Lipinski-Newman Congressional fight has nation’s attention
Six term Congressman Dan Lipinski is no stranger to controversy. Appointed to succeed his father Bill, Dan Lipinski has faced criticism from Day One. He’s no media darling and his conservative Democratic beliefs often pit him against more liberal and “progressive” colleagues. This year’s election challenge from Marie Newman is no different
By Ray Hanania
Congressman Dan Lipinski of the 3rd District has a fight on his hands in the March 20, 2018 Democratic primary election.
His challenger is Marie Newman, who is targeting Lipinski’s conservative colors in her campaign assaults and courting voting groups that have been disenfranchised by Lipinski over the years, including Arab Americans.
Newman is pounding Lipinski criticizing his voting record as being too close to President Donald Trump, and even attacked him for embracing the late President Ronald Reagan as an iconic hero.
And she has received a lot of support not just from women at a time when women’s rights are crucial to election victory, but also from many prominent and well respected members of the U.S. House of Representatives including the brilliant Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.
But that doesn’t mean Lipinski is going to lose the election, especially if Newman continues on her current campaign tract.
The fact is the 3rd Congressional District is conservative. Most Democrats, like me, consider themselves “Reagan Democrats,” so a challenger who attacks Ronald Reagan isn’t going to get very far, no matter how many progressives endorse her.
The fact is Newman is running a poor campaign for the 3rd Congressional District. In fact, I would argue that her campaign strategy is designed to work in a lakefront liberal district, like the 9th District, but is so abrasive to the majority of voters int he 3rd Congressional District.
Smart and bright, Newman has been led into a progressive populist strategy that won’t connect with the majority of the 3rd district’s voters where centrist seniors out number liberals and progressives by significant numbers.
Newman has the backing of controversial Congressman Luis Gutierrez, whose wild extreme politics may work in Humboldt Park but have little sway in the neighborhoods of Chicago’s Southwest Side and Southwest suburbs.
Newman’s issues are also off-base, focused on things that are important but do not resonate with the mainstream voters of the 3rd Congressional District.
She has the backing of most of the districts Arab and Muslim Americans, for example. But despite the fact that the Arab and Muslims do represent a significant voting block of 28,000 voters, the fact is Arab and Muslim voters are in disarray politically. They have much to be angry about with Lipinski so their choice is easy: Lipinski co-sponsored heinous legislation that violates the civil rights of Americans who criticize Israel. The bill was introduced in 2014 and it punishes anyone who criticizes or supports a boycott of Israel’s brutal policies which discriminate against Christians and Muslims.
The problem is that although Arabs are justified in opposing this outrageous violation of their civil and constitutional rights to criticize a foreign government like Israel, they are incapable of mustering their opposition beyond anger. They can’t make that anger materialize into an effective movement to pressure Lipinski.
The Arab community is easily swayed when it comes to politics. It was no surprise when J.B. Pritzker, who denounced Muslims and Arabs in his failed 1998 election for congress against Schakowsky as “terrorists”, met privately with a small group of Arabs where he supposedly apologized for his remarks. Pritzker NEVER issued an apology to the public. It was only to them in order to get their support for his campaign against Christopher Kennedy, who was endorsed by another Arab group, the Arab American Democratic Club.
It’s too easy to get Arabs to back down from principle. They just don’t understand politics and remain disorganized.
Newman has the backing of the influential progressive Jewish American organization J Street, which supports the Two-State Solution and opposes violence. J Street is the moderate voice of Jewish Americans and they believe that Newman will provide stronger leadership to help bring peace to the Middle East.
But many of these political and activist groups that are supporting Newman are from outside of the 3rd District and their support is diluted by that.
What Newman needs to do is stop attacking Lipinski for being a conservative. Stop denouncing Ronald Reagan. Stop her campaign from migrating to the far left and instead stake out a clear, centrist and conservative Democratic position.
She needs to speak to the majority of the voters who live int he 3rd Congressional District, especially to senior citizens. And her issues need to touch on the issues that mean the most to them, like speaking out against the oppressive effort to impose tax hikes such as the one that Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle tried to impose but was tax-shamed in defeat. Even her backers quickly reversed and voted against Preckwinkle after they saw how passioned constituents were int heir districts against the Preckwinkle tax.
Newman needs to stop slamming Lipinski, and instead offer real solutions to the 3rd District voters, such as toughening laws against violent offenders. That’s what voters in the 3rd District care about.
They don’t care about President Donald Trump, who did very well in that district in his election.
Seniors and many Reagan Democrats despise the news media. They despise the far left. They despise the hypocrites in the Democratic Party who attack Republicans but oftentimes are worse.
Not every race is about Republicans versus Democrats. Reagan Democrats vote conservative on most national elections, but Democratic in local elections. There is a fine line that any candidate seeking to represent this region has to understand.
One of Lipinski’s strongest points is that he is often viciously attacked by the mainstream news media. When he was first elected, Lipinski was viciously attacked by columnists for Chicago’s newspapers, because he was appointed by his father, the outgoing congressman, and because of his physical features. Those attacks backfired and Lipinski won the support of voters who share in their hatred of the mainstream news media.
Newman clearly will find it tough to minimize the celebrity support she is receiving from outside of the district. But unless she plans to find a connection to 3rd District voters, Dan Lipinski is a guaranteed winner.
Dan Lipinski’s vote violating the rights of Americans who criticize a foreign country is a major problem, but so far most voters in the 3rd District only understand that issue in the context of growing anti-Arab and anti-Muslims sentiment.
The issue of cracking down on illegal immigration is an important one, as is cracking down on crime. But Newman has not made a strong enough case while Lipinski is viewed as a champion of police and anti-crime issues.
Newman should look closely at how Dan Lipinski’s father won election to that district back in 1983. He did it by fighting for the rights of his constituents. One of his biggest campaigns was the effort to block the expansion of a postal facility in Archer Heights. He unseated an incumbent Democrat, who was a senior, John Fary, by doing a better job of connecting to senior citizens. Bill Lipinski built his political fame by opposing the oppressive politics of then Mayor Jane M. Byrne and supporting Richie Daley for mayor.
Bill Lipinski’s biggest issue was his involvement in addressing the poor transportation that existed in the Southwest Side and suburbs. It wasn’t one of those celebrity assignments, but it was one that voters badly needed. Bill gave the constituents in the Southwest Side a real voice. Southwest Siders in Chicago and the Suburbs, have often been ignored and marginalized by regional politics, by the State of Illinois and by the mainstream news media. Bill Lipinski established himself as their champion.
Bill Lipinski won because he listened to his conservative Democratic base, stood firm on issues of safety, fighting crime and family values, and stayed out of the national limelight. He was a populist.
His son Dan Lipinski rides on that populist coattail, one that Newman so far has failed to challenge.
Dan Lipinski’s biggest problem is that he is not very good at socializing with his constituents. He does a poor job of communicating with all his residents, and he certainly has failed to reach out to Arab Americans, suggesting that they don’t mean anything to him.
Deep down though, he is a good person. It just doesn’t come out that easily.
Marie Newman is not only smart and intelligent, she has done better than any previous challenger. She listens. She is compassionate. And she supports many of the issues that are most important to our society. Her biggest problem is she hasn’t yet connected on the issues that mean the most to the 3rd District.
I’ve never seen Dan Lipinski campaign harder, so you know he has to be concerned. It probably will be a close race. But in Chicago politics, close might give you some encouragement but it doesn’t win elections.
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
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