National Commentary

To the Left Of Jim Moran

nfbentonpicNot just the solidly progressive 8th Congressional District of Northern Virginia, just over the Potomac River from D.C., but the entire nation sorely needs a fierce and aggressive crusader for justice – a Bernie Sanders type – as the replacement for 23-year veteran Congressman Jim Moran, who will not seek re-election this fall.

Moran, who just announced his impending retirement, is that type, himself, free to speak his mind more openly and in an undiluted manner in part because his district is so liberal that he has never faced a serious electoral challenge.

So, with the advantage of such electoral security, it is critically important that the next congressman from the 8th District be capable of and prepared to use his or her seat as a high profile bully pulpit to loudly, persistently and relentlessly challenge colleagues to make some of the very real changes that the nation desperately needs.

In the days after Moran’s announcement, a dozen or more Democratic elected officials – mayors, state legislators and county board officials – are rumored to be planning to run in a June Democratic primary which will almost certainly determine who the next congressman will be.

Unfortunately, all are being evaluated, at least initially, on the basis of the clout their current offices afford them, their record of service to their party, their appeal as African-Americans, Hispanics or gays, and other of the usual static mainstream political credentials. What a shame, and what a missed opportunity it would represent, for party factions to split along old loyalties associated with one or a number of the above.

The fact is that, one way or another, all the likely candidates share common views on most of the mainstream issues. As Democrats, they’re all for empowering the middle class, including providing an increase in the minimum wage, an extension of unemployment benefits, full equal justice under the law for all, and so forth.

A lengthy article in this week’s Washington Blade, the gay community weekly that is based across the Potomac from the 8th District, touts the fact that two openly gay candidates – one a state senator, one a county board member – may be among those running. But so are an African-American mayor of Alexandria and state party chair, and an Hispanic state delegate. It is presumed that by all normal standards, all these prospects are well qualified to serve with distinction in the U.S. Congress.

But these are extraordinary times that demand prophetic figures to stand apart from the routine, to shout from proverbial mountain tops (there are no actual ones in the 8th District) and shake things up, creating some space for some meaningful accomplishments in the Congress.

The report prepared by Oxfam International for the just-convening annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland cites data showing the richest 85 individuals in the world control as much wealth as the 3.5 billion individuals on the lower half of the world’s income scale. The is beyond obscene.

It also shows that in the U.S., 95 percent of post-financial-crash wealth generated has gone into the bank accounts of the richest one percent, while nine of 10 people in the U.S. control less wealth in real terms than they did before the financial crash.

“The world’s elite have rigged laws in their own favor undermining democracy and creating a chasm of inequality across the globe,” the Oxfam report says, according to the Economic Times. It refers to the “pernicious impact” of growing inequality that helps “the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of everyone else.”

On top of this, there are the ominous excesses of NSA spying capabilities, and far more guns and more incarcerated prisoners in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. The war-mongering “military and industrial complex” that President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell speech a half-century ago has run roughshod in U.S. policy-making circles.

Who in the 8th District has what it will take to lead the charge and face down this combination of serious and highly troubling political realities? If such a person exists, that one will have my vote.