Wednesday, March 23, 2016


A report from David Dayen at The New Republic raises a question: Does anyone in the Democratic Party know how to play this game?
... liberals are now ... giddy that a Donald Trump presidential nomination -- or a Ted Cruz nomination, for that matter -- could put the 30-seat Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives into play.

... David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report recently altered ten House ratings to favor Democrats, commenting, “It’s impossible to know just how bad it could get for Republicans sharing a ballot with Trump or Cruz.”

... But it takes years to recruit and train candidates who can raise enough money to win a congressional election; you can’t throw it together in a few months. You can see how unprepared Democrats are for this scenario by looking at how many districts won’t have a Democratic candidate at all. Nineteen states have already closed their filing process for House elections, representing 163 Congressional districts. And as Stephen Wolf points out, in 27 of those 163 seats -- about one in six -- no Democrat will appear on the ballot.
This is pathetic -- and yes, the districts in which no Democrat is running include quite a few considered unswervingly Republican, but that's not true of all of them.

Elsewhere, Dayen reports, Democrats have candidates in place, but they're weak candidates running for winnable seats.
Daily Kos Elections’ David Nir looked at two winnable Republican seats in southern New Jersey, where antipathy to Trump could produce unexpected results. In the 2nd district ... Representative Frank LoBiondo will likely face a Democratic challenger who raised only $55,000 when he was on the ballot in 2014, losing his primary by 64 points. In the 3rd district ... freshman Representative Tom McArthur will compete against one of two Democrats: perennial losing candidate Frederick LaVergne, or Jim Keady, who got pummeled in a state legislative race last year.
Given all the talk of "revolution" I'm hearing in the presidential campaign, I'm surprised there aren't Sandersites offering themselves as candidates (Democratic or third-party) for some of these seats.

Actually, I'm not surprised at all -- Bernie fans are falling for the widely held but incorrect notion that if you elect a progressive president, the entire federal government will simply fall in line. (A lot of progressives also thought that would happen eight years ago, with the election of Barack Obama.)

I disagree with Dayen about one thing: It doesn't always take "years to recruit and train candidates who can raise enough money to win a congressional election." Every so often, even a newbie candidate can catch a complacent opponent napping and win despite a lack of experience or cash. That's what teabagger Dave Brat did in his successful 2014 primary challenge to Eric Cantor -- Brat won while being outspent approximately 40-to-1 by Cantor.

In states where there's still time to get on the ballot, why don't some Bernieites try to take on congressional Republicans, especially in districts the Democratic establishment has already conceded to the GOP? Try it even in heavily Republican districts -- let's test the premise that the Sanders message appeals to Republican voters, especially the discontented voters backing Trump. And maybe the people making all those small donations to Sanders can spare a few bucks for people with Sanders values downballot.

You want a revolution? You're going to need some foot soldiers, not just one iconic leader. Try this.


Unknown said...

You make an excellent point. However, for some strange reason, we never hear these "the President can't unilaterally make things happen" arguments when we're told that we have to vote for Uninspiring Establishment Democrat to keep Republican Bogeyperson X out of the Oval Office.

Steve M. said...

That's because the vast majority of Republicans in Congress are radical rightists, or at least feel compelled to vote for radical rightism in order to avoid a primary challenge. Give them a president who'll sign their bills and they'll just grind 'em out. Repeal Obamacare with no replacement plan? Done. Pass the Paul Ryan budget? Done. Pass a national right-to-work law or 20-week abortion ban? Done. Make it illegal nationwide to enact local bans on fracking? Done. Basically whatever's on the Koch brothers' wish list: done.

See: the state of Kansas, the state of Louisiana, the state of North Carolina, the state of Wisconsin.

Gerald Parks said...

The Dems NEED a massive ongoing 50 State registration and get out the vote drive!

The DNC had become derelict in their duty by 1)Not vigorously defending ACORN 2)NOT replacing ACORN 3)Not aggressively interacting with and engaging the so-called Obama coalition for the past 7 years! 4)Allowed themselves to become complacent and NOT vigorously, actively, aggressively, LOUDLY daily denounce the obstructionism of the GOP/Republican governance over these past 7 years!

I am sure any of US could add to this short list!

mlbxxxxxx said...

The Rs are doing everything they can to tear themselves apart. It'd really be great if there was an opposition party prepared to take advantage of that. Guess not.

CH said...

I (a Sanders supporter) live in what has been called the "most Republican" Congressional district in the US (TX-13), based on the Romney-over-Obama margin in '12. Our long-ensconced, low-profile Congressmember is, of course, unopposed in the general. In my county, a hardy few of us are looking into trying to resuscitate the D brand. In thinking of ways to do so, I have run into a bit of a difficulty: on "beans-on-the-table" issues, where even here we should be able to go after hearts & minds (and votes) regardless of ethnicity, gender/gender orientation, religion, etc., we can't really point to recent concrete, tangible benefits to the middle/working class under the D's. A lot of that is the fault of a long spell of divided government at the federal level, and a lot is the fault of R obstruction at the state level - but I think that part of it, too, is the result of excessively "business-friendly" policy decisions by too many D's from the top on down, dating back to at least the 90's, if not the 70's. (This is not intended as a screed for a flame-war between Sandersites & Clintonites; I've had more than enough of all that.) In plain language, it's hard to get a local working stiff to consider voting D by pointing out how much better the Dow-Jones looks than it looked in '08. Her/his disposable income hasn't shifted noticeably upward regardless. I think we at least need to be able to cite some full-throated D efforts (even if unsuccessful) to spread recovery/prosperity to such voters, e.g., a unified, sustained and vigorous effort to raise the minimum wage. It's not enough to give them a history lesson going back to the Great Society or before, or to say how much worse economically things could be/might have been, or to rely on rights-based interest-group appeals divorced from (again) "beans-on-the-table". Such, at least, is how it looks to me down here.

Anonymous said...

In states where there's still time to get on the ballot, why don't some Bernieites try to take on congressional Republicans, especially in districts the Democratic establishment has already conceded to the GOP?

Doing stuff sucks. Complaining about other people doing or not doing stuff, that's the fun part!

Cathie from Canada said...

The biggest mistake Obama made was to get rid of Dean at the Democratic National Committee.

Yastreblyansky said...

This is the single best reason for not voting for Sanders, the total failure of follow-through. He's been saying there's going to be a political revolution like Trump says he'll get everybody jobs, with no concept of how to get there from here, and now it's too late. The Clinton side has been working on it (focusing on recruiting women) for almost a year, for what it's worth. (I guess Dayen doesn't think it's worth much, and I know Howie Klein doesn't.)

Feud Turgidson said...

Good comment,CH.

This isn' tsimple, and so far the only people talking solution are Sanders (only on the limited scope available while running for the D nom: if he went full 'movement', what would that do to his hopes? after all - and Howard Dean, a ghostly talking head.

There ARE opportunities. ACORN was one; but it had internal problems, which partly explain why the Dems ran away (the other part was it offered some potential - potential, but still - of getting in the way of Obama's OFA). Another was Occupy, and losing out on that really frosted my testicles. I put a lot of blame for that on DCCC cowardice and the rest on Schumer's control over big NYC donor purse-strings. I don't know whether that could have gone better with just one under control, we'll never know. Another is this Sanders campaign - if there's some way for Bernie to hypothecate his campaign's success in challenging HRC and moving her left on some things into a feature night at the DNC in Houston, then carry on from there after the election.

And yet another is Obama himself. Obama's young, not done yet, and he's said he'll be active even after the WH, and he's got history of living up to those sorts of commitments (golf notwithstanding - I don't see him going all Clinton Initiative - his ego is different from the Big Dog's), AND he's already said he won't be leaving WDC for at least a few years (Sasha being in school). Obama pre-president back far enough was temperamentally the same, but left of what he became from when he first announced for the presidency, left still of what he was in his first term (despite the great parts of the STIM and the ACA), but not nearly so far left of what he's been since getting re-elected. I hold hope he'll be talking well left of his entire career POST-presidency, at least after the new president's honeymoon.

I'm not a believer in superman politics - I'm one who believes Hitler wasn't an outlier at all in post WW I Germany - but a movement needs a spokesperson and Obama's got the public-speaking gift and has been able to develop and hone a presence going about the country and world.

The other side of this coin is dark. We've all been born into a world unlike that of our grandparents, or even parents for some of us, and all before them. Up until the Industrial Revolution, the global population hovered between 125M and 300M humans for all the way back into the agricultural revolution of 10000 BC. But the Industrial Revolution and the technological advances in electrification and water diversion and mass farming output and MEDICINE have allowed out uber to really soar - to more than 25 times the human population that's been typical since the last Ice Age.

When we were few, things were very dark for most humans. When we grew, especially in the western democracies between the two great wars of the 1900s, that laid a base for greater light to shine on us plebes. But we've wasted it a lot of it, especially in pollution and over the last two generations in education - and it doesn't look like any 'great man/woman' movement is capable of turning that around. After all, great man movements have typically spelled big fat trouble for us plebes.

But if we want to pass this mess on to our kids and grandkids with any sort of fighting chance, we've still got to assume we're not yet done as a species and democracy as a way of governance. If it goes, the species is done for good. And like it or not, movements need leaders. So, here we are big O: time to show what you got.

Your Baltimore Pal said...

The Executive Director of DCCC should be strung up on the Mall given the epic fail of that organization. The Democratic Party can't play this game because the politicians running theses committees are taking fat Wall Street cash to run half assed losers in these districts. Voters in theses districts don't come out in mid-terms because DCCC doesn't even try.

Support DFA, they're at least trying to build a single A team in state legislatures, and yes, firing Howard was dumb.

Ten Bears said...

If I might boil it down to balls on a brass monkey nuts and bolts ones and zeros, Feud, if my (now) great grandchildren are to have a fighting chance We Have Stop Doing What We're Doing. Now.

That includes being herded, bullied even, into voting for an uninspirering establishment candidate.

Feud Turgidson said...

10B, that'll require a big make-over of the current presidential party. And as you well know, even trying that now, what with the GOP having gerrymandered the living bejeesus out of the electoral map, is suicidal.

This is a 3 election problem: we have to win the presidency and win back the Senate now, maybe cutting into the House lead some, then somehow between this November and 2018 cut further into the GOP's House lead - which, foregive me this, isn't not do-able if we get a movement up and running, and then win the whole shebang in 2020 in time for the map redraws.

It's not come up for tons of good reasons, but I like the idea of 1 term HRC. There's at least 4 other female Ds I'd rather see taking over in 2021.

But ... baby steps, nudging, turning the ocean liner inch by inch and all that - patience and work over time.

Ten Bears said...

Sorry Feud, as refreshing as you are... I've been hearing some variation of that crap since nineteen seventy-one.

To reiterate: now that my eldest grandchild has embarked upon parenthood,if my great grandchildren are to have a fighting chance We Have Stop Doing What We're Doing. Now.

That's not going to happen with Clinton/Wasserman-Shultz.

Luigi said...

Of course, I could point out that all the money Sanders is wasting in his narcissistic Don Quixote quest could be used to find and help real Democratic candidates get elected.

Kickyourace said...

perennial losing candidate Frederick LaVergne, or Jim Keady, who got pummeled in a state legislative race last year.

Lavergne has never run as the line Democratic before. Keady has and lost so bad he was told to sit down and shut up by his own County Chairman. Keady has also run for office 4 times. He lost three and quit in his one time in office 3/4's of the way through for personal reasons no one will discuss.