Mike Arcuri, Good Riddance
I’m a raging liberal, and so I’m not used to celebrating the election of a Republican to Congress. This morning, however, I am celebrating the election of Richard Hanna to the U.S. House of Representatives from our 24th congressional district.
The reason has everything to do with the Congressman Richard Hanna will be replacing: Mike Arcuri. Arcuri has been our Democratic U.S. Representative for four years now, though Democrats in our district never really got the chance to choose him as their candidate. Back in 2006, then-Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Rahm Emanuel hand-picked Arcuri to be our district’s Democratic nominee, and maneuvered to pressure all other Democrats to withdraw from the race before rank and file Democrats could make their voices heard through a primary.
We were told that a primary would weaken Democratic chances of victory. Instead, what we actually got was four years of weakened Democratic Party victories. Because of the election of Michael Arcuri, and right wing Blue Dogs like him, to Congress, Republicans won large numbers of legislative victories even though they were nominally out of power. The Blue Dogs blocked good legislation and worked with Republicans to pass nasty laws.
From the start, liberals like myself were told that we were obligated to vote for Arcuri just because he was a Democrat, regardless of his ideology. Democrats here in Trumansburg howled and scowled when I told them in 2006 that I wouldn’t vote for Arcuri because of his support for the Military Commissions Act, a law that encourages torture and set up kangaroo courts with shamefully low standards of justice (Arcuri announced his support for the law even before he had read it). I was told that I ought to think of the big picture, and imagine all the wonderful things that would be done once the Democrats took control of Congress.
They got what they wanted, and then, almost all those wonderful things that the Democrats promised they’d do when they got control of Congress were blocked by Michael Arcuri and his fellow Blue Dogs. Arcuri’s vote against health care reform and climate legislation this session were just the most recent examples of his frequent collaboration with Congress to the detriment of the political ideals that most Democrats hold dear.
I disagree with a huge amount of Richard Hanna’s political agenda, but there’s one thing Richard Hanna does not do. Richard Hanna does not tell me that he’s progressive and then act regressive.
In fact, Richard Hanna is every now and then surprisingly reasonable. This year, for example, when most Republican congressional candidates were hissing and foaming at the mouth in protest against the renovation of a community center run by Muslims, with a memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks in it, calling it a “Ground Zero Mosque”, Richard Hanna refrained from joining in the hateful paranoia… at first. He rightly noted that where any religious group chose to place its buildings is their business, a matter protected by the First Amendment’s freedom of religion.
Then, Mike Arcuri, seeing a political opportunity to exploit fear to his personal advantage, declared that he thought that Muslims ought to move their community center away from the community in which they lived. Arcuri was effectively stating that there ought to be Islam-free zones in the USA. He was joining with Sarah Palin, against Barack Obama’s pleas for toleration. He forced Richard Hanna to change his position, and join in the scapegoating of Muslims.
So now we’ve got to deal with being represented in the U.S. House by a Republican. I can cope with that. Just as electing Mike Arcuri wasn’t what delivered the House to the Democrats in 2006, electing Richard Hanna isn’t now a single blow that’s given John Boehner and his Republican allies control of the House. If you look at the election results from yesterday across the nation, you’ll see that it was overwhelmingly Republican-collaborating Democrats like Mike Arcuri who lost their seats in the House. Blue Dogs and other Democrats like them didn’t retain voter support. Liberal Democrats did. The Democratic committees up in Utica and Auburn, who together dominate the Democratic Party politics in our district, ought to consider that as they look for nominees in 2012.
It’s 2012 I’m thinking of as I celebrate the yesterday’s victory of Richard Hanna. Now, Democrats have the opportunity to organize to find a reasonable, genuine progressive Democrat to represent them in the 2012 election. Democrats don’t have to put on false smiles anymore, making excuses for Arcuri. There’s a chance now that, come January of 2013, Trumansburg Democrats will be represented by someone in Congress who actually shares their values.
Michael Arcuri? Good riddance.