Tag: defeat

Why Nancy Pelosi won’t step down, at least for now

Yesterday, Democrats lost the 6th Congressional District of Georgia special election runoff, with far-right Republican candidate Karen Handel defeating Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff by slightly less than 10,000 votes in an election where both major parties spent millions of dollars of money. On the same day, Democrats also lost the 5th Congressional District of South Carolina special election, with far-right Republican candidate Ralph Norman defeating Democratic candidate Archie Parnell by slightly more than 2,800 votes, even though Democrats didn’t invest a lot of resources into Parnell’s campaign. In other words, Democrats lost by a higher raw vote margin (not percentage-wise) when they actually invested the full resources of groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the U.S. House Democrats’ fundraising arm, than when they didn’t do so.

Already, a lot of people on the left, and even at least one Democratic U.S. House member, Kathleen Rice of New York, who voted for Tim Ryan over Pelosi in the House Democratic leadership race earlier this year (which Pelosi won), are calling for Pelosi to give up the position of House Minority Leader. Jackie Kucinich, the Washington bureau chief for The Daily Beast, said this on Twitter about calls for Pelosi to step down:

Regarding Kucinich’s first point, it is more correct to say that DemocratsĀ had an opportunity to replace Pelosi, but decided not to. As I mentioned before, Pelosi defeated Tim Ryan earlier this year to retain the leadership of the House Democratic Caucus.

Regarding Kucinich’s second point, such an internal anti-Pelosi coalition within the House Democratic Caucus, if one were to form, would mostly overlap with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which, although home of some of the most progressive Democratic members of Congress, doesn’t consider removing Pelosi from the House Dems’ leadership to be of any priority, at least for now.

Any movement to force Democrats in either house of Congress to change their campaign strategies or force party leaders like Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to step aside would almost certainly come from outside of Congress and the Beltway, and almost certainly from the anti-establishment left. In fact, Republicans on the right fringe of their party (i.e., the Tea Party movement) have had past success going this route, forcing a group of Republican members of Congress to successfully push for the ouster of then-House Speaker John Boehner in 2015 over perceived apostasies of parts of the far-right agenda. However, unlike the GOP circa 2015, when they controlled both houses of Congress, Democrats are currently completely out of power at the federal level, and forcing Pelosi to step aside would not do anything whatsoever to address serious underlying problems with Democratic campaign strategies, one of which is the bizarre email strategy that a lot of Democratic campaigns, and, most infamously, the DCCC itself, have used. The Democratic email strategy comes across as a bizarre form of mind control of Democratic voters and donors. The second problem is a lack of any kind of a coordinated campaign platform for Democrats running in U.S. House and U.S. Senate races in 2018, which would probably be similar to the British Labour Party’s manifesto from the British House of Commons elections earlier this year.

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Democratic Party of Wisconsin officials release the party’s own autopsy

A 22-member Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) committee, led by DPW Second Vice-Chairman Jeff Christensen, released its own internal report on the 2014 midterm elections in Wisconsin yesterday. You can read the full report here; it’s a 14-page PDF file.

According to the DPW Administrative Committee, here’s what I’ve interpreted as being the main points in the report:

  • Since 1990, Wisconsin has become an extremely polarized state, with a very strong two-party system and the top-of-the-ticket race in November general elections in Wisconsin having a huge impact on downballot races.
  • The DPW should provide more support to candidates in officially non-partisan local elections in order to build a bench of Democratic candidates for state legislative and statewide elections.
  • The DPW shouldn’t meddle in contested primaries unless it has a very good reason to do so (such as scenarios involving known Republicans/conservatives running in a Democratic primary or a candidate who is clearly unfit for public office running in a Democratic primary).
  • The DPW leadership should explain its proper role in the political process and management of the party more effectively.
  • The Republicans’ message in Wisconsin is to effectively paint the Democrats as the “party of government”, even if Democrats aren’t in power.
  • Democrats should rebut the Republicans’ talking points more effectively.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin have focused too much on attacking Scott Walker and not enough on promoting a positive message of any kind.
  • To use terminology that was used in the report, Democrats in Wisconsin have “played nice in the sandbox”, leading to Democratic candidates who are too defensive.
  • While Democrats should focus heavily on tailoring a positive message to rural voters, both rural and urban voters in Wisconsin regard education, infrastructure, and jobs as three important issues.
  • Election fatigue is becoming a major problem among Democratic activists/volunteers in Wisconsin.
  • In regards to the DPW’s field operations, the DPW should find various ways to optimize voter turnout.
  • Three programs created as part of the “72-county strategy”, regional field organizers, Spring Forward (support for known Democrats running in officially non-partisan local elections in Wisconsin), and Red-to-Blue (support for Democratic state legislative candidates in Republican-leaning or heavily-Republican areas of Wisconsin) should be expanded.
  • The most important point of the report is that “the path to a new progressive era (in Wisconsin) is entirely possible”.

While some of these points are specific to Wisconsin, some of the points also apply to state-level Democratic parties in other states as well.

The report strongly suggested that the DPW should run statewide candidates who can run on a positive, progressive message, as well as relate to both urban and rural voters. However, the report didn’t suggest any potential statewide candidates for future elections in Wisconsin, and there aren’t that many Democrats in Wisconsin who could pull off such a campaign. Lori Compas, who was the recall organizer and Democratic candidate in the 2012 recall attempt against Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, is the first person that comes to mind for me. However, I don’t think that Compas is interested in running for public office again at all. The second person who comes to my mind is Kathleen Vinehout, a state senator from the west-central part of Wisconsin who was the third-place candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary in the gubernatorial recall election. Vinehout nearly ran for governor last year, but injuries sustained in an automobile crash prevented her from running for governor. There’s probably a few others out there as well.

Additionally, while the DPW’s report didn’t touch on any of these points at all, I do have several suggestions of my own:

  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run against income inequality, preferably by using “1% vs. 99%” messaging and supporting ideals such as raising taxes on the wealthy and ending tax breaks and other forms of corporate welfare for businesses.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run on progressive ideas and values, and, even more importantly, they should explain how progressive policies would benefit all or the vast majority of people.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should stop speaking favorably of Republicans, as well as stop ignoring and criticizing progressives.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should emphasize restoring local control to counties and municipalities over issues that are best dealt with at the local level.
  • Progressive-minded Democrats in Wisconsin should, as much as possible, distance themselves from fellow Democrats who are opposed to progressive ideals and values on many issues, most notably Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin, should, if possible, use the own words of Republican elected officials and candidates against them.

One thing is clear from the DPW’s autopsy: The DPW, in its current state, is one of the weakest state-level Democratic Party organizations in the entire country. A Second Progressive Era in Wisconsin is certainly obtainable, although it’s going to require progressives to hold the DPW leadership accountable to many of the points they made in their own report on the 2014 elections, as well as require Democrats to run progressive candidates who can appeal to a wide coalition of voters.

An Autopsy of the Democratic Party

Since being re-elected in 2012, President Barack Obama has declared war on Social Security by threatening to cut benefits, has presided over a Bush-Obama surveillance state that has violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the American people, refused to issue an executive order on immigration, and has spent more time trying to compromise with far-right Republicans that are completely unwilling to compromise with anybody.

Then throw in Democratic U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and gubernatorial candidates who have run awful campaigns, antagonized progressives, and have flatly refused to fight for anything, and we now have a Democratic Party that is, for all intents and purposes, effectively dead. Republicans are going to gain upwards of two dozen seats in the U.S. House, take control of the U.S. Senate, and score a net gain of state governorships. Even in states like Illinois, Michigan, and Maryland, which are usually thought of as Democratic strongholds, Republican candidates won gubernatorial races in each of those states.

Although reasons for Democratic losses vary widely by race to race, the #1 reason why the Democratic Party has been handed massive defeats tonight is the party leadership effectively treating progressives as if they don’t exist, even though they are the core of support for the party. Democratic governors, U.S. Representatives, U.S. Senators, and candidates for those offices have, among other things supported fracking, pension theft, free trade agreements, privatizing public education, the Keystone XL pipeline, tax breaks for businesses, and Republican witchhunts against Democrats, as well as opposed environmental regulations, common-sense gun control measures like background checks, and even health insurance for millions of Americans. In many states/areas of the country, progressive ideals like raising the minimum wage, protecting reproductive rights, legalizing marijuana, and expanding Medicaid got significantly more votes in many parts of the country than most or all Democratic candidates did in those states/areas, indicating that there are people who are politically left-wing but, for whatever reason, vote for Republican candidates.

Pat Quinn, who lost re-election in the Illinois gubernatorial race, is probably the single-best example of someone who has alienated nearly every political ally and lost re-election because of it. In the past four years, Quinn gave out special tax breaks to two of the largest corporations in Illinois (Sears and CME Group), gerrymandered Illinois’s congressional and state legislative districts, opened up Illinois to fracking, and enacted a pension theft scheme that was partially struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court. Additionally, Quinn picking Paul Vallas, a supporter of Michelle Rhee’s anti-public education ideology, further alienated progressives, making his problems with Illinois progressives even worse. Because of all of that, Illinois will have a far-right Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, who wants to run Illinois like his venture capital company that did more to destroy jobs than create jobs, screw the poor in every way possible, and destroy the public education system in Illinois.

However, Democrats alienating progressives wasn’t the only reason why Democrats lost big time in this year’s midterm elections. The gutlessness of many Democratic candidates was one reason why Democrats lost big time. One of the best examples of this is Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic opponent to presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During her Senate campaign, Grimes largely distanced herself from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), whose Kentucky state health insurance exchange is known as Kynect. Grimes could have centered her campaign around McConnell wanting to repeal the ACA (which would result in the repeal of Kynect) if she wanted to. Instead, she tried to make the race a referendum on McConnell, and it didn’t work. Another reason why some Democrats lost their races was the candidates themselves running flat-footed or even completely out-of-touch campaigns. Bruce Braley and Mark Udall are two examples of this. Braley, who lost the Iowa U.S. Senate race to Republican whacko Joni Ernst, came across to Iowa voters as an elitist and focused largely on issues that aren’t top priorities among Iowa voters (although they are very important issues), such as reproductive rights and student debt. Had Braley focused his campaign on issues like the minimum wage and wind energy, he might have won the election. Udall, who lost the Colorado U.S. Senate race to Republican extremist Cory Gardner, seemed to have all sorts of trouble trying to getting Democratic voters to mail their ballots in under Colorado’s new vote-by-mail system for whatever reason and didn’t really take his Republican challenger seriously for much of the campaign, and that’s the two primary reasons why Udall lost.

You add all of those reasons up and more and you get the atrocious campaign of Mary Burke, the Democrat who lost the Wisconsin gubernatorial election to far-right Republican incumbent Scott Walker, who will likely be the Republican presidential nominee two years from now. Not only did Burke alienate progressives in numerous ways (such as supporting parts of Scott Walker’s union-busting law that dealt with public employees being forced to overpay into pension and health care plans, supporting Common Core State Standards, refusing to support marijuana legalization, emphasizing “bipartisanship” with far-right Republicans at every opportunity, etc.), act like a gutless wimp for the entire campaign (such as largely refusing to call out Walker for the corruption in his administration until late in the campaign) and run a flat-footed and out-of-touch campaign (such as having an inner circle mentality throughout the campaign and running TV ads praising Ronald Reagan and trying to pass off someone working 60+ hours per week as a success story), she also had Democratic party bosses and political operatives bully any other Democrat who tried to run against her, fueling a negative perception that Burke was only interested in serving the powers to be of the Democratic Party and nobody else.

Another factor as to why 2014 has been a terrible year for Democrats is the lack of an unified party message, largely due to the Democratic Party being too big of a tent for its own good. The fact that Democrats range anywhere from left-wing to center-right on the ideological spectrum makes a unified party message of any kind practically impossible, and, when there is a unified party message, it’s in the form of calling for bipartisanship and compromise at virtually every opportunity. What most Democrats who run for public office don’t understand is that, while “bipartisanship” and “compromise” are approved of by most Americans, “bipartisanship” and “compromise” doesn’t motivate a single person to vote, and it’s virtually impossible to compromise with the far-right Republicans in this country.

In short, as a result of, among other things, Democrats alienating the progressive base of the party, Scott Walker will likely be the Republican presidential nominee two years from now, far-right Republicans will be running state governments in Democratic-leaning states, Republicans will have an even larger majority in the U.S. House than previously, and Republicans will control the U.S. Senate. The Democratic Party will only be consistently successful if and only if the party truly becomes a progressive, pro-middle class, pro-woman, pro-worker, pro-public education, pro-democracy, pro-environment, pro-peace, and pro-human rights party, the party and its candidates deliver a unified progressive message that can be used to drive progressives to the p0lls in large numbers and effectively attackĀ Republican opponents, and Democratic elected officials and candidates actually fight to make America a better, more progressive place to live.