Monday, October 19, 2009

The Liberal Pariah of the East Bay

East Bay voters may overwhelming love Rep. Pete Stark, but his status as the bogeyman of the far left nationally is instructive to those living in the Bay Area live in a different world far from the political spectrum of the rest of the country.

The template used by Beltway journos is well-worn when it comes to possible replacements for embattled Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY):
  • Good ol' Charlie is one hell of a guy.
  • Stark is a hot-head liberal buffoon and next in line on the seniority list.
  • Combine the two and the insinuation is the House leadership is extremely wary of the cantankerous 77-year-old Stark at the helm of one of Washington's most powerful positions.
Conservative columnist Michael Barone wrote in today's Washington Examiner, "He is a San Francisco Bay Area left liberal, which would seem to be fine with Pelosi, but he is also a party maverick who does not necessarily play team ball and a hothead given to embarrassing outbursts for which he has sometimes felt obliged to apologize."

Barone also noted the Google search "pete stark" and outbursts returns over 4,900 hits (it's actually 5,150 now). What this means in an era of billions of web pages, I don't know?

The influential Washington web site, Politico, reports today a growing sense of reticence among New York Democrats running for re-election next year for fear of being linked to Rangel's alleged ethics violations. To reinforce the perception Rangel is a firm member of Washington's good old boy network, one unidentified lawmakers told the site, "I love Charlie, but this can't go on forever." The Congressional Quarterly last week, also published a similar story.

Other than Stark, the list of possible replacements for Rangel on the committee are Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Many believe if Stark is passed over, it would be in favor of Lewis under the theory the leadership would placate the Congressional Black Caucus by replacing an influential African-American legislator with another.

For Stark, the elevation to such a prestigious position would be a feather in his cap and a point of political power for the region, but it does provide a sense of reality to the area where it is extremely difficult to locate a conservative Republican and even Stark's constituents want the so-called "San Francisco liberal" to be even more progressive on health care reform than he desires. The rest of the country is not as liberal as the Bay Area and nervousness over replacing Rangel with Stark reveals that reality.

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