So a couple of weeks ago I was invited to take part in fireside chat (basically a video conference) with Lisa McCormick, who is running for Senate in NJ against Bob Menendez) and Tanzie Youngblood, who is running as the progressive alternative in NJ District 2.
The forum was sponsored by a group called CFAR 2018— with the unfortunate full name of Contract For American Renewal– those of you who were politically active in 1994 will know why this sounds bad, but I digress. So the point of this group is that they have this contract that they want candidates to sign off on, most of which is pretty boilerplate progressive stuff which I agree with. There are some things I don’t go along with– restricting the military to defensive use only, getting out of all trade compacts (which I think has to be handled on a case by case basis, and requires nuance) but again, it’s mostly a pretty liberal line. Then there is the added language– this is a legal contract. If you do not vote for these measures within 18 months of being elected you agree to resign and refund all campaign donations. OK… probably absolutely unenforceable, but weird nonetheless. Still, they appeared to be endorsing a national slate of candidates and maybe there is some good exposure to be had. I certainly wasn’t going to commit to anything, but again, exposure is good.
I didn’t talk much at the beginning of the forum. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to be asked things directly and that I would have to jump in. The beginning was largely focused on what it’s like running as an outsider, and the like. Eventually (after Tanzie retired for the night) I got in some things about my pet issue, voting in America and then it took a weird turn. Those of you who know me, or know of me are aware that I am as anti-Trump as one can get. I let slip (intentionally) that one reason I was running is that I wanted some candidate running for national office to say that Trump was a traitor. That seemed to strike an nerve with the hosts. “Do you have any proof of that” which led to “there is no proof of collusion with Russia” and “if we talk about Trump, we have to talk about Hillary”.
Now I understand reticence to use the word traitor. It’s a strong word. It’s true, but still accusatory. But the no proof of collusion statement, and especially the Hillary remark also crept in. Then the conversation began to turn a bit more heated. The hosts wanted to talk about the Democratic party and how corrupt it was. By this time Lisa McCormick retired from the conversation and her husband and campaign director Jim Devine came on. Jim did his best to guide the conversation back to progressive talk –largely agreeing with me on Trump and the Republican party and saying that while the Democratic party had corrupt elements, it was in no way like what the Republican party has become. It was obvious that there was disconnect, but we all reined it in on positive notes and said good night.
So a little about me and the Democratic Party. I am a Democrat and I believe in the ideals of the party. I am running against a sitting Democrat who is the pawn of the most powerful and corrupt regional machine in the country. I do NOT however believe the entire party is bad or corrupt. To be sure, there are corrupt and heavy-handed corporatist elements to the Democratic Party. There are also a lot of good people involved in it and it is the only defense we have keeping the country from becoming a fascist state. Full stop.
I have no dislike for Hillary Clinton. I disagreed with her Iraq war vote, but I largely feel she was as qualified a person as there has ever been to be President of the United States. I have no dislike for Bernie Sanders. I liked his economic positions more than Hillary’s even as I thought she would be a more effective President. I voted for Bernie in the end (knowing that by the time of NJ primary it was effectively over) because a friend of mine would have been a Bernie delegate. I think the animosity between the two factions has been tragically damaging not just to the party but the country. The only people I have a problem with in all of this are those who abdicated their responsibility to America and voted for Jill Stein or Trump.
Fast forward to this past Thursday night.
I got a call from Jim Devine (who was the one who told me about the first event) and he mentioned that if I was available I could do most of talking tonight. OK. I like talking. I came on and Lisa wasn’t available yet (she actually never made it on– another interview was going on) so it was me and Jim and the CFAR people. We started off nicely, I talked about how it is important that we have the option to use the Military for humanitarian purposes. We talked about voting again. They really want open primary voting– I said I’m OK with parties getting to restrict voting to club members. We talked about how in NJ if you are unaffiliated you can immediately declare, but if you are in a party you have to wait 50 days to change. I said that sounds fair, right? Hosts kind of went along. Hosts then wanted to talk about how the nomination was stolen from Bernie (ed. note– again, I like the guy, but 100s of delegates and millions of votes say otherwise). More stuff about the Democratic Party. Hmm the Democratic party really is the enemy to these guys. OK, lets take this in another direction. I mention that in my case I AM running against an insider specifically because the controller of the machine that runs him is in bed with Trump. Then the defense mechanisms start.
“We can’t just overturn a legitimate election.” I point out that this assumes the election was ever legitimate.
“If Hillary won we’d be bombing Syria already”. Oh really?
A ton of back and forth follows about collusion, with the hosts insisting IT HAS BEEN TWO YEARS and there is no proof. Jim Devine, to his credit, pretty much agrees with me and starts itemizing all the guys who are under investigation or are co-operating with the Mueller investigation.
Then Mueller is castigated. They don’t like Mueller.
I ask at one point flat out if they are pro-Trump. They kind of laugh… “oh no, we get that a lot. We just…”
Later I ask if Putin really cares about the American people. Response: “I don’t think he wants war anymore than any one else”
Jim says at one point that we would obviously be better off under Hillary. The hosts don’t like this. “How?” Jim rattles off healthcare stuff, taxes, we’d still be in the Paris accords, etc. Host: “I don’t agree with the Paris accords!”. My jaw drops. Every country in the world is signed off on this! What’s your problem with it? “It doesn’t take into account deforestation.” OK. A measure that the entire world agrees with doesn’t deal with your pet issue so you are willing to throw out the entire good?”. The creepy feeling I had the first time has been much more pronounced this second time, and now it is reaching full on paranoia. It’s getting late and we agree to cut off, and I say something civil about we’re all in this together, if we agree on 80% of things we should be able to work things out and make things a better place and eventually we say good night.
The next day I’m bothered, and I talk to my wife, a couple of friends and my oldest daughter about this. I think this group is a Russian front. I feel like an alarmist, then I do some research. I ran an Internet whois command on cfar2018.com. Registrar is John D Rachel. Country of registration, Japan. Say what?
I go to the CFAR website and check “About us”. There are the two hosts and John D Rachel, book author and creator of the contract. After leaving America in 2006, he visited 34 countries before settling in Japan. Why the f— is he creating conditions for running for Congress in a country he doesn’t even reside in? Amazon search of his books reveals he has written for Greenville Post and ..the Russia Insider??
From Wikipedia entry on the Russia Insider–