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Time for a show of hands, friends. How many think the Bush foreign policy of invading Iraq and declaring war on everybody in the Middle East who doesn't like it is working out great for our team? How many love the tax cuts for the rich? How about getting rid of estate taxes, so the rich can pass it all along to their heirs, whether it's $10 million or $10 billion?

And how many think the Republican Congress, which is complicit in all things Bush (and that first paragraph doesn't even scratch of surface of how bad it's been) should be strengthened over the next two years?

Right. If your hand went up at any point, read something else.

But if it didn't, and you're thinking, as we are, that it's time for some investigations, and that a Democratic House of Representatives capable of serving some subpoenas on the Rices and the Rumsfelds would be a good beginning, then we recommend that you re-elect the Triangle's three Democratic congressmen, Bob Etheridge, David Price and Brad Miller.

In this "blue moon" election, where we don't get to vote on a U.S. senator (or governor), the congressional elections are as close as we get to any influence over national policies. And while the three Democratic incumbents are hardly alike, they do have this in common: Each has a right-winger for a Republican opponent.

District 2

How many votes has U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge cast to make us think he's no better than a Republican? How about the vote to turn the Terri Schiavo case into a federal issue? Or the one, just recently, in favor of Bush's enemy-combatants bill--the bill that strips the Constitution of any meaning when it comes to the so-called "war on terror"? Or all his votes in favor of the war?

But why bother? Etheridge takes progressive voters for granted, knowing that as checkered as his record is, the very fact that he's a Democrat, and will be part of a Democratic majority if and when, makes him better than a Republican. Especially a Republican like his opponent this time, Selma businessman Don Mansell, an industrial painting and fireproofing man who spouts the whole right-side agenda, from privatizing Social Security to tax-paid vouchers for private-school tuitions.

District 4
click to enlarge David Price
  • David Price

Veteran U.S. Rep. David Price is no radical, either. In fact, a lot of his Chapel Hill and Durham constituents think it's time he made it to an anti-war rally. The closest he's come is co-sponsorship (with Miller) of a House resolution that would ask the president to share his plan for getting out of Iraq. Pretty rad, huh?

Otherwise, Price is a straight-ahead Democrat who favors raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour and wants more money for student loans and the No Child Left Behind Act. His Republican opponent, however, retired Air Force Col. Steven Acuff, calls Price an "extreme liberal" for questioning Bush on Iraq. Acuff likes Bush's tax cuts for the rich and is among that dwindling band of right-siders still calling for an end to the progressive income tax and its replacement with a "flat" tax so the rich can pay even less.

District 13

When it comes to right-wingers for opponents, nobody in the country can hold a candle to U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, whose opponent is the amazingly irresponsible Vernon Robinson of Winston-Salem. Winston-Salem, you say? That's not in the 13th district. No, it's not. But Robinson's career, if you can call it that, is raising money from ultra-right donors across the nation, then spending it in campaigns wherever--this year, he's running in the 13th; two years ago, he ran in the 5th; he previously ran--twice--for state superintendent of schools; and for a time he actually held a district seat as a Winston-Salem alderman.

Robinson's fundraising is akin to a carnival show. Either he makes stuff up about his "radical" opponents, or he twists the facts beyond recognition to get a reaction--and a contribution. For instance, his first ads this year implied sarcastically that Miller and a liberal blogger from San Francisco were gay lovers. Both men, though, are married. And straight. Then he accused Miller of "denying" body armor to the troops in Iraq. "He would just rather spend it on sex," a Robinson ad declared. The truth? Miller missed a routine military appropriations vote because he was in Iraq. And the "sex" vote was in support of the National Institutes of Health, whose research grants included several related to HIV and to senior citizens' sexual disfunctions. Debunking Robinson's material, the sober-sided FactCheck.org, part of the Annenburg Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, said it was "misleading" and "many viewers will find it distasteful."

The First Amendment protects Robinson's right to be pathetic, and Article I lets him run for Congress in any district of the state. But c'mon, Republicans, is this really somebody you ought to be voting for?

Miller's been critical of the war and the Bush agenda in general. But mainly, he's used his time in Congress--in his two terms so far--to increase funding for community colleges and other training programs for displaced workers. We know lots of radicals. He ain't one of them. But Robinson is.

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