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August 30, 2005

LCV's First Endorsement: Cantwell

So LCV (that's the League of Conservation Voters) made its first 2006 cycle endorsement today, and it was none other than our junior senator, Maria Cantwell.  Republicans are targeting her this time around, and she's definitely solid on the environment, so it's a pretty obvious endorsement for LCV.

You might think that as a professional environmentalist, I'd be excited about this.  But honestly, I'm sorta ho-hum.  I had big hopes for Maria when she knocked out Skeletor in 2000.  Young, articulate, Democratic -- what's not to like.  Sure, Maria's been great on the environment.  But her vote for the Iraq war truly broke my heart.  She knew better.  And if she didn't, if she honestly truly believed that the war was a good idea, then she's just not the leader I thought she was.  She was dead wrong on the most important public policy issue of the past six years.  So it's hard for me to get excited about her, even though she's a solid enviro, and even I know it's important to keep her seat in Democratic hands. 

And here's another curmudgeonly observation for you: LCV hasn't demonstrated much ability to wage strong grassroots mobilization campaigns on statewide campaigns.  I believe that the 2004 Presidential election was their first real foray into grassroots GOTV work.  They have little infrastructure in Washington, and not much of a membership base here.  So it remains to be seen what kind of grassroots wave they can mount.  At least they're starting early, though.  That's important.

So, yeah, I'll pull the lever for Maria.  But it won't be with much gusto.  She's not all that.  Sorry.

But enough about me... I'm curious what you think -- is it hard for you to get over Maria's war-mongering, too?  Or am I just being a grump?  Am I under-estimating LCV's grassroots mobilization prowess?

Posted by Jon Stahl on August 30, 2005 at 12:01 AM in Candidate Races | Permalink


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As I've written elsewhere, we progressives often suffer from a wicked case of the-perfect-is-the-enemy-of-the-good-itis. And for some reason this is more acute with Maria.

Lots of people were "dead wrong on the most important public policy issue of the past six years." In fact, 29 Democrats made the same dead wrong decision. Maria joined a number of blue state luminaries in jumping off this cliff: John Kerry, Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer just to name a few.

I agree she, and the other 77 Senators who voted for the war, were dead wrong. But why should we hold her to some impossible standard when she is such a good progressive on so many other issues.

At the end of the day, Maria is a good Democrat running in a tough race to protect a Democratic seat.

We have to focus our energies on taking the country back. This means we need to get behind people like Maria early and do what it takes to win.

Maria's not perfect, but she is a piece of the Democratic majority puzzle.

I don't know what kind of operation LCV has in Washington. But I brushed up against them in Oregon last year. As far as I can tell, LCV has converted itself into quite the grassroots machine. Their Environmental Victory Project was the envy of the scene down there. No other group plugged more volunteers into a more effective grassroots operation.

We're lucky to have them building that kind of thing here. Washington progressives need to do our part to fend off the challenge to Maria, so that our counterparts across the country can do their part to help us win back the majority.

Posted by: eagle | Aug 30, 2005 1:03:20 PM

While I'll leave it to those who know you better to determine whether or not you are a grump, I can say with authority that yes, you are underestimating the grassroots mobilization prowess of the League of Conservation Voters.

In the 2004 presidential election, LCV's Environmental Victory Project worked in five key battleground states (Oregon, Wisconsin, Florida, New Mexico and Pennsylvania). Our campaign was an independent effort on behalf of John Kerry, and by Election Day we had recruited 18,000 volunteers who knocked on 1.3 million doors. For those who do field campaigns for a living, our national contact rate of 37 percent opened more than a few eyes. You'll also notice, that with the exception of Florida – and a few hundreds votes in New Mexico – John Kerry won all those states.

Our Campaign Manager in Seattle, Mike Palamuso, arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the spring of 04' with no staff, no organization and without a place to call campaign headquarters. But by Election Day, LCV's Environmental Victory Project had mobilized 4,899 volunteer canvass shifts in more than 300 targeted swing precincts in Southeast Wisconsin. We (I joined the campaign shortly after Mike arrived) ran major canvasses every weekend during the final months of the campaign, and had knocked on the doors of more than 365,000 voters by Election Day. Besides ACT, which relied on paid canvassers, we ended up as the single largest independent grassroots campaign in the state.

As you know, Wisconsin went to John Kerry by only 12,000 votes, when in 2000 it had gone to Al Gore by less than 6,000.

For Maria Cantwell, our LCV independent campaign will again be a multi-layered effort combining field, media and the web. LCV already has 6,600 supporters in Washington State, and as of yesterday, we are working every moment to increase that number in order to help re-elect one of the nation’s strongest environmental leaders – Senator Maria Cantwell.

Posted by: Dana Spindler | Aug 30, 2005 2:12:23 PM

I'm lukewarm on Cantwell at best. Not only did she vote for the war, she still supports the war. She's of the "stabilize the situation" school of thought.

She's got a bit of 'splaining to do before I start busting it out on the door step for her.

I'm glad to see that enviros are falling into line here, but shouldn't their support be contingent on a little bit more than single issue politics?? Are grassroots volunteers still motivated entirely by a single issue? Or are they more holistic in their approach?

Posted by: Aneurin | Aug 30, 2005 2:44:51 PM

This isn't a single issue kind of thing, Aneurin.

She's been a star on enviromental issues, but that's in addition to her good work on range of other progressive issues.

www.progressivepunch.org is a sweet website that tracks and ranks progressive votes.

Cantwell gets a whopping 88% average -- this score places her in the company of other great progressives like Russ Feingold 89%, Barack Obama 91% and Tom Harkin 91%.

She gets 100% in Health Care.
She gets 100% in Housing.
She gets 100% in Education, Humanities & the Arts.
She gets 98% in Aid to Less Advantaged People.

Again, we as progressives can feel good about supporting Cantwell. Yes, she screwed up on the war vote. But one mistake shouldn't temper our enthusiasm.

Andrew over at NW Progressive Institute ( www.nwprogressive.org ) had it right:

"Maria Cantwell is not the perfect candidate for U.S. Senator, but nobody's perfect. Her stance on the Iraq war isn't a particularly bright spot, but she's been outstanding in many other areas, and deserves the support of Evergeen State Democrats.

Adhering to your beliefs is certainly admirable, but all the ideology in the world will make no difference if we continue to lose elections. Attacking our own incumbents is political suicide."

Posted by: eagle | Aug 30, 2005 3:15:00 PM


By contact rate do you mean % of doors knocked on that actually listened to your rap? Or % of people contacted who joined/supported you? I do field work for a living, and from everything I hear you guys do stellar work (and I hope you are gearing up to do stellar work for Peter Coates and Lawrence Molloy on the Port Commission races). Just curious, thats all.


Posted by: Carl | Aug 30, 2005 8:26:55 PM


The contact rate is the % of doors where we actually had a conversation with voters – though as a result of our high contact rate, we were able to identify thousands of Kerry supporters and (maybe more importantly) thousands undecided voters, who we then followed up with multiple times prior to Election Day to persuade them to vote our way.

As for the Port Commission races, our friends at Washington Conservation Voters (www.wcvoters.org) are supporting Peter Coates and Lawrence Molloy – and they certainly need help on those races as Election Day gets closer. (LCV deals with federal candidates and issues, WCV works with state and local candidates.)

Posted by: Dana Spindler | Aug 31, 2005 11:37:11 AM

It's good to hear that LCV has worked hard on building its grassroots muscles. That's a hopeful sign. Like I said, it remains to been whether they can inspire and motivate such a high level of activity in a non-presidential/statewide race. And, even more importantly, I hope it trickles down to the local races where we ought to be building our "farm team" for the future.

On the other theme of this column: I'm much more willing to forgive politicians who are right on the big stuff and make small mistakes. Big mistakes (like voting for the war) often suggest serious judgement problems, or a lack of backbone.

The fact that 29 Democrats also voted for the war is no excuse -- they all deserve to be held accountable for blowing what was, admittedly, a tough but important call.

In the end, Cantwell is clearly a far better candidate than McGavick, but there's just as clearly a LOT of room for her to improve. The only way that will happen is if she feels some heat early in the cycle. If everyone just falls into line, no learning happens.

Posted by: Jon Stahl | Aug 31, 2005 8:36:15 PM

Not only was Maria wrong on the war, she was wrong on the Patriot Act, the Bush tax cuts, bankruptcy reform, budget after budget ... it goes on.

Yes, she's been a good enviro and, yes, she's better than Dino Rossi or whoever else. But, she's a disgraceful Democrat who simply fell in line without question behind Bush.

After voting for Kerry and Gore, both of whom ran the most pathetic, flaccid campaigns ever, I've vowed never to vote for a) a Democrat who strays away from core progressive beliefs; or b) one who runs a weak, defensive campaign.

I like my politicians to have balls (figuratively) and Maria has proven repeatedly that her's were cut off by the Repulicans after Sept. 11.

My vote will go to my cat or my dog, whichever impressed me the most in the coming year. Maria's not worthy.

Posted by: Corey | Sep 1, 2005 10:06:35 PM


Thanks for the Progressive Punch score for Cantwell. What's interesting to see is that Patty Murray gets a 90%, and for me, that 2% difference seems like worlds away from Cantwell. I know it's just perception, but in politics, perceptions are everything.

I attended a sit down with Cantwell a few months back, and to be frank, her position on the war was a reiteration of talking points dreamt up in 2003 by the neocons. Combined with a poor voting record on the Bankruptcy bill, CAFTA, etc., and the jury is still out. I'm also very troubled by her DLC membership. People need to understand that a vote for the war means no resources to help the hurricane victims, no helicopters to pluck people off of the rooftops, no National Guard to restore law and order.

I'm voting for Cantwell, but from my viewpoint, there's not going to be a ton of grassroots support for her candidacy in my area of the state. Hopefully, she puts together the same levels of campaign staffing that Murray put together in 2004 to get the job done.

Posted by: Aneurin | Sep 2, 2005 2:43:24 AM

Cantwell and the other senators didn't "vote for the war in Iraq." They voted to authorize the President to go to war in Iraq, so as not to cripple him as he worked to achieve the goal of pressuring Saddam to obey U.N. orders. Bush needed that authorization on the table in order to be credible. But Bush, instead of restricting his use of the authorization to diplomatic purposes, used it as a pretext to invade and attack Iraq. True, in the days between the Senate's authorization vote and the start of the war our Senators should have been more forceful in holding Bush to his originally stated intention. But the phony and manipulated "intelligence" about WMD, etc., took its toll, too, muddying the waters and creating a false sense of urgency and threat. I see the logic behind Cantwell's vote on this issue, even though the Iraq war has been and continues to be a disaster.

Posted by: Judy Lightfoot | Oct 3, 2005 10:28:42 PM

You are right on about Maria voting for the war in Iraq. By waging this war using radiactive munitions the US has created the greatest environmental disaster in the history of our current civilization.

No pro environmental voting record can come close to balancing the unforgivable act of voting for the Iraq eco-disaster. An entire country is now unlivable for billions of years, thanks Maria, you will not be getting my vote. If you want to vote green vote for the GREEN PARTY -- Aaron Dixon for US Senate!

Posted by: Tivana | Aug 31, 2006 12:05:41 PM

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