By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
On the other side of the ledger, Feinstein led the charge to make capital punishment a Democratic as well as a Republican cause cĂ©lĂ¨bre; she’s the author of some superheated anti-gang legislation that today seems like a bit of ’90s hysteria; she withdrew her support from Bill Clinton’s universal health-care program, under pressure from business lobbies, at a critical moment; she ran ads in her last Senate campaign (1994) that both reflected and inflamed that year’s anti-immigrant backlash. For years, she’s been a leading promoter of stronger U.S. trade ties to China, laying the groundwork for Congress’s vote this year to grant China permanent normalized trade status.
After just barely surviving a challenge from the mega-rich and mega-unqualified Michael Huffington in 1994, Feinstein isn’t really facing a serious challenge this year. Indeed, her Republican opponent, Silicon Valley Congressman Tom Campbell, is waging something close to a third-party campaign, as he’s critically short of money and talks chiefly about issues that are outside the political mainstream. Campbell is one of two California GOP congressmen (the other is Glendale’s James Rogan) whose support for President Clinton’s impeachment greatly diminished their prospects for re-election this year, and who considered running against Feinstein. Losing statewide beats losing your House district hands down, but only Campbell took the plunge.
Campbell is considered very moderate by Republican standards. Actually, his bounding from right to left is largely a function of his libertarian beliefs. A constitutional-law professor at Stanford, with a Ph.D. from the economics department of the University of Chicago (Milton Friedman’s old stomping grounds), Campbell is no great fan of unions, or higher minimum wages, or public and universal social insurance. On matters economic, he’s clearly to Feinstein’s right: She’s normally in the 70 percentiles, and he’s in the 20s, on the unions’ indices of pro-labor voting. Similarly, he’s far less supportive than Feinstein of environmental regulation.
But Campbell is also anti-government on cultural questions in which his GOP colleagues want the state to get involved. He’s strongly pro-choice and anti–Internet censorship. Remarkably, his campaign centers on his opposition to the nation’s utterly failed and wrong-headed war on drugs, and his support for an alternative national program of drug treatment. In both its message and its lack of funding, his campaign resembles no statewide Republican campaign in recent memory.
Happily, there’s an alternative to both Feinstein and Campbell on November’s ballot, a candidate we enthusiastically recommend. We do not mean to damn by faint praise when we say that Medea Benjamin is the best candidate the California Green Party has yet offered the voters. Both a visionary and a very effective hands-on organizer, Benjamin is the founding director of the human-rights group Global Exchange, an author and activist who’s played a central role in exposing the new global sweatshops. An economist and nutritionist, she worked for the U.N., the World Health Organization and the Swedish International Development Agency before she founded Global Exchange, the organization that turned the spotlight on Nike’s use of abused, poverty-wage workers in Asia, and that helped expose the near-slavery conditions under which Saipan’s garment workers were forced to labor. She was a key figure in starting up the student anti-sweatshop campaign that’s swept America’s campuses, and she was one of the major leaders of the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle last November. Benjamin is running on essentially the same platform as Ralph Nader this year; if there’s a difference between the two, it’s chiefly that in her speeches she dwells more on global economic issues than he does. From outside the Senate, Medea Benjamin has already done more to create a more just and livable planet than perhaps 97 of the members inside the Senate.
This is a race in which progressives can vote their conscience for Medea Benjamin without fear that a Tom Campbell upset will thwart the Democrats’ attempt to retake the Senate. Feinstein’s lead is large and unassailable; the underfunded Campbell is sure to remain an invisible man for the duration of this campaign. The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but DiFi is here to stay.
We strongly urge a vote for Medea Benjamin. Ă¨
UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE
24th District: Brad Sherman
Democrat Sherman is seeking his third term in this West Valley seat. Sherman’s a reasonably progressive Democrat — about as progressive as this district can bear — and has done a yeoman’s job securing funds to acquire more land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and slowing down the rush to build a large housing tract on the Ahmanson Ranch near Woodland Hills. This year, he voted against bringing China into the WTO; in 1997, he opposed the administration’s fast-track proposal. Sherman’s ongoing resistance to free-trade panaceas is a pleasant surprise. He has our clear support.
26th District: Howard Berman
If anyone personifies the split personality of much of the Democratic Party on matters of economic world-view — capitalist on global economics, laborist on domestic economics — it’s Howard Berman, the veteran Democratic congressman from this mid-Valley district. Though he supported NAFTA and trade with China, he’s also the member the United Farm Workers rely upon to derail such dubious legislation as the re-establishment of the bracero “guest worker” program. He’s the leading House strategist to increase funding for Legal Services, a key figure in the battle to protect online privacy, and the single most powerful House member to press the cause of immigrant rights (and lately, immigrant amnesty). His value and virtues far outweigh what, from our perspective, is his free-trade deviation from everything else he’s about.