…who needs Republicans?
[This piece is cross-posted at The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy.]
Before she announced her retirement from Congress on May 29, the Tea Queen of Kookville Michele Bachmann had been cited by name in a relentless barrage of fundraising emails from the DCCC and its House Majority PAC. There were twelve such missives in May alone. The messaging was similar in each one: Tea Party! Extremist! Crazy! MUST BE STOPPED!
After her retirement announcement we received six more, but the messaging had changed: Tea Party Is On the Run! Extremist! Crazy! WE MUST KEEP UP THE PRESSURE!
Or had it? Because the message I got loud and clear is that Michele Bachmann just may be the single largest cash generator for the Democratic Party in history.
There is another benefit for the Dems to name-drop Bachmann at every turn: she is so far gone off the right wing rails that she makes the craven, corporatist, conservative Democrats running the party look downright Marxist by comparison. One cannot help but envision the Democratic leadership staring morosely into their cocktails, and wondering how anyone could ever really fill Bachmann’s shoes. In fact, the Democratic leadership (Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and their fellow conservative hacks) wanted Michele Bachmann in Congress more than they wanted to win her House seat for a Democrat. Why else would the DCCC refuse to fund Jim Graves, the Democrat running for Bachmann’s seat last year? Yes, you read that right: neither the DCCC nor its PAC spent a single dollar to beat Michele Bachmann in a winnable race. Instead, they poured an average of $1,710,159 into each campaign of a slate of conservative Democrats (“Blue Dogs” and “New Dems”) running against Republican backbenchers and nobodies. The inimitable Howie Klein of Down With Tyranny noted:
In the 10th closest [House] race, in Minnesota’s 6th CD, first-time candidate Jim Graves came within 4,197 votes of longtime incumbent and right-wing icon, Michele Bachmann… and it is the only [close] race the DCCC refused to spend any money on. Graves is a very indepedent-minded Democrat and, unlike almost all the other candidates the DCCC spent big on, he refused to join the reactionary and corrupt New Dems that Steve Israel and Steny Hoyer are determined to flood the House Democratic caucus with– even to the point of losing races.
Not counting outside money, Bachmann spent $11,946,232 on her reelection campaign, an incredible $66.65 for every vote. Graves spent $2,279,384 or $13.03 per vote. Just as an exercise, had the DCCC spent on Graves the average of what they spent on these close races, it seems inconceivable that he wouldn’t have won by a very substantial margin. Just sayin’.
Well Howie, that is just sayin’ a lot of things about the Democratic leadership — and none of them are good.
The same cynical tactic has been exploited over and over again. In the runup to the presidential election last year, the role of Bachmann the Bogeyman was played by right-wing sociopath Paul Ryan. Yet strangely enough, neither the DCCC nor its PAC gave a single cent to Rob Zerban, the progressive Democrat running against Paul Ryan in another winnable race. Like Bachmann, they prefer to have Ryan in Congress more than they want to win House seats for Democrats. In the case of Paul Ryan, however, they want him in Congress for reasons that go well beyond scaring the Democrats on their email lists into forking over a few bucks, and even beyond making their awful budget priorities appear liberal by comparison to Ryan’s. In a rare slipup in which we rubes got a little peek behind the curtain, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Wall $treet) received a rather telling tweet from his spokeperson, Brian Fallon:
At the time, digby noted: “I’m sure Schumer really does want Ryan back in congress. They have so many ‘interests’ in common.” Indeed they do. Schumer’s Wall $treet benefactors are as eager to get their hands on the Social Security trust fund purely for profit reasons as Paul Ryan is eager to give it to them for ideological ones. (Incidentally, Brian Fallon has just left Camp Schumer to lead media operations at the Justice Department. Perhaps we can look forward to seeing his future tweet to Eric Holder about how fantastic it was to see Dick Cheney at lunch today, instead of at his pre-sentencing hearing.)
The DCCC’s perfidy is nothing new, of course. A few years ago, Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was handpicked to head the DCCC’s Red to Blue program, a job that consisted entirely of targeting Republican-held districts across the country that were potentially within reach for Democrats. What did she do? She protected three right-wing Florida Republicans, and publicly sabotaged the campaigns of the three Democrats running against them. The donor backlash was so fierce that after a lot of hemming and hawing, the DCCC finally had to cut her loose from the Red to Blue program.
Then the party leadership gave her a promotion. She now heads the DNC.
Meanwhile, back in 2005 our good friend Steve Israel, presently Chair of the DCCC, along with his BFF, Illinois Republican Tim Johnson, co-founded the Center Aisle Caucus (or as I prefer to call it, “caca”). They claim roughly sixty members — although this is impossible to verify since the membership is kept strictly confidential — and fancy themselves “defiant centrists” (or as I prefer to call them, “conservatives”). Which sounds terrible enough, considering just how far to the right the so-called “center” has drifted. But it’s actually much worse than that: caca members observe an unwritten bylaw to never engage in political campaigns against other caca members. If the numbers are accurate, that takes roughly thirty congressional races right off the table for the Dems, courtesy of the chair of the DCCC, Steve Israel.
Speaking of taking congressional races off the table, the DCCC employs the same disingenuous scare tactics with issues as they do with far-right Republicans. Back in 2011, the relentless barrage of fundraising emails from the DCCC featured much breathless outrage about H.R. 3, an appalling piece of anti-choice legislation that Republicans had just passed in the House. Nancy Pelosi, Jackie Speier and others wasted no time writing urgent pleas like this one on behalf of the DCCC:
We must take immediate, decisive action against this attack on women’s health and reproductive freedom.
Help us hold House Republicans accountable: Contribute $3 or more right now so we can get hard-hitting Rapid Response ads up holding Republican extremists in Congress accountable for their radical assault on women’s health care and reproductive freedom.
I wrote back to every one of them, along these lines:
Thank you for your informative missive. I think it is fantastic that the DCCC wants to “hold Republicans accountable,” at least in principle, although I have no idea what that actually means in practice. I agree that H.R. 3 is “radical” and “extremist,” but I disagree with your statement that it is “unconscionable that one party would hold women’s health hostage and use the tax code as a moral club to force their religious beliefs on every American.” Perhaps you are unaware of this [LOL!], but these sixteen people in your own party also voted for H.R. 3:
Jason Altmire (PA-4); Dan Boren (OK-2); Jerry F. Costello (IL-12); Mark Critz (PA-12); Henry Cuellar (TX-28); Joe Donnelly (IN-2); Tim Holden (PA-17); Marcy Kaptur (OH-9); Dale E. Kildee (MI-5); Daniel Lipinski (IL-3); Jim Matheson (UT-2); Mike McIntyre (NC-7); Collin C. Peterson (MN-7); Nick J. Rahall II (WV-3); Mike Ross (AR-4); and Heath Shuler (NC-11).
Please let me know at your earliest convenience exactly how the DCCC will hold these sixteen Democrats “accountable.” They are of course also radical and extremist — and yet the DCCC would spend the funds I donate helping to reelect them.
I never received any reply. But that was two years ago, and I have since moved on to a broader and more pertinent question for Democrats:
If you vote and legislate like a Republican, why should anyone care if you lose your seat to one?
I think I can answer that one for myself.