View From Lodi, CA: Can Cindy Sheehan Defeat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Joe Says: Don't Be Surprised
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If Cindy Sheehan makes good on her promise to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2008, California's Eighth District will have one of the most interesting of all the Congressional races.

Before analyzing Sheehan's chances let's try to put aside, if possible, the debate that swirls around her.

To some Sheehan is a puppet of the extreme left. Others view her as a passionate peace activist whose son Casey was killed in Iraq.

Two years ago, Sheehan arrived on the national scene when she staged a sit-in at President George Bush's Crawford, TX. ranch insisting—unsuccessfully—that Bush meet with her face-to-face to defend his Iraq policy.

But instead of arguing among ourselves as to who the true Sheehan may or may not be, let's focus instead on what motivates her.

Sheehan's mission is to, in the name of eliminating politics as usual, unseat Pelosi-—one of the richest, most powerful and most well-entrenched American politicians.

In her July 22nd San Francisco Chronicle op-ed titled Let's Get Away from Usual Party Politics,  Sheehan claims that the two-party system has abandoned Americans.

Nothing, according to Sheehan, represents the collective failure of Democrats and Republicans better than the Iraq War. The Democrats repeatedly have expressed their opposition to the war. But, in Sheehan's opinion, as the majority party, it has done nothing to end it.

Sheehan hopes to: "…Challenge other people who desire healthy political change and not temporary Band-Aids to replace other Democrats and Republicans…"

You would have to travel far and wide to find anyone who doesn't agree with Sheehan that the political status quo has hurt Americans. And almost everyone concurs that for Americans to regain their country, the first step is to elect a more responsive Congress and President.

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 14 percent of Americans, the lowest rating ever, have "a great deal of confidence" in Congress. The same poll found that support for Bush also stood at an all-time low for a sitting president of 25 percent.

But polls aside, many would prefer that the "first step" not begin with Sheehan.

Still, how else to begin other than by testing incumbents? And so much the better when a candidate with name recognition issues the challenge.

At least an outside possibility exists that Sheehan could pull off a huge upset. The 8th District, basically San Francisco, is the most dependably Democratic district in the nation. In 2006, Pelosi defeated her Republican opponent, Mike De Nunzio with more than 80 percent of the vote.

But San Francisco is also the epicenter for vociferous anti-war demonstrations. In March, 3,000 gathered at City Hall to protest the war. And a smaller group congregated in front of Pelosi's house where they had gathered for over a week.

According to the marchers, Pelosi is not acting aggressively enough to withdraw U.S. troops or to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush. [ Thousands March in San Francisco to Voice Anger over Iraq War, By Marcus Wohlsen, San Diego Union-Tribune, March 18, 2007

By 2008, San Francisco Democrats may be disgusted enough with Pelosi to vote for Sheehan. According to Sheehan, a California native, feedback on her potential candidacy runs 75 percent favorable. Sheehan claims that donors are "lined up".

Not long ago, Sheehan switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent. But died in the wool San Francisco Democrats don't need to worry that Sheehan the Independent doesn't share their concerns.

Sheehan cites the following priorities as a crucial part of her political agenda:  "same-sex partnership laws, the environment, health care, affordable post-secondary education, better schools, counter-military recruitment, poverty, AIDS research and cures, decriminalization of marijuana, and especially stopping war and ensuring real peace."

November 2008 is fifteen months away. But without too much of a stretch of my imagination, I can envision mainstream San Francisco Democrats as well as the many left wing, anti-war anarchists could—and might—vote for Sheehan without feeling that they have betrayed their party.

One final and important comment: my column does not represent an endorsement of Cindy Sheehan. Please do not send me angry mail or post nasty things about me on the blog.

I admire Sheehan for defying the odds by running against Pelosi.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.

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