Thursday, January 26, 2006

CO-6 Drinking Liberally with Bill Winter

If the Republicans want to continue the strategy of attacking their opponent’s strengths, then they better start attacking Bill Winter’s character.
  There hasn’t been a story written about what it means to be an American that this guy hasn’t lived. His biography starts him out as an orphan and rides him through a busy lifetime of service, including serving in two branches of the military, before dropping him off as a somehow unlikely candidate for Congress. I say ‘unlikely’ because although he went to law school, and he worked as a science teacher, there is nothing legalistic or academic about his demeanor. When Bill Winter thinks something is bullshit, he doesn’t spend a lot of time looking for a prettier word. He still has the character of a marine, and displays all of the strength and rough edges that come with it.

  I have been interested in his campaign for a while now, and even made a very brief post on his blog, but tonight at Drinking Liberally – Denver I was able to meet the candidate for Colorado’s sixth congressional district for the first time in person. He is a bit of a celebrity in internet circles, and is known for being one of the Fighting Dems that have been featured on Daily Kos and the Air America Majority Report, but for a lot of the people he meets he is still something of an unknown. He described it by saying,

  I call people and say “I’m Bill Winter and I am running for Congress…” and then there is silence, and then I say, “… against Tom Tancredo.” And then they say “Oh! Ok!” and they want to talk.

I would want to talk too. Tom Tancredo panders to a bigoted xenophobia that has begun to wear thin in Colorado, but that still presses the buttons of hate that please some danker corners of the far right. National money flows in for Tancredo, and it will be hard for Bill to get the exposure he needs, but if the people of his district get a chance to hear his message, they will hear ideas that are far more compelling than Tancredo’s message of fear and racist hatred.

  Johne has been growing our Drinking Liberally chapter, and there was quite a crowd tonight. I stood on the edge of it and talked to Bill for a short while about his experiences and how they shaped his politics.  We discussed his childhood and how it effected his stance on reproductive rights, a stance that he characterized as “pro-freedom.” Later, when speaking to the room, he expanded on that quite a bit.

A woman has a right to choose what happens to her body in every circumstance.

  He said that he felt that, “with the exception of the Bush White House, we are all pro-life. We are all anti-abortion.” But they “just wanted to pass a law and turn their backs and pretend it wasn’t happening.” Winter said it would happen, and people would die from having to turn to illegal means. If we really wanted to lower abortions, he stated, we should focus on what we already know works. “Work on poverty, prenatal health care, birth control, and reproductive education.”

  We also discussed health insurance. He told me that after donating a kidney to his sister, he was unable to get coverage because he now had a disqualifying pre-existing condition. He said that any system that penalized people for giving their organs to people in need was a “screwed up” system.

When I wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in my side I don’t think “I should get to a doctor.” I have to think, “How am I going to pay for this?”

He turned to the crowd and held forth on many topics, and has clearly given a number of issues a good deal of thought, but the part that grabbed my attention had more to do with his commitment than his policies. He showed a set of dog-tags that he carries and told not only the story of this particular set, but also explained the way a marine wears them. He talked about the details of taping them so they would not make noise, and blackening them so they would not glint light, and then he told the more morbid details of why one wears a copy on both their torso and their feet. I won’t try to recreate the story here, but the memory the tags evoked for Bill was when he was 17 and had become a marine and he first made a commitment that he would sacrifice his life if he had to, for people he never met, to uphold an ideal and to fulfill an oath he had taken. As a young marine he swore to, “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and that even today he understands that there was no expiration date on that oath.

  That oath has given him an acute sense of patriotism. He is insulted by an administration that claims people like Murtha are demoralizing our troops. He said that during his service he never cared about things like what some politician in Washington said. Like everyone else, what he cared about was getting home safely to his loved ones. If you want to demoralize troops, have them count down the days until their tour is ending, and then surprise them with an extension. Make them work for many days on end without a break because you have deployed too few to do the job. Send them to a war that you did not even have enough faith in to trust the American people to be willing to sacrifice and pay for, but one that you funded by selling the country to the Chinese.

  Bill Winter said that his patriotism was for an America that was “not a place, not a rock, not a piece of land, but an idea, and it is a fragile idea.” He quoted Thomas Paine saying, “It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from his government,” and he likened his love of his country to the love a parent has for its child. He said that loving your children is not blindly obeying every command they issue. Loving them is standing firm and telling them they are wrong when they are wrong and helping them to grow to be right.

After he spoke, he fielded questions about Tancredo’s immigration stance, and pointed out how Tancredo really had no plan, just two vague ideas. The first is a wall that nobody can pay for, or at least (to the delight of the execs at Kellogg, Brown, and Root) nobody will ever be able to finish paying for. Tancredo’s second bad idea was to send troops we don’t have down to the border to do a job they aren’t trained to do.

I tell you what I was trained to do; shoot an M-16, shoot a howitzer and kill people. Now if they want to say that is what they want the military at the border to do, then that is one thing, but if they want them to be police officers, to be INS agents, then that is not what they were trained for.

He characterized the Republican plan as “*Terror Alert* Brown hordes coming across the Southern border,” and made a call to support the inscription on the Statue of Liberty rather than the Republican path of dividing us with “fear and hate”.

After the questions tapered off, he stayed for quite some time and mingled with the blogger filled crowd.

I went over and greeted Colorado 7th candidate, Herb Rubenstein, who had just added Gerald Arguello to his team as co-chair of Adams County. Herb teased me a bit about some things I had blogged about him, and about my involvement with the campaign of his opposition, candidate Ed Perlmutter. Later on, he and I spoke about the opportunity the caucus system can provide the Democratic Party in building a committed core, a conversation I want to go into in an upcoming post.

I have many pages of other things to relate that can wait for another day, but I wanted to be sure to mention having met Colorado Young Dems, Sara Lu-Hanley and Mike Weissman. I am too old to take a part in the voting, but I understand that Sara is running for the position of Outreach Director and Mike is running for Field Director in Monday’s balloting. I wish them both well, and encourage Colorado Democrats between the ages of 18 and 35 to check them out and get involved.


Blogger 300 Spartans Gym said...

Great post. When I link to your story, should I link to Soapblox or Heading Left?

9:07 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Either way is always fine.
At this point, it looks like there is more critical mass of discussion over at Soapblox, but I wouldn't mind building it out here either.

At any rate, thanks for the links!

2:21 PM  
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