Hank Sims / @ 12:33 p.m. / Elections

The Lost Coast Outpost Recommends: Norman Solomon for Congress


In the June 5 primary election, the Lost Coast Outpost supports Marin County author and intellectual Norman Solomon for Congress.

Who should vote for Norman Solomon? Democrats unsatisfied with the party’s inability to fight, or its terminal misreading of the Republican Party’s intentions. Republicans who want to see frontrunner Jared Huffman bloodied before the general election. Huffman-leaning voters wouldn’t mind putting their candidate through the paces a bit. Broadly speaking: Anyone in the district who want to see a serious and deep debate on policy in this district between now and November. Which should be everyone.

The list on the ballot is long. Here’s how to pare it down. First, strike off the two Republicans, Dan Roberts and Michael Halliwell. Not so long ago a California Republican candidate would bear consideration, but in this day and age a vote to send another Republican to the House of Representatives is – in all frankness – a vote for actual, diagnosable insanity. Thankfully no Republican bears any chance whatsoever of assuming office in this district.

Next, you can cross off all the seaweed collectors and pot doctors and the like who, whatever they tell themselves, ran not to make a point, still less to win, but to soak up a bit of the limelight that for some reason they feel is their due. To be charitable: Perhaps it could be said that they ran to demonstrate it’s everyone’s right to run for office in America. But that is not the same as to say that anyone should vote for them. (Petaluma City Councilor Tiffany Renee is the odd woman out, here: An actual politician and a youngster, she presumably ran to build a resume.)

That leaves four real candidates: Jared Huffman, Susan Adams, Stacey Lawson and Norman Solomon.

We stand by our earlier assessment of Susan Adams as the most Humboldtish of all the major candidates. Who else could win endorsements from both Mark Lovelace and Virginia Bass, and for what other reason? She is down-to-earth and a delight to speak with. She’s plenty smart on policy, and her real-world career as a nurse practitioner is nothing but an asset. Agreed: We need more nurses in Congress, and you couldn’t choose better than Adams.

Unfortunately, though, she has been outflanked on every front almost from the moment she announced. Huffman won the support of the establishment. Solomon scooped her very considerable credentials as a not-loony leftist. With the rise of Lawson, suddenly she isn’t the only woman in the race. Her chances of making it to the general election in November are very slim – too slim, at this point, to merit consideration.

Stacey Lawson’s loop-de-loo spiritual beliefs are, at base, no more strange than those professed by the majority of Americans. One candidate claims to be moved to elective office by a 2,000-years-dead Nazarene; another by the universal life-force itself, as channeled through a subcontinental huckster. You could spend a long time trying to parse the difference and end up none the wiser. Still, for the LoCO’s money Lawson crosses a should-be-uncrossable line into fundamentalism with her mostly unreported patronage of the Institute for Noetic Science, a “research institute” that taps the bank accounts of soft-headed Bay Area richies in order to find some kind of physical basis for New Age preoccupations like telekinesis. The rule should be: Your worldview fucks with science? You’re out. One strike. 

Still more troublesome: Her much-touted economic plan is full of vagaries and platitudes and very little else. Still more: As evidenced by her voting record, Lawson didn’t see much use in American politics before it occurred to her to run as a vanity candidate to represent a Congressional district she didn’t yet live in. Most: Her principal pitch – that she is a “job creator” – is:

  • Sullied by her leadership of a company that outsourced manufacturing to Asia,
  • Shockingly dismissive of the people who built her considerable fortune through their labor. (Should working-class Americans refer to themselves as “wealth creators” now?)
  • Completely beside the point, given that she wants to perform this vaporous voodoo of hers in the public sector. Why not “create jobs” by creating jobs?
  • For these and other reasons, total bullshit and endlessly grating to the Lost Coast Outpost’s ears.

That leaves Norman Solomon and Jared Huffman. And here we arrive at the Democratic Party’s current crossroads: Should we keep trying to pretend that the Republican Party is a rational negotiating partner? Should we continue to carry on praying that people will someday soon see through its dogma, crassness and bad faith, its utter lack of interest in the great majority of the American citizenry? Won’t the Rove-Norquist-Koch machinery eventually grind down and collapse, as it did during the Gilded Age? Meanwhile, shouldn’t someone be the adult in the room?

Or is it time to go to war? Is it time to say to plutocracy and its mouthpieces: “No, we don’t come over to you. You come over to us”?

If you tend toward the first course, then Jared Huffman is your man. He is a natural politician and as smooth as they come. He would play the game according to the rulebook, but he would play it as well or better than most. There’s no reason to question his commitment to the district, nor to the many admirable causes he has championed – and more, actually advanced – throughout his life.

The question is whether his particular skill set would be of any use in today’s District of Columbia. The Lost Coast Outpost has come to the sad conclusion that it would not. Or, at least, not use enough.

Norman Solomon is a bull-headed leftist intellectual of many years standing, a person who would consider the word “compromise” among the gravest of insults. On the floor of the House of Representatives he would almost certainly be just as stubborn and unyielding as (say) any Tea Party freshman from the Great State of Alabama. But unlike that freshman, Solomon is actually right about all the major issues in this election cycle – income inequality, fiscal policy, health care reform, campaign finance reform, civil rights and civil liberties, the drug war, etc., etc. Solomon would champion the correct positions on these issues with a righteous fury. Rest assured – he cannot be bought. He probably can’t even be persuaded.

Now, the reservations. The Lost Coast Outpost had the opportunity to meet with Solomon over coffee a few days ago, and during that time we put two serious challenges to the candidate. His responses were, in a word, lame.

One: The Democracy Now!-friendly version of foreign policy that Solomon has supported forever sounds great when your shoulders are burden-free, but how does it work out in real life? When is the use of American military force justifiable?

Two: If we’re going to vote for a fighter instead of a deal-maker – a non-compromiser instead of a compromiser – then won’t the district reap that bitter harvest? Shouldn’t we be prepared to wave farewell to the kind of gravy that Rep. Mike Thompson habitually brought home, such as the ARRA funds that built Eureka’s Fisherman’s Terminal? Thompson orchestrated one of the most complicated compromises in North Coast history – the Klamath Settlement Agreement – and that compromise represents the only likely way forward in restoring that river. Are those days done? Is the perfect, in fact, the enemy of the good?

Solomon’s foreign policy response was, in the LoCO’s considered opinion, completely preposterous. First he congratulated himself for publishing stern words aimed at the buffoonish figure of Hugo Chavez. (Though later I learned that this dressing-down was tempered, predictably, by admiration for “much of what Chavez has been doing for economic equity and social justice in Venezuela.”) As for military power: Solomon ventured that U.S. troops and materiel might be used appropriately and justifiably when serving under a multilateral United Nations flag. When I pointed out that this standard, applied in 1994, would have left Solomon as just another thumb-twiddler under the Capitol dome as Rwandan rivers ran red, the conversation dwindled away. If you’re saying that the United States military should only be deployed when Russia and China give the go-ahead, then say it and own it.

On the second point, our man countered that the squeaky wheel quite often gets the grease. Look at Bernie Sanders, he said – because the administration needed his vote on health care reform, and because that vote was not in the bag from the get-go, Sanders was able to insist on all kinds of beneficial amendments and provisions. But of course Solomon’s analysis, here, conveniently elides the fact that Sanders is a senator and had a filibuster threat filling his sails; he wasn’t just another majority-rule representative among 438, a squeaky wheel more efficaciously discarded. (On the other hand, and though Solomon didn’t mention this, the Klamath Settlement Agreement is currently floundering hard, all but killed by Republican dogmatism. Again: Back to the root problem.)

So it’s a testament to very dire state of our union that these two matters qualify as no more than quibbles. Norman Solomon will stand firmly and unwaveringly for ordinary Americans. He’ll put the thumbscrews to the greedy and the bigoted. Unlike the rest of the field, he won’t hesitate to say what he means for fear of pissing someone off. Most importantly, he’ll jump into the fight with both feet and he won’t be beaten down until someone drags his corpse off the stage.

At the very least, you should vote for Norman Solomon if you want to see a serious debate about the future of the Democratic Party, including, most of all, its strategy for dealing with right-wing intransigence. Imagine, if you can stomach it, five months of Huffman v. Lawson: A half-year beauty pageant, Ken vying with Barbie for top honors. Imagine if a token Republican gets through: Five months of Huffman coasting on fumes. No. A thousand times no.

It is the Lost Coast Outpost‘s belief that, at the end of five months of Huffman v. Solomon, the district will have a clear opinion about whether the Democratic Party needs more suavity or more spine, more deal-making or closer engagement with the enemy.

But we won’t know until we get there. On June 5, vote Norman Solomon for Congress.



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