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BAD BLUES: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be 'Primaried'

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Dan Lipinski (IL-3)

Gregory Meeks (NY-5)

Brad Schneider (IL-10)

Kurt Schrader (OR-5)

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David Scott (GA-13)

Juan Vargas (CA-51)


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Few Democrats in Congress have earned faster or fiercer notoriety among progressives nationwide than Cheri Bustos. Just 10 weeks after becoming chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in early January, she imposed a new policy that blacklists any consultant or vendor who works for a primary challenger against an incumbent House Democrat. Despite withering and ongoing pushback from a wide range of progressive forces, including dozens of chapters of College Democrats and leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Bustos has been immovable. "We are an incumbent-friendly organization," Bustos told College Democrats of Illinois leaders who challenged her about the DCCC blacklist at their convention in May.

"Incumbents are being protected, even when their policies are out of step with their constituents," Our Revolution board member James Zogby wrote. "The Democratic Party is hurting itself with this policy, but more importantly, it is hurting millions of Americans who need radical change right now." Activists warn that the Bustos blacklist policy will actually undermine party growth, jeopardizing rather than protecting the party's hold on the House. "This isn't about keeping a majority, it's not about Democratic priorities, and it's not about real representation," said a statement from Justice Democrats. "It's about powerful insiders protecting powerful insiders against the true will of the people, no matter what the cost."

Bustos is in her fourth term representing the sprawling 17th District in northwest Illinois -- a (slightly altered) district that was represented by the late populist Democrat Lane Evans, one of six co-founders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Bustos, a member of the corporate-allied New Democrat Coalition, is out of sync with large numbers of progressive constituents. After defeating her GOP opponent by more than 20 points in November 2016 (in a district Donald Trump won by less than 1 percent), Bustos went back to Capitol Hill and voted with President Trump more than one-third of the time in 2017-18, according to FiveThirtyEight's tally. Whether her record at the DCCC and on the House floor will cause her problems with a progressive primary challenger next year remains to be seen.



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With Nashville as its main population center, the 5th Congressional District is something of a progressive oasis in Tennessee; Hillary Clinton topped Trump there by 18 points. Yet voters have been saddled for more than 16 years with Jim Cooper, an old-style GOP-type deficit hawk who supports austerity economics that hurts the vast majority of his constituents.

Cooper, a longtime leader of the almost-Republican "Blue Dog Democrats" and member of their "Budget Taskforce," is a staunch proponent of "PAYGO," a conservative policy designed to stop new federal expenditures unless offset by budget cuts or tax increases. PAYGO undermines Congress' ability to confront major challenges, from funding a jobs-producing Green New Deal to providing universal healthcare -- both of which are broadly popular with voters, especially Democrats. In 2009, when the country was reeling from recession, Cooper was one of just 11 Democrats to vote against the stimulus bill. In 2010, Cooper sponsored the PAYGO bill; he's the kind of Democrat who helped keep the austerity measure in place this year when Democrats took control of the House.

In 2010, Nashville experienced the sort of disaster that climate change fuels, when the Cumberland River flooded, killing 11 in the Nashville area. Cooper decried the Army Corps of Engineers' decision not to produce a post-flood report. But for a future safe from ecological catastrophe, government will have to make big infrastructure expenditures, the kind Cooper frowns on. In 2012, Cooper underscored his refusal to spend what it takes to confront warming-intensified disaster when he was the only Democrat to vote against $51 billion in federal relief for areas hit by Hurricane Sandy -- leading to a Daily Kos headline: "Democrat Jim Cooper's vote against Sandy relief shows, once again, why he needs to be primaried."

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Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. Solomon (more...)
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