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Fighting on the Battleground in Ohio

A 'Progressive' Hit-Piece on Paul Hackett

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Democrat Senate candidate and current Congressman Sherrod Brown's Washington connections are paying dividends.

By David Sirota (from In These Times):

As anyone who's spent time working on Capitol Hill knows, Washington, D.C., is really just an elaborate pressure system designed to turn corporate money and conservative conventional wisdom into congressional votes. With nearly every bill, there is a disconnect between what lawmakers tell the public they are doing and what they are actually doing and why.

In such a corrupt system, it seems nearly impossible to fight for the progressive agenda while ascending the power structure. The standard narrative says stay pure and be marginalized, or sell out the public and rise. But there are rare leaders who break this stereotype. One of them is Sherrod Brown.

In October, Brown announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate against weak incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio). His candidacy provides an opportunity to begin building a bloc of progressives in the Senate, an institution whose few progressives are outgunned by both hard-right Republicans and weak-kneed Democrats.

Before getting to DeWine, however, Brown will face a primary challenge from Iraq war veteran Paul Hackett, who recently lost a special election race for Congress in the Cincinnati suburbs. Hackett's a charismatic candidate and he ran a good House campaign this summer. He's also benefited from the progressive blogosphere, whose funding helped him come close to winning a seat in a largely Republican district.

In terms of sheer politics, Brown has the advantage over Hackett in both money raised and proven statewide electoral success -- that is not debatable. But beyond the crass questions of political strength are the more important questions of positions and record -- the metrics that should concern all progressive donors and activists looking at this race. Brown has shown time and time again that he will not be intimidated by the Washington pressure system, and that he can be both effective and progressive within that system.

Hackett, by contrast, has already shown troubling signs when it comes to the issues.

For instance, as the Los Angeles Times reported, this summer when Hackett was running in a more conservative district and President Bush's approval ratings were higher, he "generally opposed a timetable for withdrawal." At one point, Hackett even adopted President Bush's insulting language, saying he opposed withdrawal because "we can't cut and run."

"But now," the Los Angeles Times notes, "Hackett has embraced the idea as he faces off in a Democratic Senate primary." While it is certainly positive that Hackett has reversed his earlier position, his willingness to veer so sharply in different directions to fit the moment's political circumstances raises questions about how he would behave in a Senate where the pressure system is designed to make shifting to the right on key issues seem most politically advantageous.

Additionally, Hackett has already displayed a willingness to vilify the left when it suits him. For instance, soon after Brown's announcement, Hackett attacked the progressive champion as "a very liberal Democrat" in Mother Jones magazine. Days later, the Toledo Blade reported that in facing questions about the viability of his candidacy, Hackett "counters that his likely primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D., Lorain), is too liberal to beat Mr. DeWine" -- an opportunistic regurgitation of destructive right-wing talking points designed to dishonestly marginalize the progressive movement and its electoral effectiveness.

I am not a fan of Paul Hackett, but the treatment that he is receiving from his own party is head-spinning. In their attempts to regain power, they have chosen the insider over the "regular" guy and the power-player over the hard-charging Marine.

I am not a Democrat and I suppose that I should not care how Hackett is being treated, but once again I am floored by the crappy way that Ohio Democrats treat one of their own. Free-thinking is not exactly a trait that Democrats embrace, so I suppose that I should not be shocked.

I doubt that either man can defeat the wimpy DeWine anyway.