Thursday, April 04, 2019

Cheri Bustos And Hakeem Jeffries Bring Civil War To The House Democratic Caucus


As always, Hakeem sides with the establishment

After AOC shook the political establishment to its foundations by defeating "the next Speaker of the House," unsavory Queens Machine boss Joe Crowley-- already a sleaze bag K Street lobbyist-- the top House Democratic leadership-- all close to being octogenarians working to preserve the status quo-- or, at best, the status quo ante-- had to find another "next Speaker." As Politico noted yesterday, they seem to be settling for Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Another contender, they warn us is tone-def conservative Blue Dog, Cheri Bustos, a Rahm Emanuel protégé from northwestern Illinois.

Jeffries, first and foremost, a careerist, represents an all blue Brooklyn/Queens district that goes from Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach into Bed-Stuy, Canarsie, Flatlands, and then a narrow strip along the Belt Parkway into Manhattan Beach all the way to the tip of Coney Island. There are some right-wing Russian Jews in the district and Trump won 13.5% in 2016, but that's no threat to Jeffries. Only 22.1% of the district's voters are white and the PVI is an unassailable D+36. Jeffries was elected in 2012 with 90% of the vote, reelected in 2014 with 92% and for 93.2% in 2016. Last year he won with 94.2%.

What about his voting record? It's good. (Bustos' is really bad-- Progressive Punch rates her an "F" and her lifetime crucial vote score-- 52.04%-- is even worse than Dan Lipinski's putrid 57.93%.) By the book, Jeffries is the 49th most progressive voter in the House (92.48%) with a nice solid "A-- about the same numbers as Maxine Waters and Jared Huffman... and slightly better than another progressive up-and-coming leader, David Cicilline and a couple points better than Joe Kennedy III. So why is it that so many CPC members have told me he's a "faker" and a "fraud?"

Everyone I spoke with agrees the progressives "dodged a bullet" when AOC took out Crowley. "Jeffries would be much better than Crowley," was something I heard over and over again. But... he's a "calculating, self-promoter" and "always thinking about what's it going to do for him-- not that unusual in Congress," but not always attractive in a leader. Inside the caucus, all the calculations about him revolve around identity politics and there's an inevitability now about his rise. Members are beginning to ask him for favors, fostering client/patron relationships.

One member told me he's kind of a "fun guy, genuinely liked, fun to be around... good sense of humor, liked by everyone in the Congressional Black Caucus." He's widely seen as the natural successor to the now doddering Jim Clyburn-- someone who Pelosi reckons can deliver New York and African-American votes in Congress, especially important with a sense that's developed in the caucus that Californians have too much power.

All well and good, but why is there a feeling of inauthenticity and why do so many members of the CPC sense he's just a careerist in it for himself with no devotion to any ideology. One explained it by saying his socialization was as a "$600/hour Paul, Weiss corporate lawyer serving the master called 'money.' The fact that he took on Barbara Lee [in a leadership battle] indicates that he's more about personal power than ideology." A very observant congresswoman told me "he recognizes who his constituents are and what the ideology of New York City is... He used to want to be mayor but doesn't see that as his destiny any longer. He doesn't want a fight with his constituents, so he votes his constituency but not out of conviction-- he represents them by voting his district."

Another just dismissed him as someone on the take from Wall Street. The point is, though, that he's not vulnerable to a Republican challenger and not vulnerable to a primary challenge the way Crowley, who had totally lost touch with his district, was. Which means that-- unless House members themselves just say no (unlikely)-- he's on a pathway that could lead to the speakership. And if it really does come down to Jeffries vs Bustos... people will be rushing to vote for Jeffries.

Ironically, this week, he was busy doing something that a)- defended Bustos and b)- reinforced many of the reasons progressives don't trust him. As caucus chair, he puked out Pelosi's insipid and misleading party line everyone's supposed to repeat in front of the media:
"[T]he reality is the DCCC has a singular mission, which is to protect and preserve the majority."
Goal ThermometerOK, I'll accept that. But what does that have to do with primaries in deep blue districts? Let's rev up the old time machine and go back a couple decades where an ambitious 30year old Hakeem Jeffries challenged an entrenched Democratic incumbent, Roger Green, claiming he had become inattentive to the needs of the constituency and preoccupied with the pursuit of higher office and then slamming him on TV for being "a practicing Muslim and I grew up in the Cornerstone Baptist Church." Jeffries lost by 18 points. Two years later Jeffries tried again-- running an even more vicious primary against Green-- and losing 52-38%. Finally, in 2006 Green retired and Jeffries won his state Assembly seat. Now, remember that Brooklyn-Queens congressional district we mentioned above... the one with the D+36 PVI? Jeffries ambitions quickly outgrew the Assembly and in January of 2012 he announced that he would be primarying the Democrat who represented that safe blue seat, 30-year incumbent Edolphus Towns, a sleazy establishment character. Jeffries immediately and decisively outraised Towns (a huge chunk of it from Wall Street banksters and their lawyers) and Towns announced his retirement 2 weeks after the first quarter fundraising reports were made public. That's how Hakeem Jeffries came to be Pelosi's heir-apparent and why it was so awkward yesterday to see him defending Bustos' anti-primary bullshit.

Yesterday, The Hill reported that "Marie Newman, a Democratic activist who came within 2,100 votes of knocking off Rep. Daniel Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL) in 2018, said the DCCC’s stand was influencing her as she considers whether to take another run at the Chicago Democrat. 'We are weighing that right now. It’s a consideration. If the [DCCC] is going to move in this direction, I’m not going to lie, it’s concerning to me. So that’s one of the final decision points,' Newman told The Hill. 'When you’re going to those lengths to ensure that incumbents, no matter who they are, stay in office, that feels like overreach. The policy feels like overreach to me, because it doesn’t feel like it’s entirely democratic, small d.'" You can contribute to progressives running primaries against corrupt conservative Democratic incumbents being protected by the DCCC by clicking on the ActBlue thermometer above.

Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade, from for the Washington Post reported that Bustos-- with Pelosi's encouragement-- has dug in her heels. She snarled at Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna, "We’re not changing it."
The defiance comes amid a direct challenge from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who told her 3.8 million Twitter followers Saturday-- a day before a key end-of-quarter fundraising deadline-- to “pause your donations” to the DCCC in protest and instead donate directly to select Democratic incumbents.

  Three days later, the results of the informal boycott remain unclear. A DCCC official not authorized to publicly discuss the committee’s fundraising said the group had not seen “measurable downticks” in giving because of the tweets. Meanwhile, two lawmakers promoted by Ocasio-Cortez said they each saw a more than $30,000 boost from the online call-out-- a significant but not game-changing total.

As always, AOC sides with the oppressed

But the tensions among Democrats are certain to persist. “Well, some are upset, some are not,” said Pelosi, who was briefed on the policy and approved it before the rollout last month.

According to interviews with nearly a dozen Democrats, the policy will probably stand as praise from House incumbents who want more protection has drowned out the criticism from a handful of liberal lawmakers and left-wing groups.

“Attempting to engage in intraparty campaigns is counterproductive-- period,” said Rep. Jim Costa, a California moderate who called Ocasio-Cortez’s boycott inappropriate. [I checked their reporting very carefully and regret too say there is absolutely no moderate in the state of California named Jim Costa. There is however a filthy very far right Blue Dog from California, who hires underage prostitutes and votes with the GOP and his name is also Jim Costa. They probably meant him.]

“I just raised about 330-something thousand dollars for the DCCC, so why are we going to reward companies that are going to be going after folks that have paid their dues?” asked Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a moderate who represents a largely Latino border district. “I totally support Cheri Bustos.”
Again, I carefully checked and found that there is no moderate congressman from Texas named Henry Cuellar. Bade and DeBonis need to do their homework better. I think they must have meant a far right Blue Dog also named Henry Cuellar, formerly known as "George Bush's favorite Democrat, who represents a district very much like the one they described-- TX-28, which has a 78.5% Latino population, gave Hillary a 20 point win over Trump, and has a PVI of D+9. He has a solid "F" ProgressiveVote score, has a default position on crucial issues that takes him across the aisle on roll call votes more than almost any Democrat in Congress and that his 56.9% Trump adhesion score makes him the most Trump-friendly Democrat in Congress. Aside from 3 Blue Dog freshmen who seem to be on a suicide mission bent on turning Democrats against them-- Van Drew, McAdams and Cunningham-- Cuellar has the worst voting record in Congress. Anyway, he supports Bustos because he's primary target #1 for every progressive group in the country and he's the one her wrong-headed policy was designed to protect.

"Henry votes with us less than Brian Fitzpatrick and Justin Amash" [two Republicans] another House Democrat told me in confidence. "I understand why you guys want to replace him with a real Democrat... It's a shame Cheri is tearing up the party to try to protect someone like him."
The backlash from the party’s left was immediate. Justice Democrats, a group with close ties to Ocasio-Cortez that has targeted incumbents, told its social media followers that the DCCC “prefers protecting conservative Democrats . . . over ushering in a new generation of bold progressive leaders.”

The need to protect the House majority, the critics argued, was not being threatened by challenging incumbents in deep-blue districts where Republicans had virtually no chance of victory.

But the new policy was written largely respond to those very lawmakers, who have complained for years about how they are expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in party dues but, because they are rarely in a competitive general election contest, are unlikely to see any DCCC investment in their races. It’s a particularly sore subject for many minority lawmakers, who argue it is more difficult to raise those dues in their relatively poor districts. Rep. Don Beyer (New Dem-VA), a DCCC finance co-chairman, said the hard feelings were understandable. “It’s really hard to go say . . . ‘Please pay your $150,000 dues or your $300,000 dues, and we may use it to hire vendors who are going to run against you in a primary,’” he said. “That’s an impossible ask to make.”

That tension has been exacerbated by a push on the left to unseat a handful of veteran Democrats in safe districts. Two incumbent Democrats lost last year to more-liberal challengers-- Crowley and Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-MA)-- and several others faced unusually potent challenges, including Reps. Yvette D. Clarke (NY.), William Lacy Clay (MO) and Daniel Lipinski (IL). Outside groups that backed those challengers, such as the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, and pledging to do the same in 2020.

This is about us working as a team,” he said, while also issuing a threat: “To me, there are people on part of Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, who are trying to devastate this party. . . And they want to come back again this year? That’s fine. I’m gonna kick their [posterior] again, okay?”

The tensions over the new policy broke into the open last week after Bustos met privately with three members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus-- co-chairs Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), as well as Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a liberal firebrand who beat veteran Democrat Mike Honda in 2016.

According to multiple Democrats, the DCCC’s traditional role of standing on the sidelines during primaries has been a sore subject since at least 2014-- when Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) faced a challenger advised by a top Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake, who was simultaneously doing work for the DCCC.

Clay, who beat challenger Cori Bush last year by 20 percentage points, praised Bustos for the new policy in an interview, calling it a matter of “fairness.”

In the meeting, the liberals argued that Bustos’s new policy risked alienating the party’s energetic left and excluding potential Democratic stars, pointing to former congressman Beto O’Rourke (TX) as well as Reps. Eric Swalwell (CA), Ayanna Pressley (MA) and Seth Moulton (MA)-- all of whom beat veteran incumbents.

Bustos listened and clarified misconceptions about the policy, but didn’t budge, according to two people familiar with the conversation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss the talks. Khanna left furious and immediately began publicizing his opposition to reporters, as liberal outside groups including Democracy for America and Our Revolution waded into the fight, sending letters to their supporters calling them to protest the policy.

Jayapal and Pocan, meanwhile, are hewing to a less confrontational approach. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has yet to take an official position on the DCCC policy, and many of its roughly 90 members are wary of promoting any boycott.

"We don't want to blow up the caucus around this," Jayapal said Monday. We want to come to a resolution.

...Privately, the liberal lawmakers opposing the policy are discussing some sort of compromise they could offer Bustos. Some liberals have also contacted Democratic presidential candidates to try to get them involved in the internal dispute, hoping outside pressure could move the conversation in their direction. O’Rourke would be nowhere, they argue, if the DCCC had hindered his challenge of incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes in a 2012 primary.
I wouldn't wait around for Beto to take a stand on this-- unless someone from Team Beto runs focus group tests and they turn up to be wildly popular among likely voters.

Labels: , , , , ,


At 5:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

civil war? how about simply a power struggle between a couple of the corrupt opportunists from the establishment for position in the line of ascension?

You can bet the whole enchilada that whomever is declared the heir apparent will be fully vetted by the donors and will have bent the knee in front of wall street and AIPAC.

details don't really matter. next!

At 6:31 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Then what is this Congresswoman Bustos

And also this

So screw your DCCC "blacklist" policy & get the tap music out because you & your establishment donor pals are done.

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there is a bigger reason to primary Bustos with a non-corporate grassroots progressive opponent then our universe needs to be expanded.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we need to 'primary' the entire democrap party. short of that, nothing changes. ever. period.

the ball is in our court. will we do yet another face plant? yep!


Post a Comment

<< Home