Are progressives souring on McNerney?

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney’s vote against a bill Thursday that would have required U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq within nine months prompted hard words on several Bay Area blogs such as the Progressive Connection and Calitics.

McNerney was the only member of the Bay Area delegation to oppose the measure (which failed 255-171) and it didn’t go unnoticed by liberal activists who helped him defeat Tracy Republican Richard Pombo in November.

The exchange illustrates the conundrum that McNerney faces as he heads into his re-election campaign: He’s a Democrat in a Republican-leaning district. That means the GOP will hammer him mercilessly on his liberal voting record at the same time that progressives who have supported him demand his fealty on their core issues such as opposition to the Iraq War.

“A lot of us, myself and many of the readers of (the Progressive Connection), got involved in politics relatively recently, inspired by the people-powered movement of Howard Dean,” wrote one of the blog’s front-page authors, a person identified only as Babaloo. “We believed fervently that if we did the hard work to support our ideals, we could effect change in our country. And right up until yesterday, Jerry McNerney was the shining example of what we could accomplish as an organized political body. I think it’s fair to say that for a lot of us, that dream ended yesterday afternoon, with Rep. McNerney’s vote against bringing our troops home.”

Blogswarm wrote on Calitics, “I think a lot of the frustration with McNerney’s vote is that people believed he was on our side. Someone who wasn’t a creature of (former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the other arms of the DC establishment. A more authentic netrooter, someone who took on Pombo and did it from a broadly democratic and antiwar position. Nobody expected he’d betray us, not on this.”

McNerney posted his reasons for opposing the bill on his blog throughout a voting process that lasted until the early morning hours, but some progressives aren’t buying it.

Here’s what McNerney wrote:

“I want an end to the war in Iraq. But ending the war must be done in the most responsible way.

Today, I followed my conscience, after evaluating what I considered to be the most effective method of bringing America’s involvement in this conflict to an end. That is why I voted for the supplemental bill and against the McGovern bill.

I am reminded every day of the terrible cost of this conflict. In fact, on Tuesday, I received notice that a Marine from Manteca was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Our brave men and women in uniform serving in Iraq are caught in the middle of a religious civil war.

Hundreds of billions of dollars have already been spent.

We have been fighting in Iraq longer than it took us to win the Second World War.

I feel strongly that ending the war must be done in a way that respects our soldiers, honors our veterans, provides the best chance to reduce the violence in Iraq, and prevents the violence from spreading to neighboring countries.

That’s why tonight I voted again – for the third time – for the supplemental plan, which I believe is the most responsible course to take. It’s the only way to ensure that Iraqis begin to take responsibility for Iraq.

The supplemental plan I voted for provides the framework to end this conflict by bringing about a diplomatic solution, which experts from across the political spectrum recognize is the only way to end the war responsibly.

I could not, in good conscience, vote for legislation like the McGovern bill that included neither specific provisions to bring about a diplomatic solution nor funding for the needs of this newly created generation of veterans. The supplemental does both.

We have to be tough but smart to bring about a responsible close to the war in Iraq. Continuing the war any longer than necessary would be unconscionable.

This was a vote of principle and one I stand behind.”

On the other hand, not everyone in the blogosphere has written McNerney off.

Howie Klein, who blogs at DownWithTyranny! , was more forgiving, writing “We helped elect Jerry so he would be a strong and independent voice. I would have made a different choice today, but I’m inclined to let this pass.”

Another commenter wrote on the same site, “So how on earth do you accuse a man who voted with his conscious rather than appeasing his base of being an ‘electoral whore?’ Seems to me that if all Jerry was thinking about was reelection he would have voted for the bill and watched the netroots cash continue to flow. This is just another example of Jerry being a statesman and not a politician and up until now I’ve only heard that said with praise. “Have some faith in Jerry, he is still the man we worked so hard to get elected and has shown now more than ever just how strong his principles are.”

Lisa Vorderbrueggen