The Democratic Party is eagerly eyeing some big pickups in the midterm elections. However, the party establishment has hit two speed bumps: first, ideological disagreement with people actually running to serve as Democratic politicians, and second, their willingness to sell out their constituents to Wall Street — as the Senate Democratic leadership did on Tuesday.
The leadership is increasingly at odds with both the political desires of its base and maturing next generation of politicians, and the very obvious best interest of the party. It's time for some fresh blood at the top.
The biggest drama has been happening with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), led by the incompetent Ben Ray Luján. In Texas, the DCCC actually published opposition research on Democratic 7th district primary candidate Laura Moser, calling her a carpetbagger and accusing her of corruption for hiring a political consulting firm where her husband is a partner. But not only were the charges ridiculously slanted, that sort of consulting arrangement is absolutely rampant at the DCCC itself.
At first, it seemed the DCCC wanted Moser out because she wouldn't play nice with the corrupt cabal of consultants and nonprofits that run the party. Now it turns out that Moser may have simply been an example the DCCC was trying to create. The party has severe problems in California, where the state has "jungle primaries" where members of all parties compete, but only the top two go on to the general election. This extremely stupid system means that if lots of candidates from one party enter, they might split the vote and none of them will make it to the general election. For example, if 10 Democrats enter but only two Republicans, and the vote is relatively equal, the Republicans could easily be the only ones on the general election ballot even if two-thirds of people vote for Democrats. (Incidentally, California Democrats could have fixed this years ago but have not because it provides a large incumbency advantage.)
This is indeed a danger in California, and the DCCC has been searching for ways to knock candidates out of the race to winnow the field. Ryan Grim reports that DCCC brass have been pointing to Moser as an example of what will happen if people won't take orders.
Ironically, it may have actually backfired. Moser raked in a big fundraising haul over the attacks, and she came in a close second to establishment candidate Lizzie Fletcher in the primary election on Tuesday. Since neither got a majority, per Texas rules they go to a runoff primary in May.
Elsewhere, Conor Lamb, the Democratic candidate for a special election in Pennsylvania's 18th district — where Trump won by 20 points in 2016 — has closed polls to within a whisker. Panicked Republican committees and reactionary dark money groups have poured some $9 million into the race, but the DCCC has spent a mere $300,000, arguing he probably can't win. Given the utter unreliability of that sort of ex cathedra prediction in modern times, it seems a lot more plausible that they want him to lose because Lamb has said he won't support Nancy Pelosi for Democratic House leadership.
That brings me to the Wall Street sellout. This happened in the Senate, where Minority Leader Chuck Schumer cynically allowed a financial deregulation bill to proceed while pretending to oppose it himself. As this Politico report makes clear, previous Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid had bottled up several similar bills beforehand.
Most of the so-called "moderate" Democrats facing hard re-election campaigns in November voted for it, including Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Maggie Hassan (New Hampshire), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), Bill Nelson (Florida), and Jon Tester (Montana). But other Democratic senators who are not vulnerable or facing near-term elections also voted for it, including Michael Bennet (Colorado), Tom Carper, Chris Coons (both from Delaware), Tim Kaine, Mark Warner (both from Virginia), and Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire).
I'm fairly confident these people know what they're doing is wretched and unpopular (either that, or they are extremely stupid). This vote is a combination of two things: a tactical calculation that doing Wall Street's bidding will pay off in terms of campaign contributions, or it will pay off personally with post-office bribes — er, I mean, some cushy lobbying "job."
But it is a strategic disaster for the party as a whole. Chipping away at Dodd-Frank — that is, a significant rollback of the already inadequate response to big banks wrecking the entire world economy — is poison for the Democrats' brand. It's demoralizing to the base, and signals to wavering independents that the party would rather help bankers dynamite the economy again than serve their constituents.
Leadership is supposed to tamp down on intra-party pissing contests, not start them. Leadership is supposed to look after the best interest of the party, not flush it down the toilet for Wall Street lucre.
Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, and Ben Ray Luján should all resign their party positions immediately. It's time to start over.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article mischaracterized the history of California's "jungle" primaries. It has been corrected. We regret the error.