Saturday, February 04, 2006

Lunch with Christine

Today, my friend who volunteers driving Christine was sick with the flu, so I was asked last minute to drive Christine to her first two events of the day. The first, a "Conversations with Christine" on healthcare in the morning, then a "Coffee with Christine" after lunch. I've written about the first event at Christine's blog. I've written about Coffees before. The part of the day where I learned more about who Christine Cegelis is as a Democrat however, was the conversation we had during our stop over between events for lunch.

After the first event we had a little time window for lunch. We stopped in at the Omega Restaurant on Irving Park Road in Schaumburg. Great food. Highly recommended. But enough of the food critique. The conversation we had focused on our views on how Democrats could regain control of Congress. I'm telling you out there reading this: Christine is for real. She gets it.

You'd think for most candidates, such a conversation would be about how getting them elected would be the first step. But refreshingly, the conversation almost never went to Christine's campaign, but instead focused on how the Democrats as a party could improve their batting average against Republicans.

We both noted how Republicans banded together, circled their wagons, stayed on message, and gave voters a clear idea of what they stood for. We of course didn't agree with where they stood, but their positions (whether true or pure fiction) were easy to remember and clear in the minds of voters. Republicans, as a group, stood for something.

Democrats on the other hand were less so. We were a 'big tent' party, which was a strength. But too often it seemed that big tent meant putting one's re-election first at the expense of the party. Christine was adamant that lockstep voting for Democrats wasn't what she would envision or endorse. But some sort of party identity was needed. It seemed often to us that once elected, the goal of getting re-elected trumped the long term goals for the party for some. Votes seemed to follow re-election posturing rather than party ideology and values, often undermining and confusing what Democrats valued or stood for.

To illustrate this, we discussed the Sensenbrenner immigration bill and how a bunch of Democrats, seeing that the bill would pass, voted for this terrible Republican pushed legislation for purely political reasons. There were even reports of Democrats pressuring Democrats to vote for the bill to aide their re-election bids. This is just so cynical and short sighted neither one of us could belive it. So now, when Democrats go to the Hispanic community, how are they going to prove they are the party that will represent them? How are Democrats going to hang this legislation around the necks of Republicans when, thanks to their votes, the bill can easily be spun as bi-partisan?

Who the Democrats are and what they stand for is completely undermined by votes like this. And it happens again and again, on CAFTA, the Bankruptcy bill, the Estate Tax, and on and on. Democrats in DC, so disconnected from their constituents, beholden to lobbyists and the money "donate" to fuel their re-election bids, lose sight of the larger picture of creating, reinforcing, and sustaining a Democratic brand.

When Democrats take a stand, stay unified, and stand up to Republicans, great things are possible as was the case with the defeat of Bush's planned gutting of Social Security. But sadly, both of us noted that such stands seem to rare these days.

I asked Christine how she thought she would react to the pressure to be re-elected when she becomes a Congresswoman. Again, she defaulted to her core values and her faith, and noted that she was in this race to make the world a better place for her sons and her neighbors. She was certain that what ever God had in store for her, it would work out the way it was suppose to, whether that be one term or twenty. Her confidence in fighting the good fight is always inspiring to me. But she also noted that when Democrats stood for Democratic core values, despite what the polls or conventional wisdom says, they tended to be re-elected. I noted that not standing for core Democratic values is what might cost first-term Congresswoman Melissa Bean her seat, regardless of how much money she had raised.

I'm obviously biased. But I'm also very excited about what I am seeing in Christine's candidacy. She wants to win for all the right reasons. She wants to win for us. She wants to win for the good of the country. She wants to win to help those who come after her.

Helping Christine win helps us all win, from the precinct level to the national level. She's one of us. Be a part of what is happening in my district. Get involved in her campaign today.