I've mostly been trying to stay quiet about the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary between Lacy Clay and Russ Carnahan, but I have to take issue with one thing. I don't claim to be an expert in much, but one thing I think I can legitimately say I'm an expert in is is the subject of the St. Louis Tea Party and who "stood up to them." While a lot of safe St. Louis Democratic politicians stayed quiet as the tea party was busy making up ridiculous lies, engaging in disturbing antics like burning effigies and carrying a coffin to a politician's house, and executing James O'Keefe-style smear campaigns against local institutions, myself and other activists were taking on the lies and pushing for the passage of President Obama's monumental health care reform. As a result of criticizing the tea party, tea partiers have pestered my employers, accused me of "libel" and "copyright infringement" and all manner of other stupid charges, claimed I was secretly being paid by liberal organizations, and even seriously suggested that I was abused as a child. So, yes, I do claim authority on the matter of the local tea party.
And what's gotten me irked is Congressman Lacy Clay's suggestion that he "stood up to the tea party" and that Congressman Carnahan is "linked" to the tea party. As someone who was paying close attention, I can say that Clay was depressingly quiet about many of the tea party's nasty tactics, and as far as I know never took a stand in the tea party's attacks on local people or institutions. What makes it worse is that it would have been easy for Clay to take a stand; it's not like he was going to lose an election in his district for criticizing the tea party.
To be fair, this behavior was hardly limited to Clay. Mayor Slay also was in an incredibly safe St. Louis voting area with a perfect bully pulpit, and he also largely remained on the sidelines for the fights over healthcare reform. In retrospect, it really was amazing how unwilling many St. Louis Democrats were to call out clearly dishonest and extremist tactics while activists were doing most of the heavy lifting.
But there was one area where Clay deserves special criticism, and Carnahan special praise, and that is Carnahan's willingness to hold townhall meetings to defend healthcare reform. A big reason Carnahan was targeted with effigy-burnings, coffins carried to his personal home, being stalked at movie showings, etc., was that he had the guts, in a somewhat dangerous district, to hold townhall meetings and engage his constituents on the issue. The tea party savagely attacked Carnahan, but he still was willing to be out there and defend his reasoning. On the other hand Clay, in as safe of a Democratic district as you could ever ask for, did next to nothing to fight the tea party messaging in the St. Louis area. Carnahan was on the front lines, while Clay sat back and let him do all the work of trying to persuade people.
So I'm not sure how much I want to get involved in the 1st district primary bickering, but I couldn't bite my lip on this one. Lacy Clay may have voted the right way, but like many St. Louis politicians, he did anything but "stand up to the tea party."
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