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Vote Hope 2008 :: 6 :: Rep. Barbara Lee

Where are the opportunities for real change in the 2008 election? To find out, we spoke to some grassroots organizers, national leaders, and elected officials who are working for change.
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Rep. Barbara Lee
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Vote Hope :: 6 of 6
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Challenge Status Quo

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Online-only: full interview with Rep. Barbara lee, U.S. Representative (D-CA)

 

Sarah van Gelder: What are the most interesting possibilities you see for progress in the 2008 election season?

Lee: I see every election as an opportunity to build on the number of progressives in Congress, and 2008 offers a great opportunity to do that.

The American people have had it with the Bush administration and the Republican party. Whether the issue is the occupation of Iraq or paying for tax cuts for the wealthy by cutting vital services, people are hungry for an alternative vision.

That is the reason that I launched OneVoicePAC.org. When I cast the lone vote after September 11 against giving George Bush an unlimited war-making authority—an authority, I might add, that his administration has invoked in invading Iraq, setting up military commissions, even warrantless wiretapping—I was alone. Today, there are millions of Americans who are calling for an end not just to the occupation of Iraq, but to the entire Bush foreign policy of unilateralism and pre-emption. Our goal is to help translate that support into more progressive votes in Congress.

Sarah van Gelder: How might the election help us move toward ending the war in Iraq and preventing war in Iran?

Lee: I am hopeful that these elections, in addition to giving us a new president, will also help change the dynamic in the Senate, where efforts to end the occupation have gotten bogged down. Currently, because of the slim majority in the Senate and the Senate rules, Republicans have been able to block up-or-down votes on Iraq-related legislation, and they have not, thus far, had to pay a price for it politically.

As we get closer to the elections, I think that is going to change. Certainly if it doesn't I think that there will be a lot of Republicans who will not be reelected, and we have to make sure that there are strong progressive candidates who are prepared to take those seats.

At OneVoicePAC, in addition to raising money to support progressive candidates, we'll be working to change the face of politics.

Many of the people who are most profoundly impacted by the decisions being made in our government today are also the most marginalized from the political process, particularly communities of color and young people. Part of our mission is to help these communities elect candidates who are accountable to them and who will work to challenge the status quo.

Sarah van Gelder: Poll numbers for the Democratic-led Congress are almost as low as those for the Republican administration. Many feel that the Democratic Party has thus far failed to end the war, get us universal health care, deal meaningfully with poverty, and to provide a sense of vision for our country. What will it take to get real change?

Lee: Real change only comes from unrelenting political pressure, and that is not just about elections, it is about holding people accountable between elections. I know that there are a lot of people out there who are disappointed and frustrated that more has not been accomplished. I am disappointed and frustrated. But if you allow yourself to get discouraged, you just let the other side win. For me, the stakes are too high, and I have to look at the challenges and setbacks as an incentive to keep pushing harder.

Sarah van Gelder: Are there races or ballot initiatives outside the national spotlight we should be watching (including state or local ones)? And, in addition to your own race, what will you be doing during this election season?

Lee: I am busy working with OneVoicePAC.org to help build the progressive voice in Congress. OneVoicePAC.org will be reaching out to progressives around the country to seek input on Congressional candidates we ought to consider supporting. Your readers can visit our website to sign up to participate in that survey, and find out how they can get involved.


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Sarah van Gelder's interview first appeared in Liberate Your Space, the Winter 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is the Executive Editor of YES! Magazine.

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