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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 5/1/18

Pyrrhic Party: The Democratic Establishment's War on Progressives

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Schumer, Pelosi speak after tax bill passed House
Schumer, Pelosi speak after tax bill passed House
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By supporting corporate-friendly candidates and policies, Congressional Democratic leaders are be moving closer and closer toward open warfare with their party's base.

There is a real need to raise money, of course. But the party's leaders have chosen to raise and spend money in ways that conflict with voters and render it all but ineffective as a force for much-needed change.

Under the best-case scenario, the party's establishment is heading toward a Pyrrhic victory. And other, grimmer scenarios are possible.

Democrat vs. Democrat

A majority of Democratic voters, led by black, brown, and female Democrats, told pollsters in a recent study that they supported "movements within the Democratic Party to take it even further to the left and oppose the current Democratic leaders." A new study by Data For Progress shows that "the Democratic Party's base has moved left" and that voters overall "are ready for unabashed progressive politicians."

And yet, as if determined to block their own party's progress, House Democratic operatives have been attacking progressive candidates in public and working to undermine them in private.

The party's antipathy for progressive candidates and ideas seems to grow more conspicuous with each passing day. The party's penchant for "centrist," corporate-friendly candidates has long been the subject of Washington cocktail-hour talk, but a series of news reports has placed it squarely in the public eye.

First, there was the smear attack against Laura Moser, who is running in a Texas congressional primary. In language worthy of the cheapest Republican hit job, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) called Moser a "Washington insider" and accused her of disliking life in Texas. (Moser had expressed antipathy for her hometown, not the state, saying "that (was) a story for another day.") A DCCC spokesperson called Moser "unqualified" and doubled down on the deception with a comment about "Laura Moser's outright disgust for life in Texas."

Moser responded with an attack on "party bosses" in "smoke filled rooms" who are "trying to tell Texas what to do," and was rewarded with a fundraising surge that almost certainly helped her win a spot in her district's upcoming runoff election.

Counting Crow

More recently, The Intercept published the contents of a secretly-recorded tape in which Steny Hoyer, the second-highest ranking House Democrat, openly acknowledges that the party was intervening in a Colorado primary on behalf of corporate lawyer Jason Crow. In the tape, Hoyer repeatedly asks Crow opponent Levi Tillemann to leave the race.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch points out, the party's infrastructure is working against elements of the very anti-Trump resistance that represents its greatest hope for victory. Nevertheless, Hoyer defends the practice of intervening in local Democratic primaries.

"Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual, and very interesting," said Hoyer, who claimed the result would be that "somebody wins in the primary who can't possibly win in the general."

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended Hoyer after the Tillemann tape became public, calling it "a conversation about the realities of life."

"What's important in all of this is that one in five children in America lives in poverty, goes to sleep hungry," said Pelosi. "That's what makes this election so urgent, for our children. So if the reality is that some candidates can get into the general [more] than others, then that's a clear-eyes conversation."

Money for Nothing

Hoyer's contemptuous dismissal of democratic governance as "intellectual" and "interesting," and Pelosi's defense of his actions, obscure a "reality of life" that is nearly as important as the principle that primary voters should choose their own candidates: The Democratic establishment has been notoriously terrible at picking winners.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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