Running as a Dem, sounding like a Republican
It’s one thing for Democrats running in red parts of the country to sound like Republicans on the campaign trail. It’s another when Democrats running in purple or even blue territory try to do so.
Yet that’s what’s happening in race after race this season.
Democrats are trotting out campaign ads that call for balanced budgets, tax cuts and other more traditionally GOP positions. Some of them are running in congressional districts that just two years ago broke sharply for President Barack Obama.
Whether the Democrats running in those districts can survive what party strategists acknowledge is a deteriorating national political environment will largely hinge on how well they can appeal to more conservative voters.
Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff, who’s running in a district that Obama won in 2012 and 2008, has started airing a commercial that strikes a tea party theme.
New Hampshire Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, whose district broke for Obama by a yawning 11-percentage-point margin in 2012, is running an ad that touts her support for small-business tax cuts while showing her touring a local microbrewery. Separately, former Iowa state Sen. Staci Appel, in a district Obama won by 4 percentage points two years ago, underscores her record of fighting overspending in state government, a populist theme often heard from tea party-aligned conservatives.
Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, in a swing southern Arizona district that is slightly more conservative than the others, uses his first TV spot to highlight his support for increasing border security funds. The ad — complete with the image of a border patrol car — doesn’t mention elements of immigration reform that are typically more popular among Democratic voters.
Like the commercials aired by Romanoff, Kuster and Appel, Barber’s doesn’t mention his Democratic Party affiliation.
That’s right, people: Democrats are apparently attempting to win elections even in districts that went for Obama by appealing to conservative and Tea Party voters. This effort is doomed for a number of reasons, not least of which is that given a choice between a Conservadem and an actual Republican—no matter how crackpot or corrupt—conservative voters will pick the Republican every time. These are people who think Obama is a socialist, FFS. And meanwhile, given a choice between a Conservadem and a Republican, alienated liberal voters will stay home.
Now this strategy may seem spectacularly stupid to you (for good reason), but that can be true only if you think the leadership of the Democratic party actually wants to elect progressive Democrats to congress, or indeed win a Democratic majority at all. Since the Politico article excerpted above quotes anonymous “party strategists” as sources, I think it’s worth reviewing the Palace archives for what we know about some of these fine people.
Steve Israel, Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) since January 2011 (hand-picked by Nancy Pelosi); co-chair and founder of the Center Aisle Caucus since 2005.
Along with his BFF Illinois Republican congresscritter Tim Johnson, Steve Israel co-founded the Center Aisle Caucus (or “caca,” as I call it). Caca claims roughly sixty members, although the number is impossible to verify because membership is sooper seekrit. Caca members fancy themselves “defiant centrists” (or “conservatives,” as I call them). This would be terrible enough considering how far to the right the so-called “center” has drifted. But it’s really much worse than that: caca members observe an unwritten bylaw to never engage in political campaigns against other caca members. If sixty members is about right, that takes roughly thirty congressional races right off the table for the Dems, courtesy of… the chair of the DCCC.
Neither the DCCC nor its PAC spent a single dollar on Democrat Jim Graves’ campaign against Michele Bachmann, Tea Queen of Right-Wing Kookville, in a winnable race. Michele Fucking Bachmann. 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. Likewise, neither the DCCC nor its PAC gave a single cent to Rob Zerban, the progressive Democrat running against Paul Ryan—Paul Ryan!—(a.k.a. Satan) in yet another winnable race.
“As Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, it’s my job to support the strongest Democratic challengers running for Congress.”
-DCCC Chairweasel Steve Israel in a fundraising email to Iris Vander Pluym, July 28, 2014.
Hahaha. Sure it is, d00d.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC); Florida congresswoman.
A few years ago Wasserman Schultz was chosen to head the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program, a job that consists entirely of targeting Republican-held districts across the country that are 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. So the party leadership gave her a promotion: that’s how she came to head the DNC.
I wrote about one of her brilliant leadership initiatives here, wherein she urged supporters to vote on one of three awe-inspiring designs for car magnets:
Is the Democratic leadership incompetent? Again, perhaps you can make that case, but only if you think the power center of the Democratic party actually wants to elect progressive Democrats, or even win an electoral majority at all.
Occam’s Razor suggests an entirely different view. Three actually, although they are interrelated. First, up until Michele Bachmann announced her retirement, I’d bet that she was the single largest cash generator for the Democratic Party in history. Nearly every Dem campaign email had her name in it; she was the gift that kept on giving to the coffers of the DCCC every time she opened her mouth (“Did you hear X outrageous thing Bachmann said now?! OMG send money!”). In the runup to the 2012 presidential election, the role of Bachmann the Bogeyman was played by
Satan Paul Ryan, who is once again the star of the Democratic shit show. Here’s a recent popup ad on The Nation site:
A second benefit for the DCCC in keeping these shitweasels in power is that they are so far off the right-wing rails they make these craven, corporatist, conservatives that Steve Israel and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are determined to shoehorn into the House Democratic caucus look like flaming Marxists by comparison. It’s a losing strategy, especially in midterm elections, and everyone knows it.
Which brings me to my third observation, and underlies the first two: I think the parties agree on more than they say they do. A lot more. As I said before:
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.
Despite having caused the financial crisis, the same financial firms “are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they, frankly, own the place.”
–Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), 2009 radio interview.