Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
Last night’s Congressional District 7 public debate revealed the stark contrast between the candidates and their followers.
Congressman and incumbent Democrat Raul Grijalva faced challengers Republican Ruth McClung, Libertarian George Keane, and Independent Harley Meyer, in front of an enthusiastic (and sometimes rowdy) standing-room only crowd.
OK, call be biased (and I’m sure you will), but Grijalva was the only candidate with solid ideas based upon facts– rather than ideology. The only other interesting candidate with original ideas was Meyer (the Independent). Unfortunately, he is too smart to be elected in Arizona– or probably anywhere out side of NYC, LA, San Francisco, or Boston. McClung is a Sarah Palin wannabe— one of the Republican Party’s new Stepford Wives of Politics. As if she were at a rally and not a debate, she spouted fiery, rehearsed rhetoric based upon the standard Republican Party line. The Tea Baggers, who were well-represented, ate it up. Keene (the Libertarian) spouted their party line– cut taxes, government, and regulations; let the markets be free and the people be dammed.
The debates was built around 5 questions based upon major issues: immigration, jobs, healthcare, education, and balancing the federal budget. The hosts of the debate (Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Arizona Public Media, ASUA, and Pima Community College Desert Vista Campus) distributed the questions in advance. The moderator from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce kept the speakers to strict time limits with their answers, but it was difficult for her to control the boisterous and disruptive Tea Party section of the audience. Everyone was told at the beginning that the audience could have “no audible responses” to the questions– no clapping, cheers, boos, etc. The moderator said that people who didn’t obey these rules would be removed.
The problem was that a block of 40 or so of McClung’s Tea Party supporters, who were sitting together, thought the rules didn’t apply to them. [And these are the patriotic “law and order” folks?] They repeatedly interrupted the televised debate with cheers and clapping for McClung or negative comments for Grijalva. At one point, Grijalva said politely, “Excuse me. All I’m asking for is a little courtesy and respect.”
Although they were warned by the moderator and random Grijalva supporters shouted, “Throw them out!”, the Tea Partiers didn’t pay attention. In their final act of disrespect, several of them walked out en masse as Grijalva began his closing remarks.
In a nutshell, here is what the candidates said on immigration and jobs. Check out the Arizona Public Media for a video of the debate to learn more.
Grijalva: We need security on the border. This means “dealing with the realities of the border”, and this goes beyond building a fence. We need to stop the drugs coming to the US and stop the guns and money going to Mexico. We also need to deal with the realities of “blended families” whose family members are on both sides. And, we need to have an honest assessment of our workforce needs as a country (ie, what types of workers do we need to build our economy). [People who say we should deport the 12.5 million undocumented workers in the US are forgetting that when the Baby Boomers retire, the US will have a severe worker shortage.]
Keane: We should build a double fence in populated areas but forget about trying to build the fence along the whole border. [So, won’t they just go around it?] We should increase the number of people who can work legally in the US because the quotas are too low.
McClung: The border fence is necessary. We should have a guest worker program, where people could secure “day passes” to cross the border to work. [In my opinion, a guest worker program would just further depress wages in the US– and particularly in border states. This is seriously bad idea for Arizona’s workforce, but a really great idea for profit-hungry businesses.] We should “go after” employers who employ undocumented workers.
Meyer: We need to look beyond the border and the fence. Splitting families up is dangerous for our country.
Grijalva: The federal government should directly invest in projects to get people working [the FDR model]. We should continue the Bush II era tax cuts for the middle class but let the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans to expire. [This is what President Obama has been pushing for, since 1) the rich don’t need the money and 2) it will help the country financially.] We should invest in job training and retraining for a new economy. If someone is working in an industry that is no longer based in the US, the government should invest in retraining. We should keep the capital gains tax.
Keane: We should lower corporate taxes, lower state and local taxes, and deregulate. [Where has this guy been? Didn’t we learn anything from the deregulation spree under Bush II and the Republican-controlled Congress?]
McClung: We should extend all Bush II era tax cuts– even those for the wealthiest Americans [even if it blows a hole in the deficit. This brought cheers from the Tea Partiers. Even though none of them appeared to be in the richest 1% of Americans. Even though the Tea Partiers say we should balance the budget and cut government spending, they somehow support extending tax cuts to the wealthy.] We should allow the Rosemont Copper Mine to go through because it will create jobs [to heck with the environment]. We should end capital gains tax. We should invest in new technology [no specifics here], and we should NEVER HAVE SOMEONE WHO WILL CALL FOR A BOYCOTT! [Her emphasis, not mine. This also got her Tea Party supporters to break the moderator’s rules. You’ll note that most of her answer– except for the copper mine– had nothing to do with jobs and everything to do with the Republican Party line.]
Meyer: We can’t compete with the extremely low wages paid to workers in other countries. We should change our system and incentivize businesses to create jobs in the US again. [Several times he suggested that the audience google “OPIC”— Overseas Private Investment Corporation– a government program created by President Nixon that incentivizes US companies to invest in businesses abroad. Check out the link. I told you this guy was smart.]
If you missed the CD7 debate last night, you can catch the CD8 debate– Gabrielle Giffords vs Jesse Kelly– on October 18 on the University of Arizona campus. (Hopefully, they have reserved a decent-sized room.)