Perriello and the President

By David Swanson

When Tom Perriello replaced Virgil Goode as our representative in the Fifth District of Virginia, I was glad to see an outspoken bigot thrown out of office. Heck, I’m glad to see almost anyone thrown out of office. When one quarter of the races being in play makes for an extraordinary election year, something’s wrong with the system.

But what would Perriello do to represent us? When I spoke to him in person, on a few occasions, early in his tenure, his most common response was “That will be up to the president.” From Day 1 Perriello planned to vote as the Democratic Party wished, and not step out of line. He meant this as pure pragmatism. He knew how the system worked, and he intended to work within it and to survive within it. He’d won by less than a percentage point, with over a million dollars coming from the Democratic Party late in the race. And he knew that the House leadership would pursue only legislation pre-approved by the president.

I repeatedly objected to the congressman that we didn’t want an obedient servant to the White House, but rather someone who would represent us. The other night the President went on Jon Stewart’s show to praise Perriello for voting against the interests of his own district. President Obama had in mind his health insurance reform bill, his cap-and-trade bill, and his stimulus bill. Or so we were supposed to believe. While I thought those bills were too weak and at least two of them worse than nothing, the Tea Party — which seems to be the only constituency the President pays attention to — opposed them for doing anything at all. But those were not the only votes that Perriello took in obedience to the White House.

On July 27, 2010, 115 congress members voted against a $33 billion escalation of the War on Afghanistan. Tom Perriello voted for it. He’d met with me and other opponents of that vote and refused to take a position. No media outlet has ever asked him about it.

On July 1, 2010, 100 congress members voted to fund only withdrawal from Afghanistan. Perriello voted against that amendment. Again, he has never been asked about this by a newspaper, television station, or blog.

On March 10, 2010, 65 congress members voted to end the War on Afghanistan. Perriello voted to keep it going. We don’t know why.

In May 2009, 60 congress members voted against dumping another $97 billion into the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Perriello voted for it. Then, in June 2009, 202 congress members voted against that same war funding combined with a massive bailout for East European bankers. Perriello voted for both, even though both progressives AND the Tea Partiers in his district were opposed. The White House immediately rewarded him. Van Jones and Steny Hoyer came down and did events, just as the Secretary of Agriculture did this week. Remember when we protested Bush’s use of our government officials for political campaigns? Who knew we were just faking, huh?

The Democratic Party has again flooded Perriello with funding, and the boss himself will be speaking in Charlottesville with his loyal follower this evening (teenage girls were already camped out at 9 a.m.).

Here’s what happens when we dump all of our money into wars and the military, even if we refrain from making bigoted comments: 136 congress members have signed a letter promising not to cut Social Security. Perriello has not. Why not? Obama won’t let him.

I get that the Republican campaigning against Perriello would be just as bad if not worse. I get that a Republican majority in the House would be worse, even if it might mean restoration of the power of subpoena and oversight (for all the wrong reasons). But we should drop the idea that we’re voting for human beings or democratic representatives with a small ‘d.’ We’re voting for parties, and the cogs in the party machines are not under our control.

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