Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bernie Started The Congressional Progressive Caucus But... They've Moved In Other Directions


The Congressional Progressive Caucus has between 70 and 80 members. It was started in 1991 by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) along with Ron Dellums (D-CA), Lane Evans (D-IL), Tom Andrews (D-ME), Pete DeFazio (D-OR) and Maxine Waters (D-CA). Members still in Congress now who were the very first to join up were Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and-- believe it or not-- Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Bernie was elected chairman. I woke up this morning thinking, "what fucking good are they?" The current batch aren't even all progressives. The CPC is very... lenient about who they allow to join-- basically anyone. New Dems Don Beyer, André Carson and Jared Polis are, inexplicably, members. And while the Members of Congress with the dozen most progressive lifetime crucial vote scores are all CPC members, others have abysmal scores. These are the owners of the best House voting records:
Mark Pocan (WI)- 99.09
Mark DeSaulnier (CA)- 99.01
Katherine Clark (MA)- 97.45
Ruben Gallego (AZ)- 97.06
Jim McGovern (MA)- 96.64
Jan Schakowsky (IL)- 96.57
Judy Chu (CA)- 96.48
Raul Grijalva (AZ)- 96.46
Donna Edwards (MD)- 96.21
Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ)- 96.04
Keith Ellison (MN)- 95.90
Yvette Clarke (NY) & Nydia Velazquez (NY)- (tie) 95.55
Other members have voting records that closely track conservative House leader Steny Hoyer (77.90) who has an "F" score. Rick Nolan, I'm told, has a progressive heart. His 79.57 isn't progressive at all and neither is Mark Takai's 79.12. But I'm not even thinking primarily about voting record scores.

There are 5 former CPC members currently in the Senate, Sherrod Brown, Mazie Hirono, Ed Markey, Tammy Baldwin and Bernie. Bernie's the only one who stayed in the Caucus. The CPC hasn't endorsed Bernie, although the co-chairs, Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva, plus members Alan Grayson, Peter Welch and Marcy Kaptur have. Almost all the others have endorsed Clinton, a corporate conservative Democrat. Members Donna Edwards and Alan Grayson are running for the U.S. Senate on powerful progressive platforms against much more conservative Democrats. And, at least so far, the CPC has refused to endorse either one of them.

And when it comes to recruiting and helping elect progressive members, the CPC is, and has been, next to useless. So far they've only managed to agree on 3 non-incumbents, Jamie Raskin and two DCCC-approved candidates, Morgan Carroll (CO) and Angie Craig (MN). Candidates who can really use some help haven't gotten anywhere with the incredibly dysfunctional endorsement committee.

To my knowledge, the CPC never helps any candidate running against an incumbent Democrat, no matter how reactionary and corrupt the incumbent is, nor how progressive the challenger is. So, for example, when Blue America was sweating and bleeding to replace right-wing Blue Dog Tim Holden with Matt Cartwright, now a CPC vice-chairman, we had to do it without any help from the CPC other than a few "good luck" wishes. This cycle, there are actual chances to take out CPC enemies Kurt Schrader (head Blue Dog), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (a New Dem busily pushing a bill to aid the loan sharks who prey on the constituents of over half the CPC members) and Donald Norcross (whose very first vote after being elected was to cross the aisle to back Republicans in one of their unending attempts to pass the Keystone XL Pipeline). These 3 have astoundingly good opponents, respectively Dave McTeague, Tim Canova and Alex Law.

What about progressives the DCCC doesn't want to see get into office? Keep in mind that, generally speaking, the DCCC doesn't want to see any progressives getting into office and very grudgingly back candidates like Angie Craig and Morgan Carroll. I don't see any the DCCC opposes getting endorsed this cycle either. Eric Kingson, the founder of SocialSecurityWorks and a many-time congressional witness... nothing. Nanette Barragan, an environmental hero up against Big Oil's worst corrupt conservative in Sacramento? Too many California members have their own ugly agendas that include the corrupt conservative (Isadore Hall) so... no endorsement for Nanette. Paul Clements and DuWayne Gregory don't have primaries... they're both up against crackpot Republicans but the DCCC is not interested in defeating either so... no endorsements (at least not so far). Ruben Kihuen in Nevada, who's been working on the same legislation (like $15 minimum wage) in Carson City that the CPC is working on in DC? Victim of a petty jealous member who blackballed him. Pat Murphy, with a bagful of progressive accomplishments from when he was Speaker of the Iowa House? DCCC has one of their rich, rotten "ex"-Republicans (Monica Vernon) as a top priority so... no endorsement. Tuesday, Illinois state Sen. Mike Noland faces some New Dem type with lots of money. Mike has gotten a ton of labor support... but none from the CPC. Do you need me to go on? I'm sick of them.

They should be fanning out around the country speaking at Bernie rallies the way Tulsi Gabbard is. But instead most of them are either sitting on their hands or campaigning for Bernie's conservative establishment opponent as she moves from state to state trying to steal delegates.

The CPC is worth saving and reforming. But are they going to be a force for real change or just a force to make the status quo a little less horrible? Watch Robert Reich's video, just above, and think about it-- especially if you're voting in Illinois, Florida, Ohio or North Carolina Tuesday. And, wherever you are, help elect more progressives to Congress-- in primaries and in November-- but honest to goodness real ones, like the ones you'll find by tapping on the thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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At 12:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pocan is from WI. He is listed in the article from AZ.

John Puma

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Kim Kaufman said...

What about Barbara Lee? I guess I haven't been paying that close attention. I thought she had a good progressive voting record. What happened?


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