UPDATE: Picked up by Dave Niewert at Orcinus.
It surprised a lot of people when William Daniel Johnson jumped into the Democratic primary in Arizona's Congressional District 8 at the last minute. He filed his FEC organization on 5/13/06, and filed 1430 signatures on 6/14/06 out of the blue. That's nearly as many signatures as Latas and Weiss. Who collected them? Weiss and Latas have had very visible volunteer operations to anyone who is active in Democratic politics. Nobody was collecting for Johnson: nobody I know. Anyone you know? Probably not. So who collecteded all those signatures?
Who is this stealthy candidate? The biography on his website tells you he's a lawyer who practices international corporate law in Los Angeles and Tucson. What it doesn't tell you is that William Daniel Johnson of Los Angeles, California only passed the Arizona bar in 2006 [PDF]. Could be a coincidence, but it doesn't seem, despite his roots in the community, that Mr. Johnson has been here very long.
Johnson's biography tells you that:
"He was born in Pinal County, Arizona in 1954. His father and grandfather were born in St. David, Arizona. His great grandfather Johnson was one of the early settlers of Cochise County and was the first Bishop of the St. David Ward. All four of his grandparents are buried in Arizona and six of his eight great grandparents are buried here."
This is as interesting for what it doesn't say, as for what it does. Clearly Mr. Johnson is advertising his religious affiliation to all who might be interested without actually stating it. His great grandfather was a Bishop of the St. David Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Mr. Johnson seems to be clearly claiming a long and distinguished religious pedigree which proclaims him to be a devout Mormon without actually saying so. And it's fine that he's a Mormon; but speaking in code about the fact seems a little disingenuous. Of course, he may be very forthright about his faith with voters, and I could be reading too much into his biography.
Mr. Johnson seems forthright enough about his political background. His site states:
"Mr. Johnson is a traditional democrat--embracing the views and policies at the historical core of the party. His populist stances strongly favor the working man and woman, the environment and the integrity of our borders and nation. Since the 1980s, Mr. Johnson has engaged in numerous border control activities. He is involved with American Democrats for a Secure Border and is a major contributor to the Minuteman Project. He has spoken at national and international forums on law and immigration control."
His straightforward avowal of support for the Minuteman Project is laudible. His support of the organization, to many Democrats, is not. I think we can count on seeing this term 'Traditional Democrat' quite often in the coming months. It seems to me to be code for anti-immigration Democrat.
Here is where things start to get, well, odd. American Democrats for a Secure Border is the brainchild of Mr. Russ Dove, the man who does 'U.S. Constitutional Enforcement' polling place patrols looking for illegal aliens trying to vote and runs Truth in Action News. Russ hangs out with such folks as Tom Tancredo, Randy Graf and his just-fired manager Steve Aiken, perennial candidate and avowed racist Joe Sweeny, and Mexican flag burning, public official threatening Roy Warden. Billionaires for Bush even gave Dove a card in their Deck of Block the Vote Heroes: he's the three of diamonds.
Those who concern themselves with the underground politics of the militia movement provide a capsule biography of Mr. Dove:
"Unlike Vanderboegh and Wright, who head state organizations of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, Russ Dove's role in the MCDC is more circumspect. A member of the militia umbrella group the Third Continental Congress, Dove managed to escape association with that militia's most notorious criminal action-- Bradly Glover's planned attack on the US Army base at Fort Hood in 1997, which eventually sent seven members of the militia group to prison.
Based in Tucson, Dove has long been involved with the Sovereign Citizen Movement in Arizona, calls himself "Russ 'Sovereign' Dove," and styles himself a “biblical constitutionalist.” His hatred of government was no doubt stroked by his 1980 felony conviction in California for attempted grand theft (two first degree burglary charges were dismissed).
Dove's current principal role in the MCDC is as a propagandist. He produces video tapes for the Minutemen, filming interviews with many MCDC participants during their border patrol operations and authoring frequent reports on immigration issues on his Web site and “Truth In Action News” radio show."
Why dwell so thoroughly on the association with Dove? One might think this is just a second-hand association though a single organization and can have no real import for Mr. Johnson's candidacy. But Mr. Russell Dove is listed on Mr. Johnson's FEC filing as Johnson's Custodian of Records with the title 'Acting Manager'. So why is someone so clearly aligned with and active in GOP politics, engaged in race-based voter intimidation, deeply implicated in the racist militia underground, and a convicted felon, the 'Acting Manager' of a Democratic candidate's campaign?
The answer lies on Mr. Johnson's Issues page:
"Immigration control is one of the most important issue facing America today. All reasonable steps must be taken to secure our borders. Such steps should include building a fence and US troop deployment along the Mexican border, stop benefits to illegal aliens, make it a felony to be in the United States illegally and fine and imprison persons who hire illegal aliens. Mr. Johnson also believes that large-scale deportation of illegal aliens is necessary and proper. He will not support guest-worker programs of any kind."
2000 miles of fence. A militarized border. No guest-workers (which for very different reasons, I happen to agree with). Fine and imprison employers of undocumented workers. Wholesale round-up and deportation of undocumented immigrants: 12 million people. One wonders if maybe he supports Don Goldwater's idea of concentration camps along the border to build his 'fence' with slave labor.
This guy isn't a Democrat. He's not even a Republican. He's a xenophobic racist. What makes any Democrat think that this guy would support all our other values and policies if he is so diametrically opposed to a humane and sensible approach to getting immigration under control?
I'm not willing to use immigration policy as a litmus test for any candidate of any party, however. I think that a real solution is going to have to be a bi-partisan compromise in the end if we are to create a workable and stable immigration policy. But Mr. Johnson's own issue statements place him clearly outside the Democratic party. Take his stance on Social Security:
"Our Social Security system is slouching towards insolvency. Bill Johnson will give serious consideration to corrective action which includes increasing the age at which recipients can receive full benefits and slowing the rate of increase in those benefits. Bill's philosophy is that work is valuable for all segments of society. Under Bill Johnson's approach, your leisure years may be a little less leisurely."
What a wonderful campaign slogan: "Make your leisure years less leisurely. Vote Johnson!" Instead of increasing the income cap, or doing away with the unequal upper income tax give-aways, Johnson wants people to work longer and make do with less. In fact, Johnson catagorically rejects any tax increases, effectively locking in Bush's slashing of revenues from the top income bracket.
Johnson takes several superficially Democratic positions: withdrawal from Iraq, environmental protection, a balanced budget, and national health care. But when you look at the details the mean-spirited self-righteousness and dogmatism of the modern GOP begins to peek through. Johnson proclaims himself "generally disinclined to support new legislation" because we already have too much. He opposes more funding for education and thinks that the idea that college education is for everyone is an unworkable concept. His national heathcare would make everyone purchase health insurance from exploitive and inefficient private insurers and then maybe provide subsidies to low income people, but not for dental care! Screw your teeth, poor people, you don't need good teeth to eat.
If these are Traditional Democratic values, I think our Party is better off without them.
We need to call bullshit on this candidate. Bill Johnson isn't a Democratic candidate at all. He's a ploy by extremist racists to inject their hateful invective into the Democratic Primary process to make their xenophobic ranting seem bi-partisan, and thus mainstream. They seek to force the media to frame racial hatred as a force in both party's politics, and not just the shameful underbelly of the GOP. They seek to silence critics in the Democratic Party by rebutting us with the rantings of 'one of our own'.
Bill Johnson isn't one of our own. He's not a 'Traditional Democrat'. He's not a Democrat at all. Apparently, you can get 1430 registered Democrats to sign your petitions if you lie to them and use racist militia members and GOP hate-mongers to circulate your petitions in secret. But they can't be allowed to get a single Democrat to vote for their Trojan candidate due to ignorance or due to our silence.