Sunday, March 11, 2018

All DCCC Staffers Who Undermine Democrats Must Be Fired-- The DCCC Should Only Fight Republicans


In Texas' Tuesday primary the DCCC's biggest bet was in TX-23 and on Jay Hulings, a right-of-center dull corporate shill endorsed not just by the DCCC but also by the Blue Dogs, the New Dems, the Castro San Antonio political machine and every corrupt surrogate the DCCC could round up. (Don't ask me why the Congressional "Progressive" Caucus didn't back him; they must have forgotten.) Anyway, no one won outright and the nomination to face GOP incumbent Will Hurd in November will go to a May 22 primary runoff. But Hulings won't be in that runoff. He came in 4th with just 15.04% (6,584 votes). Yep, the DCCC failed again-- and spectacularly so. Hulings spent the most money of course-- $396,988 (as of the February 14 FEC reporting deadline). The two winners who will face off on May 22 are moderate EMILY's List candidate, Gina Jones, who spent $381,072 and progressive Berniecrat Rick Treviño, who spent $20,417. That chart just below indicates how much each candidate spent per vote-- $59.83 for Hulings who cluelessly followed every step the DCCC insists their candidates follow-- and grassroots candidate Treviño-- $2.64, the least of any candidate in the primary, and ignoring the DCCC and the DC Democratic establishment entirely, running a race that was 100% about people in his district, not about lobbyists, not about Steny Hoyer or Nancy Pelosi or the DCCC or the Blue Dogs and New Dems and not about any of the typical establishment corruption that makes Americans hate the two DC political parties. Treviño is the TX-23 candidate, not a hand-picked Washington DC puppet. [And no, he's not the country singer of the same name, just a fan of his music.]

And that brings us to a post Matty Yglesias did for Vox this week, The DCCC should chill out and do less to try to pick Democrats’ nominees. Yglesias is a moderate Democrat, not a conservative, a moderate. He understands when he's looking at a serially-failed, utterly dysfunctional operation when he sees one. And, in this case, that's the DCCC. The fools at the DCCC don't understand that their ham-fisted interference in the TX-07 race handed a win to Laura Moser but Yglesias wrote that they instantly turned a vote for her into a symbolic rejection of the party establishment." The DCCC is loved by corrupt lobbyists and contemptible DC-insiders and they don't understand that America hates those people-- and hates them as well. Congress has an astoundingly low approval rating; the DCCC (and NRCC) have even lower approval. And they've earned it. "Moser," he wrote, "will be the underdog, though she certainly might win. And if she does, it’s likely the DCCC will take its toys and go home. As House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters from the Austin American-Statesman in February, 'We have to be cold-blooded in what we do. In other words, if the wrong person wins-- well, nobody’s wrong-- but if the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore, because we’ve got 100 races.' This is a perfect statement of the standard Washington political professional’s view of how to target resources-- some candidates are electable and some aren’t, and it’s a waste of time to back the ones who aren’t. But to walk away from TX-7 or other purplish seats based on the identity of the nominee would be a serious mistake. Targeting resources is reasonable, but so is humility about one’s ability to foresee the future. That attacks on Moser backfired is a reminder that the political judgment of the pros in Washington is flawed, and both narrative history and broad quantitative research shows that their ability to accurately identify which races are winnable and which candidates are worth backing is sharply limited."

Goal ThermometerBlue America had backed the other progressive in the primary, Jason Westin, but the day after the primary, we added Laura Moser to the Blue America Take Back Texas ActBlue page, which you can access by tapping on the thermometer on the right. Please consider sending the DCCC a message by contributing what you can to Laura Moser and Rick Treviño right now. Back to Yglesias, who is writing standard DWT fare we've been shouting from the rooftops for over a decade:
Back on June 12, 2006, Stu Rothenberg wrote an update for the then-authoritative Inside Elections website about “surprising good” news for Republicans out of California primaries. What news? Well, “in the 11th district, Democrats nominated Jerry McNerney over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s preferred candidate, airline pilot Steve Filson.” Rothenberg allowed that “McNerney is a nice man, and he deserves a lot of credit for defeating Filson, who had the backing of powerful state and national Democratic insiders” but explained that realistically, “McNerney is simply too far to the left to knock off Pombo in this district, and he doesn’t project the kind of persona that a challenger needs to win against an incumbent.”

The DCCC walked away from the race, but McNerney won anyway. Then he won again in 2008, won narrowly-- this time with enthusiastic DCCC support as a frontliner-- in 2010, and is still serving in Congress today. And he wasn’t alone.

Carol Shea-Porter and John Hall, like McNerney, won their races despite being abandoned by the DCCC. Shea-Porter is stepping down from her seat next year, and Hall lost in the 2010 wave. Larry Kissell was abandoned by the DCCC, lost in 2006, but then won in 2008 (this time with DCCC support) and even survived the 2010 midterms, only to fall victim to redistricting in 2012.

Observers on the left of the Democratic Party tend to paint these turns of events in rather dark, sometimes conspiratorial terms (Ryan Grim at the Intercept is the most skilled and persuasive chronicler of this viewpoint).

A more generous interpretation would simply be that the DCCC pros just aren’t as smart as they like to think they are. That’s why even when their goals are clear, as they were in the TX-7 primary when the DCCC was trying to take Moser out but seems to have accomplished the reverse, they don’t reliably get the job done.

The basic pattern of errant judgment-- not, I think, because of malfeasance but simply because predicting the future is hard-- came from last year’s House special elections. A Kansas race that the national party wrote off as unwinnable turned out to be unexpectedly close, while the Georgia Sixth primary, which national Democrats were very enthusiastic about, turned out to be one of the party’s worst special election results of the whole year.

A much lower-profile House race playing out that very same day in South Carolina ended up with an identical margin of victory.

And over the course of 2017, Democrats wound up having a lot of special election success in places that few people would have predicted at the beginning of the year-- flipping a series of state legislature seats in Oklahoma and even winning a US Senate race in Alabama.

Some of this speaks to a big question about how to model national politics. The theory of John Ossoff’s campaign in Georgia was that Republicans would be vulnerable in places that went overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney but only narrowly for Donald Trump. That was a reasonable guess, but now that more data is in, we know it was wrong — Democrats have instead made the most down-ballot progress in the places that swung hardest to Trump, with longer-standing political patterns reasserting themselves.

It’s easy to say the DCCC should have been more clairvoyant about these national trends. It’s also easy for people with factional concerns to cherry-pick specific races and argue that their favored brand of candidate would be winning everywhere.

The real truth, however, is that politics is hard to predict. Extensive empirical research shows that it matters less than you might think whether a party goes with an “electable” moderate.
A 2002 study by Brandice Canes-Wrone, David W. Brady, and John F. Cogan found a 1 to 3 percentage point vote penalty for congressional candidates perceived as extreme in elections between 1956 and 1996.
Arjun Wilkins pushed this research forward to 2012 and found that “as polarization substantially increased during the 1990s and 2000s, the penalty for extremism in the 1990s got smaller and in the 2000s, the penalty was no longer significant.”
Both of those were studies of congressional incumbents who have clear voting records for citizens to assess. But in 2015, Brendan Pablo Montagnes and Jon C. Rogowski studied congressional challengers’ platforms and “uncover[ed] no evidence that challengers increase their vote shares by adopting more moderate platform positions.”
Chris Tausanovitch and Christopher Warshaw in 2016 found, again, that “ideological positions of congressional candidates have only a small association with citizens’ voting behavior,” largely because detailed assessments of individual candidates are swamped by basic partisanship.
This suggests primary voters should probably be inclined to vote for candidates who they think will be smart, hard-working advocates for causes they believe in rather than focusing too much on “electability” concerns.

It’s natural, in particular, for a national party committee whose work heavily features fundraising to be strongly biased toward candidates who are good at fundraising. But there’s very little evidence that this is genuinely the key to political success (Donald Trump, for example, was a terrible fundraiser in 2016), and overemphasis on donor-friendly candidates ends up putting a thumb on the ideological scale in an unseemly way.

The best approach is probably to relax a bit more, be more comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty, and back whoever the local process coughs up.
Solution? Pelosi should no longer have any connection to the DCCC. Nor should Hoyer. The only DCCC regional vice chair who is doing his job properly-- and neutrally-- is Ted Lieu. He should be elected DCCC chairman (if not party leader).

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At 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Ted Lieu: Jimmy Dore had some less-than-positive things to say about Rep. Lieu recently, implying that he's not such a progressive hotshot anymore. Assuming that Dore's assessment of Lieu is correct, it might mean that the political siren songs are swaying him to the dark money and he's deciding he's liking it. Might it be time to examine just where Rep. Lieu now stands before he gets away from us?

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The DCCC has far more in common with republicans than with progressive candidates.
It is only natural, then, that they ratfuck progressives and take a dive for republicans.

And, 1:43, when Lieu was named west coast co-chair of the DCCC, I figured he was coasting on the illusion of being progressive. I didn't think Pelosi would name a real progressive to any position of responsibility (to the money, natch) unless she had him fully vetted. His turtling in the face of hoyer ratfucking candidates validates my cynicism.

"By their fruits shall ye know them" comes to mind. Watch what they do and ignore what they say.


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