Yesterday Paul Ryan got his head handed to him by a busload of nuns in his hometown, Janesville. Rob Zerban was there to greet the nuns, who are so incensed by Ryan's shockingly anti-Christian Ayn Rand budget that spits in the face of working families. Rob was glad that the sisters were making the point:
I support the Catholic nuns and many other people of faith protesting Paul Ryan's immoral budget. The right wing has hijacked the idea of faith to say it is not about being honest and helping others but being greedy and selfish. Paul Ryan is arguing his faith is leading him to throw the poor, the sick, and the elderly under the bus to try to get rich quick. That's the Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan way. This tea party approach, as advanced by Paul Ryan, is immoral and should not be allowed to hide in plain sight from the condemnation it deserves. I encourage the press to stop being biased for Republicans and examine how dangerous Paul Ryan's proposals truly are. I look forward to joining the nuns today and others who are raising awareness that it is time to defeat the agenda of Paul Ryan.
Janesville tends to be a Democratic stronghold in WI-1. Walworth County, just east of there, is another matter. It's a beautiful part of the state, but one that Ryan and most other politicians have pretty much ignored. Zerban thinks he can turn the people there around and he's been spending more time and energy in Walworth than anyone remembers any candidate ever doing before. The first congressional district is a classic swing district. Bush won it narrowly in 2000 and 2004 (with 51 and 54%, respectively) and President Obama won in 2008 with 51%. But that doesn't make the whole district a swing district. Leaving out Milwaukee County (only small part of which is in the boundaries of WI-1, and in which Obama won 67% of the vote against McCain) and Waukesha County, where a notoriously partisan county clerk has been stealing elections for many years, making their election statistics useless-- Obama only took 37% in the county, a ridiculous figure Kathy Nickolaus pulled out of her fat ass-- let's look at the most legitimately Republican part of the district, Walworth County. In 2008, Obama lost the county to McCain 48- 51% and Ryan pulled 70% of the vote for his reelection. There are just over 100,000 people there and the biggest city is Whitewater, (population 14,390) but most of the people live in Jefferson County, which shares the city, and are students at the University of Wisconsin (as was John Belushi). It was the home of noted GOP plagiarist Stephen Ambrose. The county seat and actual biggest city is Elkhorn, population 7,500. 95% of the folks are white. 2010 was a Republican wave year and Walworth County came through big time for Ryan-- 75% of the vote-- while giving Ron Johnson a big win over Russ Feingold, 64-35%.
Blue America's correspondent in the area, reported that the local Sunday paper ran two big stories on Rob Zerban this week. He was in shock because the paper has been part of the Ryan propaganda machine for years and there were no gratuitous attacks against Zerban. "This is the bloody red heart of WI-1," he told us. "It is definitely winnable if Zerban can get the money and get on the national news, to make this a referendum on the Ryan budget. There are an awful lot of old white people on SS and Medicare that won't like what he's selling if they knew."
The columnist who took on the task, associate editor Dan Plutchak, seems almost surprised that such a fine, upstanding businessman like Rob Zerban is a... Democrat. "At first glance," he begins, "you might think Rob Zerban is a conservative. His family struggled to get by as he was growing up, but he went on to start two successful businesses, then sold them by the age of 40 with enough money to retire. What makes Zerban different is that he's a Democrat." What can I say... except that even someone trying to be fair-minded in these small towns in rural Wisconsin have a twisted way of looking at what makes a Democrat and what makes, in his words, "a conservative."
He posits that Zerban's shot at victory will be whether or not he can hone in on "voters' concerns over changes to Medicare in the Republican budget authored by Ryan." And there's the rub. Although Zerban has raised over a million dollars, almost entirely from grassroots small donors, Ryan has $5,081,310 in his campaign chest, much of it from Wall Street banksters and Big Insurance. And he can get his hands on literally unlimited amounts of money from big Republican and corporate donors who see him as the future of the Republican Party and their best hope for ending democracy and instituting the kind of dystopian Ayn Rand society demonstrated by Ryan's heartless, even sociopathic, budget proposal. The DCCC has thus far not even put Rob Zerban on their shoddy Red-to-Blue program and are absolutely refusing-- as they always do-- to go up against Paul Ryan, who shares so many big contributors with DCCC chairman Steve Israel.
...Zerban supports eliminating the income cap and allowing the government to negotiate prices with drug companies... He is also an unapologetic supporter of the Affordable Health Care Act, often called Obamacare, and is among the camp that believes it didn't go far enough. He promotes what he calls Medicare for All, basically a single-payer plan built on the Medicare model.
Plutchak ends his column by letting his readers know that Zerban "may become the rare underdog to defeat an incumbent." The interview that ran the same day was conducted by Margaret Plevak and it isn't easily accessible online. Here's a screenshot:
But they certainly give Rob the opportunity to make a straight forward case for why he'd be a better representative for ordinary working families than Ryan has been. It doesn't present him as some kind of "other" but as a reasonable alternative to Ryan.
Rob Zerban says some refer to the social safety net as a hammock, but he counters his own experience proves it was a lifeline... In Republican parlance, Zerban was a job creator, a small businessman who successfully built up and sold two businesses.
...Zerban’s mother never took food stamps to help feed her family, but she did accept cheese from a government food surplus program, he said. As a child, he participated in the free lunch programs at school, and later, in part through a federal Pell Grants program, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York.
“Paul Ryan is trying to end these programs,” Zerban said. “If it weren’t for them, somebody like me would not have lived the American dream.”
Working in the food service field in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Zerban made certain his 45 employees got decent health insurance coverage and paid time off. The expense of employee benefits was high, but he realized its worth.
“I found if I take care of my employees, they’ll take care of me,” Zerban said.
At a time when job growth is encouraged, Zerban knows the difficulties entrepreneurs face.
“The cost of health insurance alone is one of the biggest deterrents to starting a business,” he said.
He agrees that the country has fiscal problems, but he would rather the government root out fraud and waste than slash much-needed social programs. And he’d like to see in place a structure like Medicare for All, that promotes a national single-payer health care system based on the Medicare model. Companies like Wal-Mart have supported single-payer plans because they recognize the cost savings and efficiencies, he said.
“Single payer isn’t a bad word, though Republicans demonize it,” he said. “I’m not returning back to this idea to dwell on the past-- this is simply a common sense proposition.”
...Under Ryan’s watch, Zerban estimated 12,500 jobs were lost between Kenosha’s Chrysler assembly plant and the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville-- earning the congressman the nickname “Pink Slip Paul” from Zerban.
When Zerban heard car maker Audi planned to open a plant in Mexico--but didn’t, he met with United Auto Workers union president Bob Kind about keeping Audi in America. Zerban is now planning to fly to Germany to meet with Audi executives about opening a plant in Wisconsin.
He’s not sure what will come of the meeting, but he said at least he’s trying to get autoworkers back to work in Wisconsin, unlike his opponent.
Zerban noted that Ryan’s proposed budget has been ripped by American economist Paul Krugman and even former John McCain economic advisor Mark Zandi.
Zerban called Ryan out of touch and wondered how he’d earned the reputation of economic whiz kid.
“He’s predicting a dire economic crisis within two years,” Zerban said. “Yet he couldn’t predict our last economic crisis.”
Those who are concerned about the country’s deficit should confront Ryan, he said. “You don’t cut a deficit by funding two wars. You don’t cut a deficit by cutting taxes for millionaires.”
During a campaign stop in Janesville recently, a 74-year-old man told Zerban he’d been a lifelong resident of the city, and had voted for Ryan in the past. But not this time around.
“He told me, ‘I just can’t bring myself to vote for Paul Ryan.’” Zerban said.
More voters, Zerban believes, are feeling the same way.
If Rob can keep getting that out there-- and penetrate the prejudices and partisan propaganda barrage-- he'll win this race. If he doesn't, it will be to the eternal shame of "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel who has, thus far, prohibited the DCCC from helping Zerban, although most of the people who work there are champing at the bit to take on Ryan. If that's a bit you're champing at... may I suggest you visit the StopPaulRyan page and take action yourself. Waiting for the DCCC will only guarantee Ryan is reelected.