flow of federal money in general, and specifically with respect to the military. Grover Norquist has been trying to starve government for years; we could return the favor, carefully, if we controlled the House.

We could refuse to fund harebrained outlandish plans.

We could stop the President from going into Iran.

We could even force a conclusion to Iraq - because it all requires money, and that money must start from the House of Representatives.

That power is at the very least a blunt tool which gives the members of the House a strong position to bargain from.

If we control the House, we can demand a plan and a timeline for turning control of Iraq over to the Iraqis, forcing them to take responsibility for the future of their own country, and for bringing our troops home.

Mind you, control of the House wouldn't be enough by itself to accomplish all the things that we want, like increased investment in education, better regulations to protect the environment, or a more just tax structure.

Those require that we pass legislation, for which we need majorities in the House and Senate and a cooperative president, or 2/3 supermajorities in the House and Senate if we can't get the president on board. Control of only the House doesn't give us that.

But it would be enough to stop the corruption and abuse of power we're seeing.

Fifteen seats.

Other people have done some excellent analysis of which fifteen we might be able to take to win the House; all of those lists include WA-08, the seat for which I am running.

We can and will take WA-08 in 2006. I am working on my 1/15th of the problem, and I would encourage all of you to focus on what you can do to help us win the fifteen seats we need.

The race for this seat, representing Washington's 8th Congressional District, is heating up. My campaign has received coverage in local papers including the Seattle Times, the King County Journal, the Seattle P-I, the Olympian, and the Seattle Weekly (where I was described as a "blue-collar military brat turned soccer-mom geek," a description both funny and accurate). Additionally, a story about launching the campaign was picked up by the Associated Press.

In our first hundred days, we brought in more than a hundred thousand dollars from a growing army of hundreds of donors. I'm headed to the East Coast later this week for a series of New England fundraisers and meetings in Washington D.C.

I've spoken at length to over a thousand people these past few months at events such as the candidate forum Eastside Democracy for America hosted last week to introduce me to their members.

Eastside Democracy for America (with incredible work from one of their members, Andrew Tsao) also produced an amazing introductory video from that forum which will be available on the campaign website in the next day or two.

I am going non-stop, and I am fortunate to have an incredibly talented group of people working on this campaign.

We will win this seat in 2006. You can help with this one, and with some of the fourteen more we need across the country.

At this stage of the campaign, the things you can do that will have the most impact to help your candidates involve time, money, or buzz.

You can volunteer to help a campaign you believe in - and be specific about your skill set, as well as what you might be able to offer, so that it is more likely you'll have an opportunity to do something meaningful. Every campaign I know has a shortage of people as well as a problem with volunteers who don't follow through.

This means that if you offer to do something that you will drive to completion yourself, you will be far more appreciated than if you merely make a vague offer of help.

You can contribute money, or help raise money. Even if you can't personally contribute $1000 to a local campaign, you can still have a big impact.

For instance, if you can convince 20 of your friends to donate $50 each and you send those checks as a batch to the progressive candidate of your choice, you will have done tremendous good.

(If enough people did such bundling, progressive candidates could focus more attention on the parts of campaigning that aren't fundraising.)

You can host a coffee or house party, with or without the presence of the candidate you're supporting, to generate excitement and perhaps increase financial support from the grassroots.

And you can help create buzz by talking about the candidates you're passionate about. Talk to other local bloggers and activists, but also talk to your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family. They'll trust you more than an ad or a stranger telling them what to think or how to vote.

Reach out by writing letters to the editor of the local paper, or by contacting your representatives in Congress or the Senate and ask them to support the candidate you believe in.

You have tremendous potential to make a difference, both individually and as a community.

Thank you for all the positive attention and encouragement you've given me. Last month was my first diary entry here, and I was gratified to see so many comments of support, constructive suggestions, and questions.

If you're interested in my candidacy, I invite you to visit my website regularly. As I mentioned earlier, we have a new video from the local Democracy for America forum which we'll be adding in a couple of days.

Thank you again for your support. Together we can take back the House - and take a step on the road to winning back our country."-Darcy Burner, posting on Kos. HorsesAss.org provided the tip.

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