Saturday, March 26, 2016

Can A Middle Class Grassroots Candidate Still Win A Race Against Multimillionaires?


A lot of Democratic coalition Beltway organizations are reluctant to endorse in primaries, a terrible tactical error. But in the case of Maryland's 8th district, the choices are starkly clear... and so is the danger and organizations that would rather not, are stepping up to the plate. If the proven progressive grassroots candidate, Jamie Raskin, doesn't win, the seat is going to be bought by one of the establishment multimillionaires with their self-centered agendas-- careerist in the case of Chris Matthews' lobbyist wife and ego-driven in the case of the Trump-like Trone. This week, People for the American Way endorsed Jamie Raskin, one of their only primary endorsements of 2016. Sierra Club, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the National Education Association did as well, as did DFA, PCCC, and PDA. (Blue America, of course, has no problem with endorsing in primaries-- quite the opposite-- and we endorsed Jamie as soon as he announced he was running. You can contribute to his campaign here.)

Matthews' wife and the rich beer and wine seller, David Trone, have nothing to offer anyone, so instead they've both devised strategies to buy the seat. Polls show it isn't working but at the rate the two of them are spending-- $5.2 million on an unprecedented blizzard of TV and radio ads so far-- they will spend over $15 million, making it the most expensive Democratic primary in the country. Even after all that spending from the two plutocrats, Jamie is still polling at the top of the 9 person primary! And his first TV ad (up top) ran this week for the first time. As he said, "If we win as the grassroots campaign promoting actual progressive results and leadership, this race will be historic and nationally significant. For 11 months we have run the most aggressive grassroots campaign for Congress in America, knocking on tens of thousands of doors, organizing 124 parties, discussions and events in people’s homes, and collecting a remarkable 9,313 contributions, overwhelmingly in amounts of $100 or less."

As we've been pointing out, the Democratic power establishment in DC has all but given up on Roosevelt Democrats like Raskin. The DCCC and DSCC aren't interested in working class and middle class candidates. They want wealthy, conservative self-funders like Kathleen Matthews and David Trone, not independent-minded, values-driven public servants like Jamie Raskin. Last weekend, Bill Turque did a story for the Washington Post on Trone and his bid to buy the seat. Trump has reinvigorated the spirit of rich ego-driven conservatives seeking offices to buy. The week before, we saw how a politically engaged rich person, Vincente Gonzalez, wrote himself a million dollar check to try to do exactly that in South Texas. Trone looks to be spending 10 times what Gonzalez has spent!
He has hired top-of-the-line consultants, launched a major television and radio ad blitz, and is landing glossy multi-page mailings on the doorsteps of likely primary voters almost daily.

...Little known in the district less than two months ago, Trone now appears competitive with the two front-runners: Jamie Raskin, a liberal law professor and state senator, and Kathleen Matthews, a former television anchor and Marriott executive who says she is willing to dip into her own fortune, if necessary, to keep up.

...The willingness of candidates such as Trone to pay their own way raises questions about whether they are undermining a foundational idea in U.S. politics-- that those who want to represent the people must first earn enough of their trust to win their donations. And it is an uphill path; between 2002 and 2014, House candidates who spent at least $1 million of their own money won office only 20 percent of the time.

Trone says taking money from others makes politicians vulnerable to pressure from lobbyists, PACs and other special interests. A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, he says it’s also a matter of time management, noting that members of Congress spend up to half of their time raising funds.

...That approach could resonate with voters in this unusually angry campaign season, in which Republican mogul Donald Trump has elevated the can’t-be-bought narrative into a dominant theme of his self-funded run for president.

...Raskin and Matthews have raised well over $1 million each and continue to seek donations large and small. But they are denouncing Trone’s Trump-like approach. Raskin ends virtually every candidates forum-- and there are many in a primary electorate replete with PhDs, think tankers, congressional staffers and other members of the political class-- by declaring that public office “isn’t bought, it is earned.”

In an interview, Raskin said people are “deeply disturbed about the levels of money being spent.”

Matthews, who is also very wealthy, said she might put her own money into the race if she thinks it will make a difference. “My plan is to raise the money,” Matthews said. “But I certainly believe enough in my own campaign that if it comes down to the wire I think it would be reasonable to put my own money in.”

Right now, a substantial piece of her campaign is being financed by MSNBC through her husband's TV show, Hardball where tens of thousands of dollars from guests of the show make their way into her campaign coffers. MSNBC denies they are breaking any laws.

As flawed and tattered as our democracy is in its present state, it's worth saving and fighting for the kinds of reforms Jamie has fought for in the Maryland legislature. Plutocracy-- where people like Donald Trump and David Trone and Kathleen Matthews think they are entitled to public office because they're rich-- is the last thing America needs. And a DCCC that encourages that system is the last thing the Democratic Party needs. In fact, it has since Rahm Emanuel codified it and embedded it into the DCCC's DNA in 2006, accounted for the Republican Party's ability to decimate the Democratic majority in the House and capture unprecedented majorities that will stretch on into the future until the current House Democratic leadership itself is removed or dies off. Meanwhile... one district at a time. One progressive reformer at a time in the House. Resist the Republicans and resist the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

Goal Thermometer

UPDATE: And Speaking Of Plutocracy...

Maryland, of course, isn't the only place where the very rich are trying to buy themselves congressional seats. One of the worst examples this cycle is the DCCC recruit for the Florida Treasure Coast district being given up by "ex"-Republican Patrick Murphy. Randy Perkins, who never lived a day in the district and whose only "qualification" is that he's rich and swims in the same waters of corruption that the congressional leaders swim in, is the DCCC pick against progressive candidate Jonathan Chane. Perkins, who has spent as much as $2 million on Republican politicians, re-registered as a Democrat a few days before he announced he was running. Notice the $1,000,000 check to himself to get the ball rolling. More about Perkins soon; promise.

One of the worst cases of plutocracy soiling the Democratic Party from within, is how unaccomplished son-of-a-billionaire Chris Abele, is using daddy's money to smear progressive state Sen. Chris Larson. Though outspent 20-1 in the primary, Larson still beat Abele and in the runoff (a week from Tuesday) Abele has deployed over $5 million in an ugly campaign of liars and typical conservative personal destruction tactics against Larson, one of the most promising your political leaders in Wisconsin and across America. This is today's Democratic Party establishment-- corrupt to its very core and celebratory of its corruption, the party of Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Clintons, George and Donald Norcross, Randy Perkins, Steve Israel, Patrick Murphy, Robert Menendez, Chuck Schumer...

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