Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Darcy Burner is running - Let's rejoice

Darcy Burner, who was not a manager at Microsoft and did not get a college degree in economics, is running for Congress in the greatly changed First District. She excites the root-nuts and puzzles everyone else.

Washington Demo Big Chief Dwight Pelz tried to talk her out of running. Reasoning with Darcy Burner? Good luck.

Seattle Times describes her recent life as a DC insider:

… In late 2008, a group of progressive leaders, emboldened by President Obama's victory, decided it needed someone, for the first time, to act as a "bridge" between the then-83-member Congressional Progressive Caucus and the broader community of like-minded activists and think tanks.

Burner, fresh from a second loss to Rep. Dave Reichert, knew many of the progressive leaders, including Robert Borosage, who runs one of the think tanks. The board of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation — which Borosage chairs and included the founders of Moveon.org and the website Daily Kos — was impressed by Burner's energy, tech savvy and willingness to fundraise her own salary, Borosage said.

"She basically built it from nothing," said Borosage. "It had all the perils of a startup and entrepreneurial venture."

Burner, who as executive director renamed the group Progressivecongress.org, raised $390,535 and was paid $134,084 in 2010, the most recent year that the group's tax statements are available. Donors aren't on file, but Burner said big funders included George Soros' Open Society Institute; the Stewart R. Mott Foundation; and The Arca Foundation.

Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation and a board member, said Burner acted as a counterweight to conservatives such as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

The Progressive Caucus doesn't have its own staff, and tended to be "fragmented," vanden Heuvel said. Burner urged the Congress members to focus on just a few core issues. "Darcy has a good strategic mind about the fights that need to be focused on," vanden Heuvel said.

First up was progressives' demand for a public option in the health-care overhaul. Burner and her organization helped frame the argument for a public option with a memo recommending that supporters avoid phases such as "Canadian-style health care" or "universal health care" in favor of "An American solution," according to memos on the group's website.

In an interview on MSNBC, Burner described Sen. Joe Lieberman's opposition to a public option as "a national disaster." As congressional support for a public option faded, Burner advocated killing the bill entirely.

On the campaign trail now, Burner describes the Affordable Care Act as "imperfect" while claiming to help pass it. "It's a really good partial solution to the problem," she said in a recent interview.

Sharp rhetoric

In the Netroots Nation speech this month, Burner said winning in politics is more about using raw power than crafting the best policy statements. "If we want to win, we need to play the game that is really being played," she said.

That means exercising "moral power," such as having innocents be victims of police force at protests, and legal power, like lawsuits against corporations, she said. "Virtually every Fortune 500 corporation is discriminating economically against women," she said.

She used similarly barbed rhetoric at times at Progessivecongress.org. In fighting Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to make fundamental changes to Medicare, Burner wrote on Twitter, "Real choice is between insurance companies and government. Insurance companies kill people when it's profitable."

Burner often also worked on behind-the-scenes messaging.

As Congress debated whether to end the Bush-era tax cuts in 2010, Burner's group circulated memos that suggested avoiding "tax cuts" and "tax breaks" because "these words immediately win the sympathy of most audiences." Instead, the memos suggested phrases such as "Republican Bonus for Billionaires" and "greed, greedy, excessive wealth."

Burner's campaign speeches pack the same punch. While her Democratic opponents stress the need to help the middle class, Burner agrees, but also denounces policies "rigged for bankers and oil barons," and emphasizes prosecuting Wall Street malfeasance.

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