BLUE AMERICA: MORE ON CONGRESSIONAL TARGETING-- AND WHAT'S UP WITH THE DCCC?
Progressives and grassroots Democrats often run into a frustrating wall of realpolitik when trying to figure out congressional targeting. A couple weeks ago we talked a little bit about it and we talked a lot about how severely gerrymandered districts often make it next to impossible to go after some of the most reactionary and most corrupt congressmen (and this is really galling when the most reactionary ones are-- as is so often the case-- also the most corrupt).
Even in looking at primaries as a way of getting rid of bad apples in the Democratic caucus, we come up against the reality that an awful lot of the most reactionary Democratic congressmembers are in very red districts and even if it were possible to deny renomination to a faithless Democrat-- ala Joe Lieberman-- we could get stuck with an even worse Republican in the end (again, ala Joe Lieberman). Of the 2 dozen House Democrats most likely to vote with Republicans on substantive matters, only 8-- Henry Cuellar (TX), John Barrow (GA), John Tanner (TN), John Murtha (PA), Leonard Boswell (IA), Marion Berry (AR), Mike Ross (AR) and Jim Costa (CA)-- are in Democratic or Democratic-leaning districts and only 3 (Costa, Murtha and Barrow) are in districts that Kerry won in 2004. Most of these poor souls are in overwhelmingly Republican districts (like Chet Edwards', where the Cook partisan index is Republican +18 and where Bush rolled up 70% of the votes in 2004).
When it comes to general elections, sometimes the vista is even more dismal. Often the Republicans with the worst voting records and (even Republicans on the verge of indictment!) are in districts gerrymandered to guarantee that even the most vicious neo-fascist bribe-taker-- think California's Gary Miller, for example-- will be re-elected against a moderate or even a conservative Democrat.
My hopes, of course always rest with the grassroots of the Democratic Party and never with the corrupt and venal Inside-the-Beltway careerist-oriented committees. A lot of us feel optimistic that the worst DCCC Chairman ever, Rahm Emanuel, has given up that position in his mad dash to greater personal power. And some of us feel that the far more politically progressive Maryland congressman Chris Van Hollen will prove to be less destructive. But the DCCC Recruitment Committee overwhelmingly represents the least progressive, most pro-corporate end of the Democratic caucus and is firmly under the control of... Rahm Emanuel (who is-- wouldn't you know it?-- one of the 13 members). The members of the committee are Artur Davis (AL-07), Russ Carnahan (MO-03), Mike Doyle (PA-14), Rahm Emanuel (IL-05), Steve Israel (NY-02), Ron Kind (WI-03), Jim Matheson (UT-02), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Mike Ross (AR-04), Tim Ryan (OH-17), Adam Schiff (CA-29), Hilda Solis (CA-32) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20). The Committee is far more in the Emanuel-Hoyer camp than in the Pelosi camp and even among the 3 token liberals on the committee-- Hilda Solis, Betty McCollum and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz-- one in a complete Emanuel puppet (Wasserman- Schultz), who has already proven herself ready and willing to backstab grassroots candidates when Hoyer or Emanuel tell her to.
I was somewhat buoyed by a DCCC promise to try to specifically target some of the more blatantly corrupt Republicans in 2008. "The 2006 cycle proved that ethics matters to average voters. While there were several Republicans defeated this past cycle as a direct result of their ethical lapses, a handful returned to Washington and should be considered among the most vulnerable. We will aggressively work in districts targeting ethically challenged incumbents like Tim Murphy (PA-18), Gary Miller (CA-42), Rick Renzi (AZ-01), John Doolittle (CA-04), Jerry Lewis (CA-41) and Vito Fossella (NY-13)." Talk is cheap and we'll see over the coming year what they actually do-- and, believe me, we will be watching them closely.
The Blue America candidate against Doolittle, Charlie Brown, did spectacularly well in his first race, holding Doolittle down to under 50% and coming within 7,500 votes of victory (of over 200,000 cast) and is likely to run again. He will be coming on for a Blue America chat within the month. The two other California Republicans were not challenged in 2006. Miller had no opponent whatsoever and Lewis had a bogus opponent who he may well have set up himself. We will be starting from scratch in both of these very red districts. Renzi is a perennial target and Ellen Simon held him to a 51% victory. She is poised to beat him in '08. Chad Kluko did better against Tim Murphy than the 2 previous Democrats had and the district looks like it could swing. The Cook Partisan Index is only Republican +2. And the Staten Island district represented by Fossella looks like a good target to me. Turnout was shockingly low but the Democrat, Stephen Harrison, did better than either of the Democrats who ran against Fossella in 2004 and 2002. The district leans slightly Democratic, although Bush beat Kerry (Gore had beaten Bush). If the DCCC really did prioritize this district it would be very winnable.