Grassroots Democrats Desperately Need To Radicalize Their Centrist Congressional Representatives
I live in Los Feliz, which is part of an overwhelmingly blue congressional district in Los Angeles, CA-28. The PVI is D+20 and the GOP doesn't bother running candidates here. Obama beat Romney 187,441 (70.3%) to 70,757 (26.5%) and Hillary beat Trump by an even stronger margin-- 72.1% to 22.3%. You would think a district like this would have a bold progressive champion, someone like our neighbors, Ted Lieu, Xavier Becerra, or Judy Chu. But, our congressman, Adam Schiff, is a relatively conservative member of Congress for this blue a district. ProgressivePunch rates him a "D," not "D" for Democrat, "D" for almost an "F." His lifetime ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is 82.55. Adam started out in Congress in 2000 as a Blue Dog. More recently he quit that caucus and joined the corporately-owned New Dems, although at least he's one of the least reactionary of that group.
Over the past year or so, I've noticed him moving ever so slightly left and, unlike most of the New Dems, he's not one of the ones Ryan and McCarthy can count on when they need to call one of their toxic bills "bipartisan." In fact, now that Pelosi appointed him ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, he's been on TV frequently and-- without fail-- making a good case against Trump and his crackpot foreign policy agenda. I've sent him several notes congratulating him for solid appearances, including excellent debates with lunatic fringe right-wingers like Tucker Carlson on Fox. I started thinking-- hoping-- that Trumpism might "radicalize" Schiff... and make him more like his constituents.
Alas, though, in a recent L.A. Times interview he instead claimed Trump is radicalizing grassroots Democrats and making it difficult for centrists like himself. Blaming the voters is never a very good idea, especially for someone who has his sights set on winning the Senate nomination when Feinstein finally leaves the stage. (He is very much like her.) Elizabeth Warren spoke at the Progressive Congress Strategy Summit yesterday. Her perspective is something Adam Schiff should stuff carefully. There's a reason grassroots Democrats who talk about helping elect her president are talking about being vigilant about keeping him out of Feinstein's Senate seat.
The protests so many of us have found so inspiring-- and so effective in galvanizing an anti-fascist message-- looked scary to Schiff, worried that grassroots Democrats are becoming too radicalized. Here's our Adam: "The radical nature of this government is radicalizing Democrats, and that’s going to pose a real challenge to the Democratic Party, which is to draw on the energy and the activism and the passion that is out there, but not let it turn us into what we despised about the tea party."
Ever since the election, party leaders have been debating: "Did we lose because we were too far to the left and we had too small a tent, or did we lose because we are too mainstream and didn’t energize the base?" Schiff asked.It isn't that hard. Just walk a dozen steps across either Rosewood Avenue in West Hollywood or Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills and you're in Ted Lieu's district. Watch how seemingly effortlessly it is for Ted Lieu, a full Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, to contradict Trump's-- and #PresidentBannon's-- outrageous barrage of lies. Lieu is rapidly becoming a congressional superstar. People refer to him as a Jedi Knight. Ted's 2 twitter accounts (here and here) have become focal points for the Resistance inside Congress. On one, his self-description ends with "Also I don't take orders from Vladimir Putin." Two typical Ted tweets from yesterday:
"We are obviously having that debate, but there’s a whole new element, which is the reaction to the Trump administration that makes this different in kind, certainly different in intensity, than I think we’ve ever seen after an election,” he said.
“The more radical the administration is, the more radicalized our base becomes, which just feeds the Breitbart crowd, and who knows where that ends.”
Democratic leaders have to channel public reaction to Trump's actions into progress, rather than deadlock, Schiff said.
Reaction to Democrats seen as working with the Trump administration has been strong. Monday night, for example, protesters marched on Sen. Dianne Feinstein's home and office voicing fears she would back Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. The senator from California announced Tuesday that she would oppose Sessions.
Several groups calling themselves "indivisible" have popped up in cities across the country as focal points for efforts to organize.
“We have two of the most capable strategists as the head of our House and Senate Democrats," Schiff added, referring to House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Senate Democratic leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York.
"If anybody can grapple with this, they can, but it’s going to be a challenging and moving target day to day."
"I just hope that we can channel that energy in a way where we can provide a check on this administration because I’ve never been more worried about the country’s future than I am right now," he said.
Schiff said part of his role as the ranking Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee will be pushing back when the Trump administration puts out inaccurate information about the intelligence community and its findings.
Trump has repeatedly dismissed or sought to minimize the intelligence community's findings that Russia sought to intervene in the 2016 election to benefit him . Schiff said he’s concerned about what else the administration might be willing to dismiss.
“I think that will be kind of a new frontier,” he said. “How do we contradict a president making representations about what the intelligence community has to say when the information is classified?”
Ted is on Blue America's Worthy Incumbents page, on the Resist page for the Members of Congress who boycotted the fascist inauguration, and on the brand new Voices of the Resistance page, reserved for the strongest and most effective congressional leaders against Trumpism. Adam? Uh... no. But, I haven't lost hope for my congressman either. Like I said, he may be a slow learner, but he is learning... step by step, by step. Yesterday his twitter account positively rocked and, in fact, sounded very much like... Ted Lieu's!