By Sarah Smarsh
In a dim corridor backstage, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders looked down at Kansas congressional hopeful James Thompson’s denim jeans and black boots. “Hey James,” Sanders said without cracking a smile. “Could I borrow your cowboy shoes?”
Thompson took just a second to recover from the razzing.
“I wear them because the shit’s so deep around here,” he replied.
Through the thick cement walls of this downtown Wichita convention hall, we heard the roar of 4,000 Kansans awaiting speeches by Sanders, Thompson and progressive rocket ship Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in support of Thompson’s run for Congress. It was Ocasio-Cortez’s first political appearance outside New York after her remarkable primary win in June, when the 28-year-old democratic socialist defeated one of the most powerful House Democrats in Washington. Here in the midwest, Thompson – who also has never held office – has tapped into similar yearning for a representative who has more old friends at the local pub than in DC.
‘I would prefer to sit down and talk. But if you wanna be an ass, all right’
The choice of location for Ocasio-Cortez’s debut outside New York is poetic: like Sanders, she and Thompson have refused corporate donations, and this district is home to perhaps the greatest conservative influencers in US history – the Koch brothers, whose political network pledged to spend $400m on conservative candidates before the midterms.
It’s one thing to push the Democratic party left in New York City. It is quite another to rabble-rouse for universal healthcare, wind energy and a livable wage in Charles Koch’s backyard. Doing so takes, my friends in the north-east might say, “hutzpah”.
Or, as my Kansas farmer grandpa might have said: “That Jim is full of piss and vinegar.”
No congressional candidate has ever done what Thompson is doing in this era of unrestricted corporate campaign donations: hold a progressive sword at the precise geographic heart of the dark-money beast. When I asked whether anyone has, say, tried to break his kneecaps, Thompson let out a big laugh.“I’d like to see them try,” he said. “That’s one good thing about being 6ft 2.”
Such humor – joking in a manner that polite society might view as unseemly – is the necessary roughness that millions of Americans develop to survive on job sites, in barrooms, in their own homes while the air conditioning window unit drips water on to the carpet.
It only makes sense that a progressive movement unifying the working class across lines of race, gender, age, religion and location would contain candidates like Thompson, who is both a civil rights attorney who represented detained immigrants and victims of police brutality and a former bouncer at a Wichita country-western nightclub called InCahoots.
A hard story often comes with hard language. During a period of homelessness, Thompson bathed, washed clothes and fished for food in a canal. He fought for emancipation from an abusive parent and attended 16 schools before finishing high school. This is a not a man who, in the face of rising authoritarianism, will be “civil” to please pearl-clutching political leaders on either side of the aisle.
This is precisely his appeal in southern Kansas. Thompson might be a new star for coastal reporters. But his combination of progressive ideas and unapologetically impolite language has been gaining supporters – and even converting some Trump voters – for a year and a half without the national Democratic party lifting a finger.
In contrast to a version of liberal America often criticized as, well, a bunch of wimps, his campaign slogan is “Fight for America”. …
- Check Out The James Thompson For Congress Website, HERE.
The Democratic Establishment Is Still Winning. Progressives Are Trying To Turn The Tide
By Kevin Robillard
The HuffPost (7/25/18)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. ― The progressive revolution isn’t going quite as planned.
The establishment is winning more Democratic primaries than progressives are, and the type of earth-shattering upsets that signified the Republicans’ tea party wing was becoming an electoral force in 2010 have been few and far between. With just 19 states still left to hold their primaries, opportunities to shape the Democratic Party are slipping away.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic nominee for a House seat from New York, came to the Great Plains last Friday and Saturday to seize those opportunities.
“I don’t believe there are red states or blue states or purple states,” Sanders said as he rallied for labor attorney Brent Welder, a Democratic congressional candidate, before a crowd of more than 2,000 people in a sweaty convention center auditorium. “I believe that any state in this country where working people are struggling is a state that’s ready to vote for justice.”
But they face distinct challenges in different areas, illustrated in each of the three districts they campaigned in …