Last Monday I launched the Obamajority to give Barack Obama a strong progressive Congress that will enact his bold agenda. I started it out with three canidates, Rick Noriega, Darcy Burner and Patrick Murphy. I also asked for suggestions for who to endorse next.
The canidate that received the most support by far was Tom Perriello. I had already heard about his impressive run for Congress and so I am exited to announce that Tom is the latest canidate to be added to the Obamajority. So go and give him some change for change. In this essay I take a look at Tom and his campaign to bring much needed leadership to Virgina’s 5th Congressional District.
First let’s take a look at the current representative for the Virgina’s 5th Congressional District. His name is Virgil Goode, Jr. I’ve known about Goode for a little bit over a year because he is a national prominent bigot. On December 7th Goode sent this letter out to a constituent. Take a look at that bigotry.
You see that “Muslim Representative from Minnesota” is Keith Ellison the great representative elected to my neighboring district. That is a perfect example of the hate and fear that is too powerful today. Many times people have attempted to defeat Goode but again and again they have lost. But this time we have a chance to change that.
Why? Because we have a great canidate running. Tom Perriello. Tom was called to serve at a early age.
After receiving his law degree from Yale University, Tom accepted an assignment working to end atrocities in the West African countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, which had suffered long civil wars fueled by blood diamonds. Tom’s work with child soldiers, amputees, and local pro-democracy groups in Sierra Leone played a significant role in the peace and reconciliation process that ended twelve years of violence in that country.
Tom then became Special Advisor and spokesperson for the International Prosecutor during the showdown that forced Liberian dictator Charles Taylor from power without firing a shot. After this success, Tom served as a national security analyst for the Century Foundation. He has worked inside Darfur and twice in Afghanistan.
Since 2004 he has been a leader in building a faith-based movement dedicated to working toward the common good instead of spewing hate.
Since 2004, Tom has helped to launch a political and social movement in this country that is credited with shifting the national debate about America’s moral priorities. He helped found FaithfulAmerica.org and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which bring together faith communities to fight for children’s health care, supporting a higher minimum wage, environmental stewardship, and responsible solutions in Iraq. Inspired by the prophetic vision of Dr. King, Wilberforce, and Micah, Tom believes that America must reverse the erosion of our commitment to the common good and restore our understanding that our nation rises or falls together.
Tom also helped found Avaaz.org a great group that I am a part of. It tackles some of the toughest issues of our day by working with it’s millions of members from every country in the world.
Tom sat down for a great interview with Lowell of the great Virgina blog Raising Kaine. In it he explains why he is running, how he thinks he can win, his strengths and passions. Let’s look at some highlights from that interview.
First of all the big question. Why? Why run for Congress?
Like so many in my generation, I felt called from an early age to devote my life to community service, because it felt so much more real than trying to change things through government. For over a decade, I have felt inspired to work on economic fairness in our communities and on ending atrocities from inside Darfur and Sierra Leone.
But I could only work in a broken system for so long before I began to understand how important it was to fix the system itself. In Darfur and West Africa, I saw how much of a difference a single Congressperson could make if s/he were willing to speak out and hold the Administration and State Department accountable. And the last few elections have made it clear how important it is for Democrats to reclaim the values debate and restore America’s commitment to justice and the common good.
I believe we stand at a unique point in history. Our challenges are large enough that our only pragmatism is the idealism to think big and expand our sense of what’s possible. I am running because I believe that politics should be seen as community service by other means. It can, and should, be a place to make people’s lives better.
And how will he win in this traditionally Republican district?
We are going to win because we have a stronger movement on our side and better ideas for how to secure our country, our jobs, and our environment. Beating Rep. Goode will not be easy, but all the pieces are coming together:
1) Energy and Resources – We tripled Rep. Goode in fourth quarter fundraising, and raised more money inside Virginia in four months than he did all year. When we are outpacing an incumbent from the Appropriations Committee, you know that people are hungry for a new generation of leadership. Also the DCCC has put our race “in play,” and if we hit our fundraising target this quarter, we will move into the top tier of their targeted races.
2) Grassroots – Our campaign has already logged over 1300 volunteer hours, and we are working hard to build the largest and most sophisticated grassroots network this district has ever seen. We are investing heavily in field, already have offices in Franklin County and Charlottesville, and will have an office in Danville by the end of this quarter. In a district the size of New Jersey, this race will be won on the ground.
3) Blue-mentum – Like much of America, our district is a swing district that is now trending blue. The wildly popular Mark Warner is on the ticket, Gov. Kaine is tirelessly devoted to building the party, and Obama just got more primary votes in the Fifth than all the Republicans combined. Meanwhile, Rep. Goode has gone from being a populist maverick to marching lockstep with President Bush and out of step with our independent district.
As for being a “faith-based progressive,” I can tell you that voters respond to authenticity. My faith is a big part of who I am and why I’ve dedicated my life to justice, and most voters just want to know what I am all about. It also provides a common experience and language that resonates with voters in my district, especially in areas where Democrats have struggled in the past.
And finally his answer on one of the most pressing issues of our day. Climate change.
We need to commit to independence from fossil fuels within a generation, and that will require major investments, a substantial shift in incentives, and a culture change as consumers. A revenue-neutral tax shift is one way to do this, but so are cap-and-trade systems that have worked to address problems such as acid rain.
As for the target, I most often hear from experts that we must draw the line at no more than a 2-degree Celsius temperature increase. Our goal must be set not by what seems politically possible but what will actually produce the end result we need.
That brings me to a excellent series that Tom wrote for TPMCafe’s Table for One. You can read it all here (under latest posts) but I want to focus on what I think is the most important one. It is entitled “Conviction Politics… in Practice.” In it Tom breaks from the notion that only DLC-poll driven campaigns can win. Instead he shows that conviction politics both makes it more likely for him to be elected and will also make him more effective if he is elected. I strongly recomend you read it all but here is part of it.
While some strategists focus on positioning candidates on issue after issue, I believe most voters focus more on whether the candidate integrity and character on the whole, demonstrated by the conviction to take a stand. These lines from Toby Keith probably strike pretty close to how many people, including me, feel about this:
“I’m a man of my convictions. Call me wrong. Call me right.
But I bring my better angels, to every fight.
You may not like where I’m going. But you sure know where I stand.
Hate me if you want to, love me if you can.”
For the rest of the week, I will be talking about my struggle to apply these simple principles to the issues of the day (Iraq War, culture war) and my experience putting conviction politics into practice. The successes of conviction candidates in 2006 inspired me to run for Congress. I am still very early in the process, but am hopeful that this campaign will be part of building on those lessons for a better democracy.
The more I learn about Tom the more exited I am about this campaign. I hope you will take the time to read his great interview with Raising Kaine, teacherken’s excellent case for him and Tom’s postings on TPM. Hopefully then you will be as exited by Tom’s campaign as I am.
Electing Barack Obama isn’t enough to bring real change. We will also need to send a strong message to Congress that more of the same won’t cut it. Electing someone like Tom would do just that. Tom wouldn’t just be another vote. He would be someone who lead by example. He will use his power as 1 of 435 to do good in the world not get sweet deals from lobbyists. He will lead by conviction and indeed he already is leading. He helped develop the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq and appeared in this video promoting it:
If you want that kind of leadership. If you want to send a strong message that conviction politics is the right kind of politics then consider making a donation to Tom via the Obamajority page. Tom has set a goal of raising $500,000 in this quarter and he is very close to reaching that. If he does this will become a top-tier race nationally. He is running a grassroots campaign and we have a good shot at replacing one of the worst congressmen with one of the best. Right now is a critical time in the campaign though so donate and together we can bring about some real change. But only it you help make it.
We need to restore the founding American ethic that we are better off when we are in this together. Since the original thirteen colonies joined together as the United States, through Civil War and the Great Depression, we have risen or fallen according to this simple rule: America thrives when we are united in a common purpose for the common good.- Tom Perriello
P.S. We are always open to adding new canidates. Keep the suggestions coming to obamathon (AT) gmail (DOT) com. Thanks!