(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
I am very far from being okay. The murder of handcuffed Afghan schoolchildren by American “civilians” (CIA?) who have access to helicopters has me in a surly mood. I have to repeat to myself over and over, “small steps, small steps, stick to the plan.” So I stick to the plan. The Full Court Press is a good plan, a very good plan. But I’m feeling a little less tolerant of bullshit today, so let’s have a fight. Over strategy and method. Let me pick on ActBlue, because variations of its strategy of funding liberal candidates to replace the worst of the Democrats has been holy writ among progressives for so many years.
At one level, no such fight is necessary. I’m sure the ActBlue folks are good people. If I were in the right district, I’m sure I would vote for many of the candidates they funnel money to. In fact, a key feature of the Full Court Press is its flexibility, its compatibility with other tactics. It merely calls for filing candidates in all 435 congressional primaries around a modest but pointed program:
WPA-style jobs program
Medicare for all
Repeal Stupak and Hyde and their ilk
U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan
It does not comprise a complete strategy. Since the only bottom line is supporting the above points and getting on the congressional primary ballot, it does not require campaigning hard against Dennis Kucinich if he doesn’t endorse the program. We would not want to undermine an effort to defeat Stupak. On the other hand, if an incumbent said they agreed with “U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan” but had voted to fund the war effort, they wouldn’t get the FCP stamp of approval either. Our tactics may be flexible, but our principles are not. Being flexible doesn’t mean being a patsy.
So it is not just one tactic among many. It is expressly an alternative to the progressive response every time the Democratic base gets shafted, i.e., every election, to target the worst of the traitor Dems for House and Senate. It is uniquely suited to these times. So whatever our tactics, we reject some kind of liberalism and you do your thing and I’ll do mine and we’re all cool little Fonzies.
The issue is that the system is broken.
The ActBlue approach rejects this, in practice if not in theory. Fundamental to its approach is that the problem either lies with, or is solved by, focusing on individuals. Concentrate funds and volunteers on miscreants like Lieberman or Nelson. Or even Reid, if you want to walk on the wild side. Picking off the worst will gradually repair the DP in ones and twos. The challenger runs not on a hard set of principles, but on what will get him or her elected. The ActBlue challenger above all has to be credible. Credible means having longstanding experience in the party, the trust of party insiders, and the ability to attract big money.
In other words, the ideal insurgent is a young party regular of whatever principles who can raise money.
Consider how they approach a key race: Joe Sestak vs. Arlen Specter.
During a distinguished 31-year career in the United States Navy, Sestak attained the rank of 3-star Admiral and served in the Clinton White House, Pentagon, and in operational commands at sea, culminating with command of the USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Battle Group. In fact, he is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to either branch of Congress.
His record in Congress is just as impressive, in a short time. He is one of the few representatives to serve on three committees, serving as Vice Chair of the Small Business Committee, and a member of the Committee on Education and Labor and the Armed Services Committee. In the current Congress he has had more of his bills pass than either of the state’s two Senators.
Yet Sestak’s own webpage also says:
“American troops in and around Afghanistan are indispensable in the fight against Al Qaeda. They and their families are making great sacrifices to keep the United States safe. They are fighting the enemy that struck us on 9/11.
While Arlen Specter is one of the major critics of Obama’s Afghan escalation.
So the slightly-more-progressive (?) draws contributions and starts to rise in the polls. But targeting works both ways. The party regular gets alarmed, and starts drawing in money from all over the country. The price of the race rises. As more money is needed to stay competitive, the insurgent has to become more moderate to continue drawing big money, needs to heed the pollsters who say moderating the message is required to now win. If they lose, they lose for nothing. If they win, they win little. Every progressive knows how progressives get elected to office with a radical campaign and then learn to become players once in office. It’s how the Democratic Party keeps itself functional at all.
Afghanistan aside, how does Sestak being a 3-star admiral make him a defender of Roe v. Wade, or someone who will fight to get the U.S. out of Afghanistan? Or someone who will fight for a WPA-style jobs program? 1-2-3 what are we fighting for?
Pass a crappy healthcare bill now, keep electing more Democrats (like we’ve done the last two rounds) and then improve it. But now it’s looking like the Dems will lose seats for both House and Senate in 2010, regardless of ActBlue-type efforts. Such is what passes for realism these days in the Democratic Party. Piece by piece forever.
They are trying to repair a broken system that cannot be fixed.
The Full Court Press deals in collectivities
We deal in change.
The Democratic Party is not simply a collection of individuals. It is a party. It has a platform. It coordinates races at every level. It has congressional caucuses. It elects a majority leader, it elects a speaker of the House. Its candidate is our president.
And yet, when a supposedly progressive senator is pressed on why the Senate healthcare bill is a disaster, “Not me!” It’s Lieberman. It’s Nelson. They had no choice. But this supposedly progressive senator is a Democrat. The Democratic Party supports voting for a bill that contains the Mandate, Stupak or Nelson, going after workers’ existing policies through the so-called Cadillac tax. House Democrats voted for a bill that contained Stupak. Senate Democrats voted for a bill that contained Nelson. Individuals may grumble quietly but support their president when he sends 30,000 more troops to murder the Afghan people. But “Not me!” As though individual innocence were enough.
I’m not unreasonable about this. If the House Democrats had voted against the Stupak-laden healthcare bill, they would get a pass on that point. If elected Democrats were calling for the repudiation of Stupak, their stay in hell would be shortened. But they aren’t doing that. Instead, at best, they point to their own relatively cleaner hands. But the issue is the party, not the individuals.
Thus the move to file in 435 congressional primaries is a statement that we hold the entire Democratic Party responsible. Individual Democrats may cry, I can’t do that because it would cause problems for my re-election chances. It would cause fundraising problems. Well …
From the Magnificent Seven:
Eli Wallach as bandit leader: “Somehow I don’t think you’ve solved my problem.”
Steve McQueen: “Solving problems ain’t our line.”
We deal in change.
Stupak is THEIR problem. Lieberman is THEIR problem. We are making a statement. We are not big important people. We don’t have the kid of money needed to contest a Senate Democratic primary. We don’t get media coverage just by opening our mouths. But our power lies in our very smallness. Our power lies in the spread. Death by 435 cuts. We only need nationally:
$588,081 in filing fees
Split 435 ways, that comes to:
$1,358 filing fee
Individual mileage may vary, but this plan is accessible to ordinary citizens. It is Main Street vs. the Democratic Party. We’ll stick to the plan.
Full disclosure: I’m a registered Democrat, after all. I don’t pretend there is no blood on my hands. I don’t deny that I voted for Obama. I would still have done so. In fact, Obama’s election was a progressive milestone. Why? Because as long as Bush was in office, we could still maintain our childish faith that electing more Democrats could fix anything.
Now, it is plain that there is system. It has us trapped in the ruins of a dying empire. World oil production is peaking out, even as demand for oil continues to skyrocket. So many of us have no jobs, and more have jobs that increasingly suck. People are living on foodstamps, and tent camps are springing up just out of sight. The system is broken.
I’m still very far from being okay.