One interesting note about the FISA fight is how it is politicians from more conservative areas who are both holding the line and calling for retreat. I won't go deeply into the Bush Dogs, 21 of whom signed a letter calling for immunity for telecom companies who broke the law. More interestingly are people like Nancy Boyda and Bill Foster, who bravely spoke out on the issue and asked Democrats to hold the line. Foster did so during a close fought election, and Boyda, I'm told by several reliable sources, spoke out strongly in a caucus meeting demanding that Democrats hold the line despite the advertising run against her in her district. It is these politicians who we should laud for their work just as we criticize those who choose what is easy.
And now on to Foster, and how his race intersects with FISA and Iraq. Blue Majority bet big on both the Robin Weirauch OH-05 special election and the Bill Foster IL-14 special election. Weirauch lost, and Foster won.. More interestingly, the trends that Chris and I noticed in the 2006 MyDD/Courage Campaign polling project - that mentioning you are a Democrat and mentioning Iraq tend to drive support - still seem operative. Weirauch ran an antipartisan 'Washington is broken' campaign, not mentioning Iraq in her ads and refusing to run as a Democrat. Bill Foster, by contrast, ran with 'Businessman, Scientist, Democrat' on his web site, and put withdrawing troops from Iraq front and center in his paid media. And the results seem fairly clear. Weirauch did not shift her losing margin at all, whereas Foster took a district held by Speaker Dennis Hastert and won it by a clear majority.
National security was front and center in the IL-14 race, and when given the choice, even voters in a Republican district chose the Democrat because he was clear and strong on the core challenges of the Bush administration, Iraq and elite lawlessness. Oberweis accused Foster of raising the White Flag, but it didn't work. Now, critics of the theory of why Foster won will point to a bloody Republican primary in IL-14, arguing that Oberweis was weakened more than Latta, but there was an equally bloody primary in OH-03. And while Latta was a better candidate than Oberweis, it's hard to imagine that could account for the entirety of the shift in IL-14 and the fact that there was no shift of margins in OH-03.
The fact is that national security, and specifically, Iraq, is a winning formula for Democrats. Bill Foster ran as a Democrat and ran on Iraq. He also ran on retroactive immunity, as I noted before our endorsement:
"The President and his allies in Congress are playing politics with national security, and that's wrong. Nobody is above the law and telecom companies who engaged in illegal surveillance should be held accountable, not given retroactive immunity. I flatly oppose giving these companies an out for cooperating with Alberto Gonzalez on short-circuiting the FISA courts and the rule of law."
Any nonsense that Bush Dog Democrats, especially people like Melissa Bean who are in similar GOP-leaning areas need to hold the interests of telecom companies because they have to vote with their district is just cover for them enabling more power to Bush. In Bill Foster we have a Democrat winning in a blood red district calling for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and protection for civil liberties over fake claims of urgency by his opponent. There can be no more crystal clear proof than taking Dennis Hastert's district that the Republican fear fear fear message does not work as long as it is called out by strong and forceful Democrats.
Democrats should hold firm on issues like FISA and Iraq, not just because it's the right thing to do but because that is precisely what voters are clearly demanding. And candidates should run on these issues; Iraq is not off the table, voters don't like lawbreaking from their leaders, and everyone wishes George Bush had never happened.