More heat emerges from Winograd vs. Harman primary contest...
By Ernest A. Canning on 1/9/2010, 9:16am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and board member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), has confounded progressives by joining forces to support notorious "Blue Dog" Democratic Rep. Jane Harman in her upcoming primary re-match against PDA-backed Marcy Winograd, long time leader in the grassroots progressive organization.

Several weeks ago, in "Winograd, Harman Race Heats Up Again," we noted that the looming 2010 primary contest between Harman, California's powerful eight-term Democratic U.S. Congresswoman and the progressive Winograd "presents a classic David and Goliath match up. With a net worth ranging between $236 million to $558 million, Harman, is said to be one of the richest members of Congress. Winograd, by contrast, is running a bottom-up progressive campaign of the type I advocated for recently in 'Progressives of America - Unite!'."

We noted:

In addition to Progressive Democrats for America, Winograd's notable progressive supporters include Daniel Ellsberg, Gore Vidal, Ron Kovic, Jodie Evans, Co-Founder, Code Pink, Norman Solomon, Lila Garrett of KPFK, David Swanson and Jim Hightower.

Harman's campaign web site, contains a long list of people and organizations who have endorsed her candidacy, which includes numerous elected officials...

An endorsement for Harman, from Lynn Woolsey of all people, has engendered some predictably strong reactions from progressive circles...

Howie Klein at Down With Tyranny slammed Woolsey's endorsement of Harman:

If she [Harman] were a far right Likud candidate for the Israeli Knesset, her disgraceful activities would make more sense than they do for a highly educated, strongly Democratic Los Angeles district (where Obama beat McCain 64-34%). Harman supports a wide range of Republican policies that Woolsey has always opposed --- from the Iraq War, the anti-family/pro-bankster bankruptcy bill, and abolishing the estate tax to warrantless wiretaps (except the ones that expose her as an Israeli spy) and offering "special treatment" to defense contractors. She is widely considered to be the least trustworthy and most disliked Democrats [sic.] in the House by her fellow Democrats. And Lynne Woolsey understands that completely.

Is this how the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus ["CPC"] builds a progressive movement? Marcy Winograd is in a tight primary race against Harman. It may be too much to expect Woolsey to campaign for Winograd but endorsing the Blue Dog who is consistently voting against --- and working behind the scenes against --- everything the Progressive Caucus is supposed to stand for?

John Amato at Crooks & Liars has gone a step further. He has called for Woolsey to be removed as the co-chair of the CPC.

Where Harman is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, Woolsey is one of only two members who has ever been on welfare. As we set forth previously, Harman's personal and family financial holdings within the military-industrial complex as well as the health care and pharmaceutical industries, together with her Congressional actions and votes, place her in direct conflict with the core principles held by the CPC:

According to its website, the CPC advocates "universal access to affordable, high quality healthcare," fair trade agreements, living wage laws, the right of all workers to organize into labor unions and engage in collective bargaining, the abolition of significant portions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the legalization of same-sex marriage, strict campaign finance reform laws, a complete pullout from the war in Iraq, a crackdown on corporate welfare and influence, an increase in income tax rates on the wealthy, tax cuts for the poor, and an increase in welfare spending by the federal government.

The real question, not fully expressed with both of these reactions, is the potential long-term impact of this type of endorsement on the progressive cause.

In a previous editorial, "Progressives of America - Unite!" I argued that progressives must unite only behind those candidates who truly represent the interests of the common citizen. I urged those progressives who have been operating under Third Party strategies to unite with the PDA during primary elections so as to target for removal those individuals who represent the interests Wall Street, corporate America and the military-industrial complex.

The article produced intriguing dialogue, including a number of personal emails from Third Party progressives who have expressed an interest in a flexible strategy in which they would be willing to join with the PDA in supporting such a strategy during the primaries provided the PDA were willing to back a Third Party candidate if the primary strategy failed and the ensuing choice amounted to perpetuation of the status quo.

Confounding all of these matters is the fact that Woolsey is actually a Board Member of PDA, who has long endorsed and supported Winograd, a longtime leader of PDA, particularly in Los Angeles and California as a whole.

One wonders what impact this baffling endorsement could have on future progressive unity.


Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).

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