Sunday, March 09, 2008

Deep problem for South Florida Democrats: Republican 'allegiance'

This was a headline loaded with pain: “Democrats torn between party, GOP allegiances.” Page 1 of Sunday’s Miami Herald. I already knew about this, but seeing it there made me sick. Now is the time to look at this deep problem we have in South Florida, and see if we can fix it – well before we have to vote in November.

In a nutshell, as I see it: We have two Democratic members of the House of Representatives who will not do anything to help three fine Democrats run against the three Republicans who misrepresent about 1.5 million people in Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier and Broward counties. Their two seats are so safe that Republicans run no one against them, yet they will not venture out to help fellow Democrats.

How wrong can things get? This is pretty far down the spectrum of why people do not understand politics and why they stay away. I’m not going to speculate here as to why Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) and Kendrick Meek (FL-17) do not support their local Democratic Party. It’s written about in the Herald, and I understand Ms. Wasserman Schultz was asked about it Sunday in Michael Putney’s show on ABC Channel 10.

What I want to look at here is the people they are in allegiance with, to use the Herald’s word in that headline. A disgusting thought, really, to be “in allegiance” with Lincoln Diaz-Balart, his brother Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, when you say, as our two Democrats say, that you’d like to end the Iraq war and to see expanded health insurance for children.

The Republicans voted with President Bush repeatedly on the war, and they voted to sustain his vetoes on the children’s health insurance bills.

Mario Diaz-Balart’s District 25 includes the Everglades, a treasure of great value on the environmental scale. He’s a creature of Big Sugar, which is one of the biggest problems for the Everglades. He’s a creature of the rock-mining industry, another big problem for the Everglades. This is a congressman who deserves defeat on his environmental record alone (15 percent rating by the League of Conservation Voters ( in 2007, lower in earlier sessions). His opponent, Joe Garcia, is poised to take a pro-Everglades stance. Will he get help from Meek and Wasserman Schultz? They talk nice about the Everglades, but not about Joe Garcia.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21) has an environmental record just as bad. And like his brother and Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), he votes for torture. And for immunity for telecoms and the president that tapped our phones illegally. And for the end of habeas corpus.

Yet our two Democrats in the U.S. House supposedly feel bound by some collegial allegiance – Oh, how I hate to see that word used to describe ties between Democrats and these three Republicans – and will not work to get Democrats elected in their place.

What about the Republicans’ rationale for voting against the SCHIP bills: It’s “an attack on the Cuban-American community,” Mario Diaz-Balart said last October (Herald link no longer works). What attack? It would hurt cigar-rollers by increasing tobacco tax.

That is the crap that passes for legislative thinking among the Republicans we’d like to see defeated. My eyes well up, but our two Democrats are not moved.

Mario Diaz-Balart even brags about this allegiance on national television. After Fidel Castro announced his resignation, Diaz-Balart was on CNN and, pressed by Wolf Blitzer about waning support from younger Cuban-Americans, he declared that his constituents supported his harsh policy on Cuban family reunions and that his two Democratic colleagues supported it, too. So it must be right, he implied. Well, there’s a logic to that. And that’s the problem.

Now let’s consider whether the Republicans feel bound, like the Democrats, to be nice to the opposition. Ros-Lehtinen is known for having raised or donated nearly $1 million in the 2006 election cycle to the Republican drive – in vain, thank goodness – to retain the R majority in the House. Our two Democrats run and do the same for Democrats in other parts of the country, but we in South Florida are … pounding sand.

And what about the Republicans’ national security thinking? I like to go back to an article Ros-Lehtinen wrote last fall, published in National Review Online Oct. 5, 2007. (Alas, I looked through the digital archives of the National Review for traces of this neo-con fantasy bylined Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and could not find it.} The title was “The Right to Survive,” and she was referring to the U.S. right to survive. As opposed to what? Answer: Iran’s supposed drive to get nuclear weapons.

Now, of course, we need to keep track of what Iran is up to. And our intelligence organs do just that, and they sometimes throw a wrench into the neo-cons’ works, as with the recent finding that Iran wasn’t really working on a nuclear weapons program.

Ros-Lehtinen’s article was published before that verdict, but she probably hasn’t changed her mind one whit. She wrote that military and civilian nuclear processes are about the same, and she makes it seem that we’re in a “suicide pact” to let Iran wipe us out – unless we take her admonitions to heart. ”For no ‘paper right’ should be allowed to trump our right to exist,” were her last words.

A path to war is many steps long. If we ever go to war with this fourth-rate country Iran, Ros-Lehtinen’s article will be one of the steps along that path. Why are prominent young Democrats in the House not trying to get her out?

I launched into this post only after consulting the three candidates to be chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Daisy Black, Bret Berlin and Kevin Burns. I asked if they opposed airing this topic in this blog, which is in a way the creation of the county Democratic Party. They all said it was OK to bring it into the open, though I didn’t tell them exactly what I would write. In fact, I didn’t know what I’d write then, when I spoke to them. It was pretty clear, though, that I’d be critical of our two Democrats in the U.S. House. I regret that it’s necessary. But if you look at the on-line comments to the Herald article, you’ll see that I’m not alone.

And we’re attracting national attention: The Swing State Project blog picked it up on Sunday with a piece suggesting that our two Democrats were “all too eager to kneecap these Democratic challengers.” Read it here and weep at what folly seems to have fallen onto our political situation.

The question is: Why are Democrats in perfectly safe seats not showing political courage?

The question is: Why are Democrats in perfectly safe seats following a harsh policy on Cuban family reunions instituted by the worst president in U.S. history?

Tell me. This space is open to you. (Though I’ll say here that I’m not open to publishing comments alleging corruption. I don’t think that’s the issue, or appropriate.)


Larry Thorson said...

Post your comment, please.

Larry Thorson said...

Post your comment, please.

Anonymous said...

Larry you are 100% correct. Your post is dead on. I hope the Miami Dade DEC reprimands Cong Schultz, especially because she is in a so called leadership position.

Anonymous said...

Track the money to find the answer.

Glo said...

There is nothing of surprise here - these two have had protected seats too long and have not been responsible to their constituents. This is the first time in so long that we have real opponents for these seats, and yet, Debbie and Kendrick are showing their real faces now and I hope others see this. We need to find challengers for their seats and hope that when redistricting takes place, all the districts will be fairly drawn and not for political protection. This arrogance of power is disgusting.

I'm glad that this story came out because it has been too long that we have cried over the Dems coming here for money but do not help us find or fund candidates and now we know why. But it appears that the will of the people and the new Democratic Party has gotten the message - they need to get that memo to Debbie and Kendrick and remind them who they represent - because they surely are in bed with the wrong people.

Robert said...

This post is EXACTLY the reason why Americans are so down on politics and politicians from BOTH sides.

Larry, you're complaining because two Democratic representatives have the nerve, the nerve mind you, of siding with decency and common sense regarding the Cuba issue. They've already stated their displeasure with Republicans on SCHIP and other divisive issues, so what else do you want them to do? It's sad that it bothers you that Debbie and Kendrick are friends with the Miami-Dade trio. Just goes to show you that trying to demonize people (the Diaz-Balarts and Ileana) that don't have anything to be demonized for will eventually backfire.

As far as representing their constituencies, that's exactly what they're doing by being pro-sanctions towards Cuba.

Larry Thorson said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Robert. I wonder if you're aware that the three Democratic challengers do NOT want to remove all sanctions against Cuba. Only the harsh barriers to family reunions and remittances should be removed. You want decency and common sense. We think it's decent to let families visit and help each other. And what I want Meek and Wasserman to do is back their fellow Democrats.

Rootman said...

The Miami incumbents don't get it. Look what we did Saturday in the Illinois 14th Dist. There's a sea change in the Cuban-American pyche, combined with an upcoming record turnout with big coattails. Those three red seats are far from safe.

Elvira Angulo said...

Cuban-American no longer fallow the Republicans blindly. I am 65 years old and came ti The USA 45 years ago.
I am an American first and I care about Health Care, The War, affordability of education for my grandchildren, the quality of jobs for my children, the cost of homeowners insurance, the deficit, the National Debt.
The Diaz-Balart brothers do not represent me. They are rubber stamp for Bush and their only agenda is get even with uncle Fidel.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is another Lieberman. That is why she is friends with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
But the trio of Republicans are not friends of their District.
They will be defeated Nov 4
Janury 20 2009 will be the end of an ERROR

Robert said...


I am fully aware that at least Raul and Joe have stated their opposition to ending trade sanctions. The differences lie in the travel portion of the restrictions. All in all, there's no big difference.

But that's not the point of my comment. My point is that your castigating of Debbie and Kendrick for not toeing the party line and not trashing the Miami-Dade trio is, while understandable from your perspective as a local Democrat operative, totally counterproductive. The average voter isn't 100% partisan as you are. They can see shades of gray in every issue and every politician. They want someone who will be honest and vote their convictions and represent their constituents.

Idealistic? Perhaps. But I get the feeling enough Americans are fed up with the "politics as usual" that plague both parties, including and especially yours.

Anonymous said...

They don't have to trash their colleagues or get nasty.

But they do have - or are supposed to have - an allegiance to the Democratic party.

Obviously, they have to work with the rest of the local delegation for the remainder of their terms. But they don't have to heap praises upon them - praises they could then use to depress Democratic support for their challengers.

It's one thing to be friends, but let's face it, when was the last time Wasserman-Schultz convinced Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balarts to vote for something that matters, like SCHIP?

They may be friendly, but they're not our friends.

Larry Thorson said...

Thanks again, Robert. You don't know me, so you are forgiven for thinking I don't know shades of gray. But I do, and I think about these things all the time, wondering what could motivate such behavior by our Democratic legislators when their Republican colleagues support torture, the end of habeas corpus, illegal wiretapping by our government, a stupid war, weak health insurance for children, lavish tax cuts for those already wealthy beyond dreams, and on and on. Where is the gray in this? It's black black black. Has our Democrats' "friendship" with these Republicans helped South Florida? Show me, and it better be something really huge.

Anonymous said...

Debbie Wasserman Schultz for years is just following in the footsteps of her predecessor Peter Deutsch who was also close to the Miami three.

Rootman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rootman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rootman said...

This topic made front page of Daily Kos today:
Kos story link

Anonymous said...

good job Larry fakes and frauds (or corruption most likely) needs to be exposed