Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Who Will Defend Science?

When it came to the defense of science, Sherwood Boehlert was an imperfect representative. He made a lot of talk about the importance of science, but when it came down to actually doing something, exercising oversight as was his duty as chair of the House Science Committee, Boehlert was nowhere to be seen. Even when the Bush Administration started distorting scientific findings for political purposes and punishing government scientists who dared to contradict the right wing religious Republican agenda by truthfully reporting the results of their studies, Boehlert did nothing of substance.

Still, Sherwood Boehlert did enough talking to convince people in the 24th District that he was an adequate representative of the interests of science in the House of Representatives. The creation of that impression helped Sherwood Boehlert last as long as he did. I remember speaking to many 24th District Democrats in during the 2004 election who told me that they would be voting for Boehlert because of Boehlert's support for funding of scientific research locally and nationally. These pro-Boehlert Democrats included members of the county Democratic Committees who had spouses working on scientific projects that had federal funding arranged with the help of Boehlert.

Boehlert used science as a wedge issue. Could Ray Meier do the same?

At present, neither Meier nor Michael Arcuri is addressing the integrity of science as an issue in itself. However, Ray Meier does address the importance of independent scientific research in his issue page on energy policy. Meier's energy policy goes into great detail on the importance of sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, neutralizing what should be a core Democratic issue.

In fact, Mike Arcuri hardly addresses energy at all. Arcuri has issued two press releases on energy issue, but has yet to develop a coherent energy policy paper as Meier has. Arcuri's issue statement on energy remains at the level of a sound bite, a mere paragraph. Nowhere have I found a statement in which Arcuri even uses the word "science" or "scientist".

Arcuri cannot afford to continue to allow Ray Meier to be the sole voice to what should be Democratic constituencies. The science voters will not deliver the election to Arcuri, but they could deliver it to Ray Meier. If pro-science voters in the 24th District conclude that Ray Meier will be the better representative for science in the House of Representatives, then it will become even more difficult for Arcuri to win the general election.

The Arcuri for Congress campaign seems to be operating under the assumption that support from traditionally Democratic constituencies is all wrapped up. Arcuri should not mistake support from county Democratic committees for support from the mass of Democratic voters themselves. On Election Day, it's the Democratic voters Arcuri will need to convince to turn out for a mid-term election.

Arcuri needs to wrench his campaign out of the back rooms, and start speaking to the voters. Yet, even after the exit of Les Roberts from the race, there has been no sign of a reinvigoration of voter outreach from the Arcuri camp. While Arcuri continues to coast along on the power of a few old snippets, Ray Meier has offered deep, piercing commentaries on core issues.

I don't agree with a lot of what Ray Meier has to say. Ray Meier is just plain wrong on most issues. However, the Arcuri camp is not effectively countering Ray Meier's statements. At least Ray Meier has proven that he has the personal gravity to give energy issues more attention than just a glance and a nod. It is time for Michael Arcuri to go beyond his superficial talk and prove to us that he is serious about more than just winning. Arcuri needs to prove that he cares enough to think deeply about the issues that matter to Democrats in our district.

Support for funding of scientific research and the reestablishment of the integrity of scientific processes in the federal government would be an easy place for Arcuri to start. Arcuri can't afford to play this waiting game any longer. Ray Meier is already speaking about science, cutting away at the base that Arcuri will need to even make a respectable showing in November.

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