Monday, May 01, 2006

Changing of the Guards

The Bard Observer Endorses Gillibrand.

Time For A Changing of the Guard

The accolades and atrocities of John Sweeny place him in an echelon that greatly exceeds the cult of pedestrian right-wing bullies and blowhards in Congress. In his six years in as Bard’s Representative, Sweeny has distinguished himself by essentially inciting an anti-recount riot during the 2000 presidential election fiasco in Florida, and by acting as a reliable vote in favor of the most noxious conservative policy ideas of recent years. Congresspeople like Sweeney, devoid of real leadership merit but craven for power, are the people who’ve made America’s current fascination with the extreme right possible. When Tom Delay and Karl Rove need votes, they call on henchmen like Sweeney to do their bidding.

Unfortunately, it’s long looked as if Sweeney’s place in Congress was invulnerable to opposition. It’s often repeated that the 20th District, of which Bard is a part, can count 70% of its population as Republican. And the most recent Democratic candidates haven’t exactly given voters a reason to change Representatives. While well-intentioned, these candidates have lacked the political fiber upon which a successful opposition campaign must be mounted. To win an election in a district where the odds are stacked heavily against you, you need to be a great candidate who runs a great campaign. This year, such a candidate is in the election. The candidacy of Kirstin Gillibrand represents the best hope for change in the 20th District.

Gillibrand is an upstate New York Democrat, meaning that she couples a brand of economic liberalism with a more traditional approach to social and cultural issues. In a recent interview with the local Post Star, Gillibrand cited Sweeney’s opposition to minimum wage increases as one of the central reasons for her candidacy. Coupled with his undue support of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), she believes that voters have a powerful mandate to reject him at the voting booths. . She’s emphatically “pro-second Amendment,” and while she hasn’t given a rousing endorsement of the Iraq war, her refusal to condemn it has compelled an anti-war candidate, Doug Walters, to enter into the race.

The experience and quality of Gillibrand’s campaign will make her a viable candidate through Election Day. Her financial support is comparable to Sweeny’s, and her campaign operations have focused on turning an unfavorable demographic in her favor. Eliot Spitzer has already stopped by to offer his vocal and powerful endorsement.

Not everything about Gillibrand will sit well with progressive students, however. For one, she’s close with the Albany lobbying community. While this means that she’ll be able to run a competitive, well-funded campaign, it nonetheless raises questions about to whom she would be beholden if elected. It also raises basic questions about democratic fairness: Is she competitive because she’s a strong potential Congressperson, or because she’s well-connected?

While the Observer expects that the former will eventually be proven true, in order for this to happen, Gillibrand must first defeat John Sweeney at the polls. To this end, The Observer offers its full and unwavering endorsement of Kirstin Gillibrand in her effort to win the Congressional seat of New York’s 20th District.


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