In what’s turning out to be a parallel to the presidential race, the Reichert campaign is once again pushing the experience meme to the local media, picking up where they left off with their sexist job interview ad from 2006. (As I’ve mentioned before, Reichert’s dismissive comments about powerful and capable women, combined with his staunch opposition to reproductive rights, suggests a less than modern attitude toward the opposite gender.)
The Seattle P-I’s Gregory Roberts is the latest journalist to ask the question of whether experience will play a decisive role in this campaign, and over all, I think he answers it in a pretty evenhanded manner. Though of course I’d think that, considering much of that answer included an extensive conversation with me.
Burner established her credibility as a candidate with her ability to raise money. She caught on quickly with the “netroots,” the informal community of left-wing bloggers that was emerging as a political force.
“She’s one of us,” Seattle blogger David Goldstein said recently. “Deep down, she’s a geek.”
Goldstein solicited donations for Burner’s campaign on his horsesass.org Web site. He met Burner in 2005 at a training program for would-be progressive political candidates and activists.
“She’s one of the smartest politicians I’ve met,” Goldstein said. “She is an incredibly hard worker. She is just absolutely relentless.”
Burner’s political ideology makes her more appealing to the left than Reichert: She wants immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, while he wants to fight to victory; she’s pro-choice, while he’s anti-abortion; he supports the Bush tax cuts, and she thinks they wrongly favor the rich.
But beyond that, Goldstein said, Burner’s background is a plus.
“Congress could use a little bit of Microsoft, and coming from this district, that kind of makes sense,” he said.
“What we don’t have in Congress are people like Darcy Burner who truly understand high technology and the industries that are driving our economy and our region,” he said.
Besides, Goldstein said, Reichert’s experience didn’t prepare him especially well for Congress, where he’s rated as the 401st most influential House member by congress.org.
“He wasn’t a lawyer, she’s not a lawyer. He wasn’t a legislator, she’s not a legislator,” he said.
“This idea that she should have been a city councilperson first and then moved on up — that’s an argument for incumbency,” Goldstein said. “That says the only experience for public office is public office.”
Reporters who have interviewed me know that not only do I like to talk, I can sometimes get pretty damn tangential, so if anything, Roberts has me coming off a bit more concise and focused than I probably did on the phone. That said, I can pretty much sum up my thoughts on this issue by restating my belief that holding elected office should be an act of public service, not a reward for it.
Campaign spokesman Mike Shields likes to point toward Reichert’s long career in law enforcement as a prerequisite for office: “Dave has done this since he was a cop on the beat — helping people solve problems.” But while I certainly honor and respect the hard and sometimes dangerous work of all our first responders, it is not especially relevant to what goes on in the halls of Congress, as evidenced by Reichert’s own ranking as the 401st most powerful person in Congress, ahead of only 34 other representatives, some of whom aren’t even retired, indicted, behind bars, or dead.
It is understandable that in 2004, Reichert ran as “the Sheriff”—that is how most voters knew him, and that was the experience, however irrelevant to the task of legislating, that best recommended him for the job. But after two terms in Congress, it is past time for him to start running as “the Congressman.” And if voters find his job performance in that capacity wanting, then it’s time for them to give Darcy Burner a second, closer look.