I used to work my ass off inside the Democratic Party apparatus. I suppose, in a way, I still do, but these days, the stuff I do is for individual campaigns. I can tell you exactly when I started shifting gears; it was when I was trying to get the DNC to support a progressive candidate in a progressive part of Arizona (yes, there is such a thing – Pima County, Arizona voted for Hillary with more than 60%) back in the 1990s, and they told me flat out; they didn’t have the resources. Well, we ran the guy anyway, and we guided him to a strong second-place finish, missing the Democratic nomination by about three percentage points. We ended the campaign by embracing the guy who beat us and he went on to be elected.
That was when I realized that the national DNC has little to no power in any campaign. All politics is local, which means all campaigns are local. The national parties have little to no influence on who wins elections. Yes, who runs the DNC is consequential, but not in the way many people think. If you imagine that Debbie Wasserman Schultz had a hand in Hillary Clinton being nominated for president, or that Donna Brazile caused Hillary Clinton to “lose” to Donald Trump, then you have a very keen imagination because the DNC didn’t have a hand in either. The Democratic National Committee basically raises and distributes money nationally and they distribute it to candidates in a way that brings the best return. Back in the 1990s, that was hard, but in the post-Citizens United world we live in, I can’t begin to imagine the daunting task they have now. The same is true of groups like the DSCC and the DCCC; these groups raise and distribute money; they do not run campaigns. They do try to recruit candidates, but the reality is, the people who run for the House and the Senate choose to do so on their own, and those groups simply choose which ones to fund. And what many progressives have to learn is, it makes no sense to waste resources on a full-on progressive in a district that is 52% or more Republican. It’s like choosing to buy lottery tickets rather than a share of Apple stock. You might win, but you probably won’t.
If you are one of those who is always disappointed that the DNC, DSCC or DCCC didn’t “choose enough progressives,” or don’t fully support progressives to your liking, you really kind of need to grow the hell up. The DNC and DSCC didn’t choose Patrick Murphy over Alan Grayson during the primary, the Democratic voters of Florida did. They chose him because they felt Murphy had the best chance to win. Face it; except for the southern tip of Florida, the state is quite red and quite taken by Marco Rubio. You don’t win an election in a purple or red state or district by running the most left-leaning candidate. That just doesn’t work. It’s the same reason you can’t run a full-on California progressive in Indiana; Evan Bayh is the best you can hope for in that state, because, well, it’s mostly rural and has been Republican for a long time, except for the very blue Chicago exurbs in the northwest corner of the state and perhaps Indianapolis.
In 2010, I was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in a district the Democratic majority of the state had carved out for Republicans (no, Republicans are not the only ones who gerrymander). We had a Democratic Congressman for the first time in years and his name was Frank Kratovil. In 2008, the Obama wave had gotten him the seat by 300 votes over the Tea Party Republican. That was in a district that was almost 60% Republican. It was great! Amazing. But then, in 2010, Kratovil was targeted by progressives, who had stupidly decided they needed to (and worse, had the luxury) to purge “Blue Dogs.” They primaried him with a progressive woman who had less than a snowball’s chance in hell. Why did she have no chance? it’s because the Democrats who live in red districts are really not stupid. The liberals know they can’t elect a full-on progressive and they want to choose a candidate who at least has a chance of winning.
Now, I want you to think about that a minute. No, really; think about it.
I lived in a district that was about 60% Republican, but which had barely elected a Democrat two years earlier. The odds were already difficult when it came to reelection. And yet, a group of out-of-state “progressives,” who regularly imply that the DNC and DCCC chooses all of the candidates for the House (like I said, think about it), chose and helped finance a far-left progressive candidate to primary a guy who barely won two years earlier. In other words, these out-of-state geniuses spent a lot of good money demanding that we all vote for a woman with zero chance of ever winning election to the office. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also targeted Kratovil with a bunch of lies, including the lie that he had voted against the Affordable Care Act, which was only partly true, not that it should have mattered. He voted both for and against it and ever time, he coordinated with Speaker pelosi to make sure he could cover his ass and also make sure the bill passed. They also claimed that Frank had regularly gone against Democrats, which was an even greater lie. Kratovil, who was, again, representing a district that was 60% Republican, voted very strategically to cover his ass, but ultimately voted with Democrats more than 87% of the time.
The negativity coming from the left and the right ultimately doomed Kratovil, but it also doomed the Democratic Party as a whole. How progressive is that really? The same guy Kratovil beat in 2008 by 300 votes, kicked his ass in 2010. Not only did Democrats lose the House, but they barely kept the Senate. And a major reason for that is that nationally, the professional left undermined them every chance they got. So-called progressives living in safely liberal districts in California and the northeast decided, wrongly, that “Blue Dogs,” most of whom represented red and purple districts in the south and midwest, were mucking things up and that the best strategy was to “purge” them.
Talk about stupid. I know some of you hate the word “stupid,” but what the hell else do you call a political strategy in which liberal know-it-alls target Democrats who voted with their party 85-90% of the time and who voted to place progressives as the chairs of virtually all House and Senate committees, in favor of teabaggers. I mean, for chrissakes, people; the purge of the “Blue Dogs” is what led to the rise of the Tea Party. Virtually every Republican moron in Congress got there because “progressive” political geniuses targeted “Blue Dogs.”
And for what purpose? What have we gained through that exercise? No, really! What have we gained in that time through the legislative process? I mean, certain groups of “progressives” talk a great game, and they like to refer to others who don’t have their “insight” as “low information voters,” but what the hell is so great about their “information”? Apparently, they don’t realize that, to get anything done, we have to form an alliance with a majority, and that’s a pretty basic bit of “information.” In 2008, when all progressives worked together to elect “the Black guy,” Democrats were so close to a filibuster-proof majority, they could taste it. they needed an extra 2-3 more Senators and to keep the House majority. Instead, the professional left and these allegedly “high information” voters targeted so many Democrats that we lost every bit of leverage we had. And they continue to make the same mistakes, over and over. it’s mind boggling as hell.
The professional left thinks they’re smarter than everyone else, but I have to tell you, I am SICK of listening to college professors and amateur pundits who are lucky enough to live in majority-liberal areas of the country trying to apply their standards to everyone else in the country. I know a lot of liberals who live in red districts and states who are heartsick because people who supposedly believe in the same things they do are fucking them every chance they get. If you live in Maxine Waters’ district, or a district that always elects a hardcore liberal, feel grateful for that and stop screwing those people who aren’t as lucky as you are. If you don’t understand why a Democratic Senate Candidate in Kentucky can’t openly embrace Obama, you need to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up and listen a little more. If you think Alan Grayson can win in the Florida panhandle because you think he’s great, again; listen a little more. Progressives who put their ego ahead of the good of the country are just as bad as right wingers who do the same. And if you don’t understand that Blue Dogs are the best Democrats can do in many places, then put away your pointy “know-it-all” hat, because you don’t really understand shit. Look at the Bernie Stans who dismissed Clinton’s wins in the “confederacy.” That’s incredibly clueless, not to mention racist as hell. And, while you imagine producing a “perfect” Democratic Party, it’s never happened. In fact, we got Social Security, Medicare and civil rights and environmental laws passed when a quarter of the Democratic Party were segregationist Dixiecrats. It’s hard to believe that the Democratic Party is currently “too conservative” to get anything done. In fact, it’s ridiculous.
There may be a day when progressives can elect a hardcore progressive everywhere. that could happen. But right now, after 40 years of undue right wing Republican influence, you’re not being realistic. It will take a lot of work. And yes, there may be a time when there is a viable third choice out there, but again; it’s not now. It will take a lot of work and a lot of time to do that and the know-it-all unicorn progressives who think everyone else is stupid don’t seem able to do any work, let alone the amount of effort it would take to build a new, viable party. It’s time all liberals sat the fuck down and started to listen to liberals who aren’t “lucky” enough to live in sophisticated liberal areas of the country.
Listening is how you learn. All politics is local. That means no politics is national. If you want to really help create a progressive nation, you have to understand that. The liberals in red districts in Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi and even upstate New York understand that they can’t have a Barbara Boxer or a Russ Feingold and they’re okay with that. They are perfectly happy having a Blue Dog Democrat represent them. They are ecstatic to have someone representing them who occasionally has to align with the opposition in order to keep getting elected. The fact that they sometimes have to coordinate with the leadership to vote against a Democratic bill is perfectly fine with them. And if it’s okay with them, it should be okay with ALL liberals, including unicorn progressives. If you consider yourself a “real progressive” and you don’t understand how someone can be both progressive and moderate, YOU are the clueless one. In most of the country, there is no choice. Liberals living in Kansas would give anything to have more moderates in government; it would be a welcome change from the right winger who usually run things.
It’s time for all liberals to work together. That means everyone listening to everyone else for a change. We don’t learn by shouting constantly. We learn when we listen. So shut the fuck up and listen for a while. Red state and red district liberals are trying to teach you something.