Tuesday, July 24, 2018

What Excuse Will They Use This Time To Keep Barbara Lee Out Of The House Democratic Leadership?


Yesterday, Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced she's running for House Democratic caucus chair, the job Joe Crowley thought was the job that would catapult him into the Speakership. A few weeks ago when the buzz started revving up, a congressional friend of mine asked me if I thought she would be good for the job. "Of course," I texted back, "but there may be a problem. Give me a call. "OK, I will." He didn't. So I'll share my insights with you instead.

Something like this happened in 2012. And it didn't end well, when she suddenly dropped out, ceding the post to Crowley for the sake of "party unity," something that could be understood if there wa a battle against a Republican rather than against a notoriously corrupt, power-hungry Democrat.

So... 6 years later she said she believes she "can help unify Democrats so we speak with one voice on health care, affordable housing, fair wages and climate change." OK, sounds good... I'm on board. But will she stay on board? Her opponent is another California congresswoman, Linda Sánchez, the current vice-chair of the caucus, which is the job Lee and Crowley were originally jousting over when Xavier Becerra moved up to chair. Linda Sánchez isn't bad. She's a run of the mill Democrat representing a deep blue district (D+17). She's not a leader and unlike Barbara Lee, doesn't stand out. She votes well. This cycle her crucial vote score is 93.70 (an "A") and Lee's-- also an "A"-- is 98.43.

If Barbara wins she'd be the first African-American woman to hold a leadership spot in either major political party. She'd also be the most progressive person in congressional leadership-- by far.

One of the problems with these leadership elections is that the rank and file members expect to get their palms greased. Back in 2012, Barbara was running on issues while Crowley was running on his sleazy leadership PAC (JOE-Pac) which had taken in over a million dollars that year to grease the skids into House leadership. Where did that come from, you wonder? Most of it came from sleazy lawyers and lobbyists he was doing business with and in $10,000 pops from some of the most corrupt corporate entities in America-- Verizon, Altria, AT&T, Bank of America, Comcast, Credit Suisse, FedEx, Home Depot, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Mastercard, Metlife, National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, NY Life Insurance, Pfizer, etc-- and he passed it out to the members whose votes he is trying to corral. On top of his JOE-Pac loot, Crowley also spread around New Dem PAC cash, $1,878,935 of it, much of it from the same sleazy sources, laundered into the caucus as campaign contributions (kick-backs) to the worst least ethical of House Democrats-- from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jim Cooper, Adam Schiff, Ron Kind, Jim Himes and Terri Sewell to a whole grab-bag of corporate Dems who have lost their seats.

In contrast, Barbara Lee's leadership PAC, One Voice, didn't get any money at all from corporations or K Street lobbyists. It spent $50,678 but none of it in trying to foster her career or line up votes for the showdown with Crowley. The biggest recipient of her money was Tammy Baldwin who won the U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin and wasn't even eligible to vote for House leadership. At the time, I wrote that "There's been a lot of chatter about how, for the first time, the House Democratic caucus has a majority of women and people of color" and that it would "be interesting how that figures into this race between a corrupt old white male and an African-America woman of impeccable progressive and reformist credentials. Crowley is a political animal with a careerist agenda. Barbara Lee has an agenda as well-- peace on earth and prosperity for American working families." But, in the end, she read the writing on the wall and called it quits.

Other possible candidates for the job besides Lee and Sánchez include spectacularly failed DCCC chair Ben Ray Luján-- who will claim he created the anti-red wave this cycle-- Republican-lite Blue Dog Cheri Bustos-- the worst of all potential candidates-- and careerist Hakeem Jeffries, a Dem from a super blue district but with a so-so voting record (PVI is D+36 and ProgressivePunch score is just 91.13).

Politico reported yesterday that early supporters of Lee's bid include Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Jan Schakowsky.
Behind the scenes, Schakowsky said, Lee has long been “a real doer,’’ with an “uplifting” and positive style that has benefited her party, such as when she served as a mediator between two bitterly opposed Democratic groups in the 2016 platform fight. “That is a role that Barbara Lee plays with finesse and elegance, making it all happen," Schakowsky said.

...The Oakland congresswoman says that as the daughter of a World War II and Korean War veteran who was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, she has the tools needed to address those more conservative and crucial voters who may have cast ballots for Barack Obama, and have abandoned the party for Donald Trump.

“Poverty affects everyone: rural, urban, people of color and white working class," she said. “We have a lot more in common than not ... and the Republicans and Donald Trump have tried to divide us.”

“But when you listen to, and talk to white working-class men who have lost jobs, I feel their pain," she said. “Because in African-American communities, we get that... I know many Trump districts and rural districts and I know how people are struggling and suffering," she said. “It’s about communicating that, and that’s what I want to do-- bring people together.” Lee, at 72, also says she recognizes critics in the party who have criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s continued leadership and who suggest a new generation of younger Democrats are needed to rise to such prominent posts.

But, she said, “millennials and young people know my record-- it’s really about our ideas, how we engage with people and how we listen to what the new generation is saying to us," she said.

The key is to “make sure we open up the paths of opportunity to everyone," she said. “I’m right there in terms of generational input and understanding that the path is important-- but we have to build on that and mentor young people, and younger members and open up space so members can move up.”

Already, Lee has won kudos from some of the younger voices on the Democratic progressive front. Ocasio-Cortez, who has quickly emerged as a prominent progressive voice, is among them: she recently expressed admiration for Lee, saying she was not inclined to back Nancy Pelosi as speaker should Democrats take back the House in November, but asked: “Is Barbara Lee available?”

Rep. Ro Khanna, the freshman Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, said recently that if Lee ran, he would work hard to win her the backing of the entire 78-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which he is a member.

“I think she’d be terrific. We’ve never had an African-American woman in the leadership in this party. And look at who won us the Doug Jones seat [in Alabama], look at who the most mobilized constituency has been-- it’s been women, of course, and African-American women,” he said. “And it’s about time that an African-American woman is in leadership, and I can’t think of a better person than Barbara Lee. I mean, she has really become an icon in Congress. Even Republicans admire her sheer guts for opposing the war vote.”
And it isn't only Alexandria Ocasio impressed and enthusiastic about Barbara among the congressional candidates. I asked a few who I know have met her. This morning Randy Bryce (D-WI) told me that "a few weeks ago Congresswoman Lee honored us with a visit at a fundraiser that we were having in Milwaukee. She had a plane to catch and couldn’t stay long but made it a point to show up and offer her support in person. She is a strong voice for progressive ideals. Seeing her go out of her way to offer support really meant a lot. It also shows what kind of leader she would be-- genuine. She is the kind of leader that I know without a doubt would be there for us. She’s already proven that to me."

Mike Siegel is running for Congress to represent a severely gerrymandered Texas district that runs from the exurbs west of Houston to the suburbs east of Austin. He moved to Texas from California, the opposite of Barbara Lee's move from Texas to California. "Barbara Lee is the longtime representative for my hometown of Oakland, California," he told me this morning. "She has always been a champion of the people, fighting for social programs, opposing ill-conceived military adventures and unlawful discrimination, and defending fundamental rights to vote, to marry, and to access quality public education. I’ve got the utmost confidence in her moral character and willingness to fight for what is right. I’d be honored to serve under her leadership."

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At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Rep. Ro Khanna, the freshman Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, said recently that if Lee ran, he would work hard to win her the backing of the entire 78-member Congressional Progressive Caucus..."

That Ro is terribly fickle. He'd already endorsed Crowley the corrupt... but now that joepac's out I suppose Ro needs to look good to DWT et al... eh? He endorsed joepac for speaker AND joepac's opponent in the election. is fickle the right word?
Maybe Ro will endorse Pelosi while working hard to get the CPC to vote for Lee?

Maybe DWT should really try to find a hero that does not talk out of his mouth and his ass at the same time.

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Big Money & the corporate dem lobbyists

At 4:28 PM, Blogger edmondo said...

She's only 72. That's makes her way too young for a leadership slot in the Democratic House caucus

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara Lee has one of the best voting records of any member of Congress over the past 20 years, and has shown tremendous foresight and courage. In a system where those qualities were given extra weight (rather than fundraising prowess), she would have been elevated to a leadership position a long time ago. She's one of those leaders too who has been so far ahead on key issues that it has taken years for people to catch up to her. Maybe this is finally her time. Her being elevated to a leadership post won't undo the damage of the past 18 years, but this is the kind of move that might mitigate some of the harm and offer some much needed hope.

At 1:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "democrats" are already very overt in their war against progressives. Considering that the Party is focused not on real progressives but on picking up a few dissatisfied Republicans from the suburbs, they aren't going to want a progressive in there altering their plans to lose again this fall. I'd suggest that they will start on the military support deficit. Lee voted against attacking Afghanistan. Therefore (as the process goes), she won't support the pending corporatist Global War For Global Dominance for Control of the World to Benefit Private Corporate Profit. Ergo, the Party will work to defeat her candidacy to please their warmongering donors.

At 6:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the one thing this piece gets right is the trend of leadershit positions being bought.

Pelosi and hoyer have tons of money to trowel around. Lee does not. Guess what that means?


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