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Baker Looking To Upset Pollack

Baker Looking To Upset Pollack image Baker Looking To Upset Pollack image
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Early in May, Second District Democratie Congressional candidates, Lana Pollack and Dean Baker, were invited to debate each other in the form of a written interview for the July issue of AGENDA. The original format called for each candidate to pose three questions and then to answer al! six. When Pollack refused to particípate, AGENDA re-designed the format and asked Baker three questions we thought voters hád on thèir minds. The winner of the August 2 primary will face incumbent Republican Cari Pursell in the November general election. AGENDA: Given that your opponent in the Democratie primary, Lana Pollack, has a huge campaign war chest, a liberal reputation, name recognition, and years of legislative experience, why are you pursuing the Congressional seat? BAKER: We can offer the hope of empowering the vast majority of the electorate who have seen their votes become almost meaningless alongside the dollars given by wealthy contributors. It is difficult to see why we should bc deterred in our efforts simply because a local politician running for the same scat has solicited scveral hundred thousand dollars from weallhy contributors, her "liberal" reputation notwithstanding. Politics has come to be so dominated by conventional big money campaigns, that if we win the Congressional seat, it will shake up the political structure throughout the country (as did Jackson's victory in the caucuses). We cannot let the electoral arena be pcrmancntly ceded to those who represent the intcrests of rich Progressives in this district have worked hard over the last scveral years to build opposition to Reagan's right-wing policies. One of the ways in which this movement demonstrated its strength has been its efforts to target Cari Pursell and his proReagan voting record. As a result of our petitioning, protcsting, and 1986 Congressional campaign, we have succeeded in making Pursell's seat one of the most seriously contested in the country. It would be a significant victory for the progressive movement if we actually remove him from office. In addition to attacking big money politics, our campaign also offers the hope of changing the national agenda in a number of arcas. We are not afraid to raise the issue of cutting aid to Israel to force it to respect Palestinian rights, or the issues of widespread human rights violations committcd by the Duarte and Aquino governments in El Salvador and the Philippines respectively. Domestically, we seem to be the only folks in sight (apart from Jackson) willing to discuss taking back Reagan's massive tax breaks for the rich and large corporations, which certainly calis into question Pollack's liberal reputation. Those of us working in the campaign have years of experience fighting for progressive causes. We understand the nature of the obstacles to progressive change in government, the media, and the Democratie party. These are formidable obstacles, but we stand a better chance than someone who doesn 't even have this as their agenda. The diffcrcnccs between our campaigns can be seen from what took place on the day of the Democratie Presidential caucus lastMarch. Mostof us were working with the Jackson campaign, where we registered over 1000 voters en route to victory. Meanwhile Mary Reilly, Lana Pollack's fundraiser, was running a caucus site doing everything in her power to keep people from registering voters (registering voters is a legal practice diiring caucuses). Reilly even thrcatened to have a deputy registrar arrested at onc point. Our campaign is about giving people a voice, not silencing them. As a final point, Pollack's refusal to debate bears a disturbing resemblance to Pursell's refusal to hold a public meeting to discuss his votes on Central America. With Pollack moving down this same path before she is even elected, it is diffïcult to see how she can present a credible alternative. AGENDA: If elected to Congress, what would be your top domestic priority? What would be your top foreign policy priority? BAKER: Clearly the tcp domestic priority must be the reversal of the priorities of the Reagan Administration. It is essential that funding be restorcd to areas of social spending such as housing, education, child care, and health care which have secn enor-mous cuts in the Reagan years. Since the deficit is already over 150 billion dollars, funding increases in these areas will be possible only with large cuts in the military budget (approximately $70 billion) and with restoration of tax ratcs for the vcry rich and large corporations to their prc-Reagan lcvels. This would allow us to bring the deficit into line and have the funds needed for imprved social services. It is unfortunate that most polilicians who advocate in-ercased funding for social services don't have any idea of how to pay for (hem. I would like to see the United States re-orient the general outlines of its foreign policy towards one that respecte the right of olher nations to selfdetermination. Obviously onc place whcre such a rc-orientation would have an immediate impact in Central America. If the U.S. is still giving aid to the contras I would work hard to cut it off, as I would with aid to the repressive govemments in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. In Southern África, the United States should stop providing aid to the South African proxy force UNITA, which has destabilized the Angolan govemment. At the same time it should stop blocking U.N. efforts to end South Africa's occupation of Namibia. It also must get serious about opposing Apartheid in South África. Since South África has stepped up its worldwide campaign of terror again against opponents of Apartheid as well as cracking down further on the domestic opposition, the U.S. should impose a complete trade embargo on South África. The U.S. government is currently providing over three billion dollars per year to Israel to finance such activities as burying Palcstinian teenagers alive and beating them wilh heavy rocks. We cannot just sit by as it employs massive repression against the Palestinian population. U.S. aid should be cut back until Israel respects Palestinian rights. AGENDA: In the 1986 Congressional race, incumbent Cari Pursell won 79,567 votes to your 55,204 votes, roughly a 59% to 41% margin. In light of those results, how would you beat Pursell in the November, 1988 election? BAKER: Thel986 race, in which we captured 41% of the vote, was an incredible improvement over the 1984 race, when the Democratie candidato received only 30% of the vote. Since it is gcncrally believed to be almost impossible for a candidate to win on hisher first run for Congress, our performance was quite impressive and has brought nationwide attention to the district. There are several (see BAKER, next page) BAKER (from page 4) advantagcs we have going for us this year over 1986. First, having run once before in the district, we have gained a great deal of knowlcdge about the district. We know where we can expect to make significant inroads, and wc have pcople in every corner of the district who are prepared to help us. We didn't have this sort of nctwork when we began the 1986 campaign, rather it was built up in the course of the campaign. Second. we have established ourselves to some ex tent around the district. People have come to know and trust us. Again this is something that was accom - plished in the course of the last campaign. After winning the primary we first had to deal with rumors that it was a LaRouchie campaign and othcr such nonsense; we won't have the same sort of problems this time. Third, we've learncd a grcat deal about what to expect from the media, the Democratie Party, and Cari Pursell. In 1986 we underestimated the media's ability to distort the campaign, the vcnality of hostile Democratie party leaders (who were opposed to a Democratie campaign which challenged even the Democratie Party), and Pursell's lack of integrity. For example, it actually surprised us that Pursell would engage in crude rcd-baiting tactics reminiscent of Joe McCarthy (and that supposedly respectable newspapers like the Ann Arbor News and the Detroit Free Press did not comment on it). Fourth, the rcsults in 1986 were somewhat skewed by the turnout, which saw a disproportionate number of Republican voters in a year with a very low overall turnout. With this being a presidential year, the number of people voting should be up considerably, and Democrats who stayed home in 1986 are likely to come out this year. Finally, we will have gained a greatdeal from the opportunity to defeat Lana Pollack in the primary. The media has done everything possible to downplay our electoral successes thus far. When we defeat Lana Pollack it will no longer be possible for them to deny the scriousness of our campaign. This will give us enormous momentum going into the fall and will undoubtedly assure the campaign significant national atlcntio-..


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