A Campaign Promise Broken

CONGRESS//15TH DISTRICT/ANALYSIS | What happened last week to Rep. Eric Swalwell is better explained through cinema. Taken from the viewpoint of Swalwell’s large moderate, more well-to-do base in the Tri Valley, Swalwell’s unfortunate utterance of the word and imagery of a “wet dream” last Friday was the moment the young Jedi became his father. Pete Stark, the man who presided over the East Bay for four decades before being beaten last year by Swalwell, might have whispered from his barcalounger, “Eric, I am your father.”


So, in one brief moment, the rookie congressman reneged on his biggest, most heartfelt, campaign promise from a year ago. After vowing never to embarrass the district with name-calling and truly outlandish behavior, Swalwell became Stark. (Watch the video below.)

The reaction to the phrase was so critical that even the local mainstream media, which has cheered Swalwell unmercifully after the past year, couldn’t look away. Josh Richman of the San Jose Mercury News reached out to Stark, whose comments sounded like last year’s campaign never ended. “I hope I’d have the good taste in all my outbursts not to say something like that, but I guess it gives you the measure of the man,” Stark told the newspaper.

Even the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci, who continues to confound many by her rah-rahing for Swalwell, noted the wet dream quote “raised eyebrows.” However, she remained insufferable by also noting a wet dream is a “natural bodily function.”

The Huffington Post suggested Swalwell’s speech may have violated the House rules for decorum, which prohibits members from disparaging each other or using vulgarity within the House of Representatives. Ironically, Republicans used the same rule to sanction Stark for saying President George W. Bush found certain eroticism by sending young men to get their heads “blown off” in Iraq. Swalwell’s behavior while in the people’s house has faced criticism in the past. ABC News noted this summer that Swalwell’s recording of a vote, later uploaded to Vine, violated House rules for the use of electronic devices. In both instances, Swalwell appeared unrepentant.

Tea Party adherents who voted for Swalwell last year will tell you he lied to voters the first time he appeared with Sean Hannity on Fox News last January and strongly-backed gun control. But, whether Swalwell ever communicated a pro-gun stance may have been part of their collective imagination and exploited by his brand of moderate politics that struggles to believe in everything and nothing at all. However, making national news for saying weird and nasty things is, by far, the number one reason conservatives in the district hated Stark and why even some liberals secretly wished he would go away.

After last week, Swalwell became exactly what he repeatedly told thousands, from Livermore to Hayward, he would never become—an embarrassment to his district.