Thursday, May 02, 2013

When Democrats Go Bad


Are you getting dozens of donor letters from Democrats again? Another phony-baloney deadline plea... do they come every other week now? They're starting to clog up my e-mail box. I delete most of them without looking but Tuesday I got one from a freshman I had contributed to in the past. She's been a lousy representative-- with a dismal ProgressivePunch crucial vote score of 40.0-- tied with a handful of conservatives down in Blue Dog territory. But she-- unlike any of them-- ran as a progressive. 40.0 is unbelievably bad. Boehner's biggest Democratic supporters in the House, John Barrow (GA) and Collin Peterson (MN) both scored 45.0 this session and Texas right-winger Henry Cuellar's is 50.0.

One line in her missive was "we know that the GOP is going to throw everything they've got at us." I responded, snarkily, "Imagine that-- even though you've been supporting so much of their program, they're still not going to back you. Funny how that works, isn't it? I feel very let down by you and very sorry I ever urged other people to support you."

I may have touched a nerve. She responded immediately:
I am happy to discuss my voting record with you anytime which has been 100 percent with the House Democratic Leadership recommendation for Frontline members.

I have no idea what your "expectations" were or even why you are so "let down." Perhaps you should run for Congress yourself?

Thanks for all your wisdom and guidance. Maybe [her Tea Party opponent] will be your kind of guy!
Her Tea Party opponent won't be my kind of guy. I hope a real progressive primaries her though. She always seemed like a bright enough woman to have known that bragging about having been one of the few pathetic shills to have voted "100 percent with the House Democratic Leadership recommendation for Frontline members" was far from my expectations when I wrote a personal check to her campaign and far from the expectations of Blue America when we endorsed her, a mistake we won't be making again. We were led to believe she would have a mind of her own and not take orders from a hack like Steve Israel, whose strategies have failed pitifully. She didn't join the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Instead she joined lifelong Republican Patrick Murphy, a gaggle of confused New Dems and a whole menagerie of right-wing Republican extremists like Steve Stockman (R-TX), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), Trey Radel (R-FL), Ted Yoho (R-FL) and Tom Rice (R-SC) in some kind of cockamamie "United Solutions Caucus" that stomps all over Democratic values and principles. What a disaster! That said, I want to share something our old friend Norman Solomon sent me yesterday:

Don’t Vent, Organize-- And “Primary” a Democrat Near You
By Norman Solomon

Progressives often wonder why so many Republican lawmakers stick to their avowed principles while so many Democratic lawmakers abandon theirs. We can grasp some answers by assessing the current nationwide drive called “Primary My Congressman”-- a case study of how right-wing forces gain ground in electoral terrain where progressives fear to tread.

Sponsored by Club for Growth Action, the “Primary My Congressman” effort aims to replace “moderate Republicans” with “economic conservatives”-- in other words, GOP hardliners even more devoted to boosting corporate power and dismantling the public sector. “In districts that are heavily Republican,” the group says, “there are literally dozens of missed opportunities to elect real fiscal conservatives to Congress-- not more ‘moderates’ who will compromise with Democrats...”

Such threats of serious primary challenges often cause the targeted incumbents to quickly veer rightward, or they may never get through the next Republican primary.

Progressive activists and organizations could launch similar primary challenges, but-- to the delight of the Democratic Party establishment-- they rarely do. Why not?

Here are some key reasons:

•  Undue deference to elected Democrats.

Members of Congress and other elected officials deserve only the respect they earn. All too often, for example, plenty of Congressional Progressive Caucus members represent the interests of the establishment to progressives rather than the other way around.

  •  Treating election campaigns more like impulse items than work that requires long-term planning and grassroots follow-through.

The same progressives who’ve spent years planning, launching and sustaining a wide range of community projects are apt to jump into election campaigns with scant lead time. Progressives need to build electoral capacity for the long haul, implementing well-planned strategic campaigns with candidates who come out of social movements and have a plausible chance to win on behalf of those movements.

•  Assuming that millions of dollars are necessary to win.

Yes, successful campaigns require effective fundraising-- but money is often a less significant obstacle than a shortage of commitment and willingness to do painstaking grassroots organizing.

•  Self-marginalization by ignoring elections.

Some on the left prefer to stay out of electoral contests while focusing on the next protest demonstration-- thus leaving the electoral field to battles between corporate Democrats and Republicans. One sure result: a progressive won’t win.

•  Self-marginalization with third-party efforts in partisan races.

In congressional races, Green Party and other progressive third-party candidates have a zero record of success in our lifetimes. In other races with party affiliations also on the ballot (such as governor and state legislature), victories have been almost nonexistent. In such races, the corporate-military complex is not in the slightest threatened by third-party candidates, who rarely get higher than a low single-digit percentage of the vote. In nonpartisan races, by contrast, there are examples of successful and uplifting campaigns by third-party candidates, as with Green Party member Gayle McLaughlin, the mayor of Richmond, California.

  By changing just a few words in the Club for Growth’s “Primary My Congressman” manifesto, progressives have a road map for electoral progress: In districts that are heavily Democratic, there are literally dozens of missed opportunities to elect real progressives to Congress-- not more of those who go along with the Obama White House as it keeps compromising with Republicans.

Anyone serious about getting genuine progressives elected to Congress next year should be engaged in developing campaigns now. To avoid the impulse-item syndrome, that means identifying key races where progressives have a real chance to win, while remaining mindful that election campaigns should be subsets of social movements and not the other way around.

If there’s a defining issue that now separates the Obama party leadership from social decency, it is the president’s push to cut Social Security benefits. Less ballyhooed but also crucial is his push to cut Medicare benefits and the ever-present danger of cuts to already woefully-underfunded Medicaid. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are unwilling to seriously cut the enormous military budget.

Any incumbent Democrat who is not serving progressive interests should be weighed as a possible primary target. And the most fruitful primary challenges are beckoning in heavily Democratic districts where there are many progressive voters and incumbents aren’t measuring up.

By that standard, the Congress members who may be vulnerable to a primary challenge include the 44 who tout their membership in the Progressive Caucus but have refused to sign the letter (initiated by Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano) promising not to vote to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

A good starting point to consider launching a primary challenge in your area would be to look at those 44 members of Congress who continue to refuse to make such a promise, leaving themselves wiggle room to vote for cuts in three crucial programs of the social compact. To see the list of those self-described “progressives,” click here. (Meanwhile, wherever you live, you can let your Congress member and senators know what you think of proposals for such cuts by clicking here.)

It’s fair to say those 44 members of Congress are among the many Democratic incumbents showing themselves to be more afraid of the Obama White House and the Democratic Party hierarchy than they are of voters in their own districts. Progressives in and around those districts need to do less venting and more organizing.

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At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Ford Prefect said...

Thanks for all your wisdom and guidance. Maybe [her Tea Party opponent] will be your kind of guy!

That's typical now. Even when I give very specific reasons why I recently changed my long-time registration to Indie from Dem (after almost four decades), this is the crap they throw my way. They still won't take me off their phone lists after my telling them several times I'm no longer on Team Blue. Seriously, if all they have are insults in the face of withering rejection, then what does that say about them?

Look, the entire party leadership and most of the party apparat are firmly in cloud cuckoo land. This kind of braying asininity can only come from people who simply don't give a shit what anyone--who isn't a corporate bundler--has to say about anything.

The Democratic Party is not a democratic institution. It's an oligarchic institution. That's where this tone deaf authoritarianism comes from. That's why it can't be saved. The tumor has metastasized.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger gcwall said...

In DC the consensus is that it is "all about money." When democratic representatives conceded to the material view of reality they became Republican-lites(sp).

Progressives must stand on principle and they must hold reason as the standard for the approach to problems.

As it is now, representatives are nothing more than mendacious salesmen for special interests. Our society rewards deceit, fraud and duplicity. The best actors are those who persuade most of the right people.

In business, politics and other professions leaders have crossed over to the dark side, because success is measured by one's capacity for cheating successfully.

The "free market" has never been free, it is manipulated to serve those who have the advantage. The U.S. does not have a capitalist economy; it has an economy that serves the wealthy and influential. It is an economy of favors for insiders and the tyranny of chance for everyone else.

Abandoning reason and principles for personal gain may appear to be a logical choice, but it is a choice that weakens the entire country.

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's her name?

At 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

None other than Kyrsten Sinema AZ-09. Shows why PDA or Grijalva didn't endorse her in her primary. They knew she would sell out our values.


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