Five more Democratic challengers have officially signed on to the Responsible Plan to end the war in Iraq, including Alan Grayson (FL-08), Harry Taylor (NC-09), Leslie Byrne (VA-11), Bill O’Neill (OH-14), and Greg Fischer (KY-Senate). That brings the total number of endorsers to 25 from 16 states, with several more expected shortly.
On this week’s podcast, the Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly explains that challengers are generally loathe to get out in front on issues like this because the safer strategy is to make the campaign less about themselves and more about the incumbent. So why are so many challengers willing to stick their necks out on the Responsible Plan? Well, it could just be that the Plan is surprisingly, well, responsible.
In a commentary posted to Democracy Arsenal, Moira Whelan of the National Security Network addresses the understandable skepticism with which “national security wonks” and other experts generally greet any candidate plan: “… you roll your eyes [and] you know it’s not wonky enough to meet your standards… right?” But, she continues, “Not so with this plan…”
Folks at NSN have become pretty familiar with this plan in the last few weeks. When we got a call asking us to meet with Darcy Burner, who drafted a plan, we thought of it as nothing new…after all, lots of candidates want to find the silver bullet to change things in Iraq, and often don’t have a feel for all of the moving pieces in Iraq and around the globe. Sometimes, candidates are more concerned with developing the plan that won’t get them in trouble, rather than the one that embodies their approach and forces real change. We were pleasantly surprised by Darcy.
Darcy laid in front of us 20 pages of a comprehensive approach to Iraq—a project that started after a conversation with General Paul Eaton. She’d done her research, and based her ideas on legislation already introduced in Congress. She went beyond the idea of troop deployments, and political stability to address more systemic problems with the US government that got us into this mess in the first place. The Responsible Plan for Ending the War in Iraq looks at things like media accountability, government transparency, torture, FISA and trade-offs on issues such as Afghanistan. She wrote the whole thing herself, and sought advice from “experts” as well as her fellow challengers. In other words…her plan is peer reviewed…and approved.
Two things make the plan especially compelling, and demonstrate a changing dynamic in elections that we’re surely going to see this cycle.
First, the people who drafted it—the 10 candidates who’ve attached their names to it so far—understand Iraq in very real ways. Burner’s brother served in Iraq. Donna Edwards is a military brat. Tom Periello worked in Iraq and Afghanistan doing development work. The list goes on and on. In other words, the idea that progressives “don’t get it” is completely blown out of the water based on those who are introducing it. Not only do they get it, they’ve embraced it and are now running for Congress to change the realities they see—that’s public service of which you can be proud. They’re actually walking the walk.
Second, voters and candidates care about Iraq and the rest of the world—in a detailed way. Contrary to what some political advisors are saying, these candidates started this strategy because “what are you going to do about Iraq?” is the top question they’re getting from their voters. It’s no longer sufficient for candidates to say they believe in ending the war, voters want to know how they’re going to do that. Voters are insisting on details because they know the details. In other words, our candidates and our voters are smarter on Iraq and the world we live in than we’ve seen in recent elections.
[…] A few months from now, people will look back on this crew with a “where it all started” approach. We’ll be counting this class as a new generation of leaders who are smarter and stronger on security than ever before. More will adopt their plan as a blueprint, and they’ll walk into the halls of Congress with a mission, with allies, and with knowledge.
Through his spokesman, Dave Reichert insists that he wants to bring our troops home from Iraq as well. The difference is, Darcy Burner is actually attempting to do something about it.