An East Texas Democrat has emerged as a challenger in TX-36 to Congressman Steve Stockman's antics on Capitol Hill. The 36th Congressional District is Southern-fried freedom loving country that stretches East from Pasadena through the pine curtain up to Jasper and also includes “Liberty County”, the San Jacinto monument, and the Big Thicket National Preserve. The area isn't known for producing the most progressive candidates, but Democrats in the area are hoping for someone who won't make them the laughing Stock' (pun intended) of Congress.
Michael Cole, an educator for the Little Cypress-Mauriceville school district may be the man they are looking for. His passion for education and personal experience with our healthcare system (he is an amputee) give him the personal platform to run, but he also has a solid grasp on a surprising number of issues facing our current Congress. On Tuesday, he held a Q and A on Facebook with voters to answer questions ranging from his voting history to preserving Medicare and womens' rights. Even though the bar is set low for improving on the policy positions of Stockman, the queries from participants weren't exactly softballs.
Below the jump are some of the questions and answers from Tuesday night:
How can we shift the discussion from “free trade” to “fair trade” and would that help bring good paying manufacturing jobs back to the US?
We shift the discussion from free trade to fair trade by talking about how un-free and unfair free trade actually is. Free trade is nothing more than protectionism under a different name. It goes a step further; it removes from our consideration the lack of respect for human rights that our trading partners are held to. By engaging in “free trade” we encourage corporations to move factories to nations without labor laws, work place safety or basic civil rights. We must make that trade fair. When that happens not only do we spread freedom and human dignity we also create markets for American goods.
As far as bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, fair trade is but one of the tools that we must employ. An educated workforce is still needed; a strong infrastructure is still needed.
What are your thoughts on providing affordable and convenient access to birth control?
We should provide them. We must not force a family or a woman into parenthood before they are ready. It saves lives. Also, you want to reduce the number of abortions, make alternatives and sex education more readily available.
How would expanding Medicaid benefit Texas?
Expanding Medicaid in Texas helps to bring medical coverage to those that cannot afford it. If those that usually do not have coverage now has it, they will not miss school improving their education. If they have better access to coverage, they will not miss work and this will improve their chances to success.
I call upon my own experiences. For four years, I fought a foot infection. I spent a total of 11 months in the hospital and eventually lost my foot. I was lucky, I had insurance. Without it, I would probably be dead now. Those that do not have a job that provides insurance deserves the same chance at life I did.
The takeaway for Texas Democrats at large is that we need more individuals like Cole to step up and run for their local, state and federal offices, particularly those with unopposed Republican incumbents. Cole is an East Texas man with East Texas values, and for all what the conservatives' brand of crazy has done to own that part of our state, he stands unapologetically as a Democrat. His responses weren't generic partyline talking points or copy and pasted from Barack Obama's campaign site, but were thoughtful and tailored to his local audience. Grassroots campaigns like Cole's will be crucial as we work on building the infrastructure to turn Texas blue.