It is not often that the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) faces a strong Republican challenger to District 8’s Congressional seat, but could the 2010 election be different? With so much disappointment and frustration among Democrats with the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress, is there an opening for a self-described anti-war Republican to win this seat?
In an op-ed piece posted on his website, Republican Challenger John Dennis charges that Afghanistan is, in his words “Nancy Pelosi’s War.” Dennis charges that the Speaker’s not as strong or clear in her opposition to the war in Afghanistan as she was in her position against the Iraq war, and that she has the political power to end the war in Afghanistan. Specifically, Dennis writes:
"The House owns the war power, not the President. The House also controls all federal spending, including wars. And Nancy Pelosi controls the agenda for the House. She showed she knows how to wield power with health-care reform. So, Nancy Pelosi has the political power to end Afghanistan. Her Congress has the constitutional authority to end Afghanistan, and it has the financial power to end Afghanistan. And it might not be as tough as many people think."
Some say that Mr. Dennis’s bucking of the conventional wisdom that Democrats are anti-war and that Republicans are pro-war creates an opportunity for Mr. Dennis to capture this coveted seat; however, that scenario remains highly unlikely.
First, as most San Franciscans recognize- then. and now – Iraq, not Afghanistan, was the war of choice. By equating the two wars, it is Mr. Dennis that is buying into the very conventional wisdom that he is professing to buck. And while it is technically true that Congress can de-fund the war, the pull-out of Afghanistan would likely be extremely complicated, and our country’s experience shows that we should proceed with great caution.
Even if a San Francisco voter agrees with Mr. Dennis on an immediate pull-out of Afghanistan, most voters will look at his entire platform. In an interview, Mr. Dennis stated that he supports the abolition of the Department of Education and that the government should get out of the way of the free market, and get out of the health care business altogether. In an interview with World Net Daily, Dennis gave a very clear picture of his positions, stating that he:
• Supported tax credits for home schooling and for attending private and religious schools
• Called the science behind climate change “almost laughable”
• Called for the end of birthright citizenship (as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment), amnesty and government services for undocumented workers
• Is “a big fan” of the 10th Amendment yet advocates for the repeal of the 17th Amendment that calls for the direct elections of senators
• Opposed federal funding for abortion and for embryonic stem cell research stating “….it’s not in the Constitution that we should be subsidizing any kind of research, especially stem cell.”
Mr. Dennis is specifically seeking the support of San Francisco’s LGBT community, supporting the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. On-the-other-hand, like President Obama, Dennis does not support same sex marriage.
Mr. Dennis told World Net Daily that:
"I don't think the government has any business being involved in marriage in the first place. As much as I don't have anything against gays by any stretch of the imagination – as someone seeking federal office – I can't find a way to support gay marriage.”
And while he also voted against Proposition 8, according to Dennis, "I am for people having equal rights and the same tax credits. Now if the right way to resolve that is whether through marriage or not is another matter."
As for Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), a major piece of federal legislation supported by the LGBT community, Mr. Dennis could only say that:
“In principle I agree with it. People shouldn't be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. But you have to be careful about it; it is a two-way street. I don't think a gay business or employer should be forced to hire a homophobe. Should black business owners be forced to hire Klansmen and keep them? There are complicated issues there."
What the Dennis candidacy reminds us all is to be vigilant in our understanding of each candidate’s policy positions, and to not allow conventional political wisdom – or the apparent bucking of - to be the only piece of information that informs our vote.