The dead-enders who are stifling the Democratic party

Ryan Grim and Lee Fang write that while the actions and words of Donald Trump and his Republican enablers have angered and energized progressives across the country to run for office, they are being blocked by Democratic party dead-enders in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and their allies like Emily’s List who are backing the same losing candidates and polices of the past, based on their ability to raise money rather than gain votes. The DSCC keeps pursuing the tired strategy of trying to win over Republican voters, which means backing more conservative candidates and policies, rather than attract those voters who have opted out of politics because they feel that the Democrats are just Republican-lite.

The article is a detailed analysis of various key races across the country and the candidates who are vying for those seats and what happened in past races.

In his farewell address, President Barack Obama had some practical advice for those frustrated by his successor. “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,” Obama implored.

Yet across the country, the DCCC, its allied groups, or leaders within the Democratic Party are working hard against some of these new candidates for Congress, publicly backing their more established opponents, according to interviews with more than 50 candidates, party operatives, and members of Congress. Winning the support of Washington heavyweights, including the DCCC — implicit or explicit — is critical for endorsements back home and a boost to fundraising. In general, it can give a candidate a tremendous advantage over opponents in a Democratic primary.

In district after district, the national party is throwing its weight behind candidates who are out of step with the national mood.

It’s happening despite a very real shift going on inside the party’s establishment, as it increasingly recognizes the value of small-dollar donors and grassroots networks.

But change is hard, and it isn’t happening fast enough for candidates like King. So a constellation of outside progressive groups — some new to this cycle, some legacies of the last decade’s growth in online organizing — are stepping in, seeing explosive fundraising gains while the Democratic National Committee falls further and further behind. The time between now and July, by which most states will have held primaries, will be among the most important six months for the future of the Democratic Party, as the contests will decide what kind of party heads into the midterms in November 2018. The outcome will also shape the Democratic strategy for 2020, which in turn will shape the party’s agenda when and if it does reclaim power.

In an era of regular wave elections — 2006, 2008, 2010, and onward — sustainable majorities may be elusive. The smartest play for the party that takes power, said Michael Podhorzer, political director for the labor federation AFL-CIO, is to seize the opportunity when a wave washes it into power, implement an aggressive agenda, and then defend it from the minority when the party is inevitably washed back out — much as Democrats did successfully with the Affordable Care Act, and as Republicans hope to do with tax cuts. It’s a strategy that means moving two or three steps forward and holding as many of those gains until power is reclaimed, then moving another two steps forward. But it’s only possible with candidates-turned-lawmakers ready to take bold action when they have the chance.

The advice given by Podhorzer in the last paragraph is key and is something that the Republicans have done successfully. Any election win, however narrow or even disputed, is asserted by them to be a mandate for the most extreme policies, while Democrats in that position immediately start talking about the need to ‘reach across the aisle’ and to ‘compromise’ and thus start abandoning the platform that they won on. They seem to be almost afraid of having too much elected power. This is because of structural reasons. As long as Democrats put forward candidates who can raise the most money, they will get candidates who are more prone to favor the wealthy. Thus the Democrats seem to be almost afraid of being swept into power because then they have no excuse for not pursuing a progressive agenda.


  1. says

    A friend of mine used to describe the “two party system” as a “one party system that has two user interfaces.” I’m increasingly convinced that he was right.

  2. Dunc says

    Marcus: My dad has long maintained that the big mistake the Soviets made was in having only one Communist Party…

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DSCC)

    The linked story focuses entirely on the DCCC; the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee must apparently wait for its turn under the Intercept spotlight.

    The Democrats have a real bind: they urgently need to dump the “consultant” hacks endlessly channeling Rahm Emanuel’s fetish for Republican-lite millionaires, but would suffer countless tactical defeats if all those insiders switched to the opposing camp.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    The party that fielded Hillary Clinton in 2016 is under fire for being out of touch, stuck in the past, and more obsessed with money than actual votes? Say it ain’t so.

    They seem to be almost afraid of having too much elected power. This is because of structural reasons.

    Bollocks. It’s because of cowardice and corruption…

    As long as Democrats put forward candidates who can raise the most money, they will get candidates who are more prone to favor the wealthy

    …which is what you just said.

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