New York Times Reports, “Democrats Embrace Liberal Insurgents, Demanding New Face for Party”

The Democratic Party establishment has desired to nominate more moderate candidates, even in safe Democratic areas where they could not use their questionable arguments that more moderate candidates are more electable. Earlier in the year we saw examples of how the party establishment has attempted to suppress insurgent candidates. The New York Times notes how the Democratic Party establishment is having problems this year:

…Democratic voters and activists have increasingly succeeded at transforming their party into a more ambitious liberal force. In key races, they have also replaced elected leaders with newcomers who look and sound like the diverse, youthful base that the party relies on in presidential elections but that asserts itself sparingly in midterm elections and down-ballot primaries.

Should that mood of insurgency prevail on Election Day, it could set the stage for an even more tumultuous phase of redefinition next year: A liberal base that feels validated after November may be unlikely to heed calls from party leaders to pick their battles in the new Congress, or to approach the 2020 race with sensitivity to more conservative sections of the country. The next presidential primaries could become a climactic test for the awakened Democratic base, with women and candidates of color holding an appeal others might struggle to match.

Martin T. Meehan, a former member of Congress from Massachusetts, a state rocked on Tuesday by primary upsets, said Mr. Trump had helped fuse once-fractious Democratic constituencies into a powerful alliance for primary season. Mr. Meehan, now the president of the University of Massachusetts, likened it to earlier moments of political realignment, when ethnic groups like Italian-, Irish- and Greek-American voters learned to work together in the middle of last century…

The most dramatic upsets have come in New York, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old activist and former bartender, defeated Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democratic boss in Queens and Washington, in a June primary; and Massachusetts, where Ayanna Pressley, a 44-year-old member of the Boston City Council, on Tuesday wrested the nomination away from Representative Michael Capuano, a 10-term progressive she branded as passive and conventional. Both women channeled liberal alarm at Mr. Trump and at social inequality in their own communities, and promised an unyielding fight for change…

In some revealing open-seat races, Democratic voters have also flouted the directives of party leaders and embraced inspiring activists. They nominated Jahana Hayes, an African-American educator, for Congress in Connecticut over a candidate approved by the state Democratic Party, and picked Andrew Gillum, the African-American mayor of Tallahassee, for governor of Florida over a field of better-funded candidates that included the scion of an imposing dynasty.

…Democratic insurgents predict that the party’s shifting attitude toward primary elections is more likely to intensify than recede. As Republican power brokers have found in recent years, once-potent instruments for enforcing partisan hierarchy have diminished in value: Political newcomers have deftly used online fund-raising and social media-based campaign tactics to replace the access to big donors and television airwaves that party leaders can more easily control.

And in Washington, as the number of Democratic upstarts elected to Congress grows, party leaders may face new pressures in navigating primary elections..

In keeping with Massachusetts political convention, Mr. Capuano mobilized a set of muscular institutions behind him, drawing endorsements from labor unions and influential Democrats including Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh; Deval Patrick, the state’s first African-American governor; and black congressional leaders like John Lewis and Maxine Waters.

All that support was not decisive, and Ms. Pressley won by 17 points.

Sam Yoon, a former member of the Boston City Council, said Ms. Pressley’s victory had exposed a momentous cultural transition in the party. Mr. Yoon, 48, mounted a campaign nearly a decade ago against the legendarily iron-fisted former mayor, Thomas M. Menino, attempting unsuccessfully to energize young progressives and minority communities in a movement for change.

“I think the dynamic is just wide-open now,” Mr. Yoon said. “The establishment doesn’t have the hold that it used to.”

While we are undoubtedly seeing a reaction against Donald Trump, the changes in the Democratic Party are likely to be more a reaction to how the party leaders forced a candidate as conservative as Hillary Clinton on the party in 2016–and the excitement created by the campaign run by Bernie Sanders. The winners this year also make a mockery of the bogus “Bernie Bros” smears used by Clinton supporters against the left. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Jahana Hayes, and Andrew Gillum are certainly not the stereotypical white male Bernie Bros which Clinton supporters falsely claimed made up their opposition.

Among those now excited by the successes of the left are Barack Obama, who has returned to public life this week in a speech praising Medicare for all: “Democrats aren’t just running on good, old ideas like a higher minimum wage. They’re running on good, new ideas like Medicare for all,” Obama said. Perhaps Obama should have backed Sanders in 2016 over the Clinton, who campaigned against the plan. At very least, someone who had become president with promises of hope and change should have realized that a candidate as conservative and corrupt as Hillary Clinton was a poor choice in a year when voters demanded change.

Donna Brazile Shows How The Democratic Party Establishment Has No Respect For Democracy

Much has been written accurately demonstrating the authoritarian tendencies of Donald Trump, but a consequence of our two-party system is that far too many people ignore a similar lack of respect for democracy by leaders of the Democratic Party. Donna Brazile showed how the Democratic Party rigged the nomination for Hillary Clinton in a book last fall. In recent statements she inadvertently adds additional evidence of the lack of respect for democracy among the Democratic leadership.

The Democratic Party recently voted to reduce the power of superdelegates by not allowing them to vote on the first ballot as long as the nomination was contested. The real benefit of this is that it it will probably eliminate the tendency of the news media to include superdelegates in their counts early in the nomination process. In 2016 this helped Clinton tremendously, when added to the other mechanisms used by the party to essentially rig the nomination for her, by having counts showing her substantially ahead of Sanders. This played into her strategy of making her nomination appear to be inevitable. Superdelegates will still be able to vote on other matters, such as convention rules, enabling them to play a major role should there be a contested convention even prior to a hypothetical second ballot.

Donna Brazile reminded us that the Democratic Party leadership has many other ways of getting the results they want when she tweeted: “Democrats voted to removed automatic delegates from the first round of voting. But we still have seats at the table. We are still in the room and very much capable of setting the menu.” It is rather shocking that she had no reluctance to admit this, countering the desires of Tom Perez to at least give the illusion that the Democratic Party’s nomination process is fair and honest.

Of course Brazile is correct, with the party using methods as such front-loading southern states, along with superdelegates, to increase the chances that a more moderate, ideally southern, candidate would be chosen. The party greatly increased their actions to hand Clinton the nomination in 2016 with tactics including limiting debates, the deal described in Brazile’s book to essentially give Clinton control of the party, changing fund raising rules during the campaign to help Clinton, making it harder for Sanders supporters to vote in some states, and Harry Reid’s games in Nevada. The party establishment will continue to be able to limit democracy by limiting our choices.

Brazile went further in showing contempt for democracy in an op-ed today in USA Today. I do not believe it is a stretch to assume that this represents the attitudes of others in the party establishment. Brazile complained about the loss of her power, writing as if she and other superdelegates are entitled to decide the nominees and override the decisions of the voters:

According to the new rules, we superdelegates won’t be able to vote on the first ballot at the convention. Or on any ballot, unless there’s a tie or some other sort of deadlock in the process.

So, we superdelegates are now what? Merely the mechanism you default to in case of a tie? Great. I’ve fought for the Democratic Party my entire life, and now I’m one notch above a coin toss.

She argued that the “party faithful” deserve their power to override the decisions of elected delegates for the work they have put into the party, failing to understand that in a democracy power should go to those who receive the votes. She claimed that, “the superdelegates aren’t the infamous ‘smoke-filled room’ full of ‘old white men’ deciding the fate of everybody else.” Having greater racial and gender diversity does not change the fact that having decisions made by the superdelegates are just as undemocratic as the smoke-filled rooms. She argues that “I earned my place at this table,” but in a democracy the table should be made up of those who have been elected to be there.

It would be different if we had a multi-party democracy, or if we were talking about a minor party. I would not mind if those who have built the Libertarian Party limited their nominees to those who have a roughly libertarian philosophy as that would not limit our overall choices. However, in the current duopoly, the system is rigged so that the either the Democratic or Republican Party nominee will win virtually all elections. Supporters of the major parties certainly make that point clear when they insist that this is the case and try to guilt us into voting for their candidates.

They don’t even allow other parties to participate in debates, with participation controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, controlled by the Democratic and Republican Parties. As a result, the two-party duopoly limits views which are considered. The parties essentially differ on reproductive rights, some differences in taxation rates, and on how much is spent on social programs. The elections rarely offer a choice on matters such as continuing our state of perpetual warfare, mass surveillance, or the drug war and mass incarceration.

The Democratic Party remains stuck in the past, seeing current elections as filtered by the 1972 loss by George McGovern. For Democrats to say that they should not nominate a candidate of the left because McGovern lost badly back in 1972 would be like Republicans saying they should not nominate a conservative because Barry Goldwater lost badly in 1964.

A better parallel for Democrats to think about would be fifty years ago when the party leadership rigged the nomination for Hubert Humphrey, instead of allowing an anti-war candidate supported by the party’s base to be the nominee. This resulted in the Democrats losing to Richard Nixon, comparable to how the Democratic Party lost to Donald Trump after the party leadership rigged the nomination for pro-war candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Our most realistic chance of having a real choice in elections is to have the ability for candidates outside of the system to have a fair shot at the major party nominations. It is not fair for Democrats to both support a system which only allows those they consider to be true Democrats to run, and to simultaneously support a system which intentionally makes it extraordinarily difficult for outsider candidates to win outside of the two-party system.

The reality is that the rules changes by the Democratic Party were far too limited. Superdelegates should be entirely abolished. Our entire electoral system also needs to be overhauled, included rank-choice voting and proportional representation. These are necessary so that people like Donna Brazile can no longer set the entire menu of which people we can vote for and which issues are considered during elections.

DNC Votes To Reform Party And Apologizes For Past Sins (A Fake News Fantasy)

The Democratic National Committee met in Chicago, with the most controversial matter being a vote to reduce the power of superdelegates. Rather than approving a weak compromise measure which would prevent superdelegates from voting on the first ballot, Democrats decided that a party which calls themselves Democrats must embrace democracy, and voted to totally eliminate superdelegates.

Democrats went to enact rules to prevent the abuses of 2016, including giving Hillary Clinton effective control of the party  before the primaries began, limitations on debates, and front loading of southern states in an attempt to get a more conservative presidential candidate. Delegates realized that their failure to recognize that it is no longer 1972 has led to serious losses by Democrats over the past decade. One imaginary rational Democratic leader explained, “Saying Democrats shouldn’t nominate someone on the left because McGovern lost badly in 1972 is like saying Republicans shouldn’t nominate conservatives because Goldwater lost badly in 1964.”

Democrats also showed remorse for how Bill Clinton moved the country to the right, and for nominating a corrupt warmonger in 2016. Democrats voted to vacate both of the victories by Bill Clinton and the nomination of Hillary Clinton in 2016. The record books now showed that the United States had a Republican president from 1993 to 2001 and that there was no Democratic candidate for president in 2016. The party also enacted new ethics rules to chastise politicians who use elected office for personal financial gain to the degree practiced by the Clintons, and recommended the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate their crimes.

Besides altering their position on government corruption, Democrats issued statements supporting an end of big money influence over politics, ending our state of perpetual warfare, ending mass surveillance, and ending the drug war.

It was at this point that I awoke from this dream.

Democrats Voting On Eliminating Superdelegates This Week–Will They Vote For Or Against Democracy?

A political party which uses superdelegates should not be able to use Democratic in its name. This week we will see if the Democratic Party continues to oppose democracy as the DNC votes on a proposal to eliminate superdelegates at their meeting in Chicago.

There have been proposals to eliminate superdelegates for years, including a recommendation by the Democratic Change Commission in 2009. More recently the Unity Commission recommended reducing the number of superdelegates. This has been expanded to a proposal which would remove the ability of superdelegates to vote for the presidential nominee on the first ballot, but they would still be able to vote on convention rules.

In 2016, the DNC worked to clear the field for Hillary Clinton early in the race. When Bernie Sanders did subsequently attempt to run against her, he was faced with the news media broadcasting delegate counts showing him to be way behind before a single vote was cast, playing into Clinton’s strategy of inevitability.

The proposal to prevent superdelegates from voting on the first ballot would make it much harder for a candidate with the support of superdelegates to take advantage of this, assuming recent trends hold and the nomination is decided on the first ballot.

Of course many establishment Democrats oppose this threat to their power. Not unexpectedly, some even see this change as a Russian plot (demonstrating  one of many reasons why we desperately need new leadership in the Democratic Party).

Norman Solomon, author of Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis, points out the irony of this vote taking place in Chicago:

The 1968 Democratic National Convention remains notorious mainly because of bloody clashes in the streets of downtown Chicago, where thousands of antiwar protesters encountered what a federal commission later called a “police riot.” Passions were also fraught inside the convention hall. From the podium, Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut denounced “Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago.”

But it’s less well known today that much of the mayhem in the streets and the angry dissent inside the amphitheater a half-century ago stemmed from the well-grounded belief that the Democratic establishment had rigged the nominating process for its candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Many of the delegates for the two antiwar contenders at the convention, Sens. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern, were incensed at the party’s disregard for the will of the voters.

About 70 percent of the votes in the presidential primaries had gone to antiwar candidates, including Sen. Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated the night of his election victory in the California primary in early June. Yet the party conferred its nomination on Humphrey, a supporter of the still-escalating Vietnam War who had stayed out of the primaries ― but still ended up with more than two-thirds of the delegates at the national convention. The undemocratic process deepened the divisions inside the party and weakened public support for its ticket, aiding Richard Nixon’s narrow victory in the November 1968 election.

In other words, the Democratic establishment candidate lost in both 1968 and 2016 due to rigging the nomination for unpopular candidates as opposed to giving the nomination to the types of candidate who could win in fair primary system.

Eliminating superdelegates is an important step towards supporting democracy, but just one of many important steps. We also need to have the Democrats eliminate their other rules which help them rig their nominations, including front-loading primaries in southern states, and changing fund-raising rules and the debate schedule as in 2016.

It is an even worse attack on democratic principles when the democratic party both works to keep out true liberal and progressive views, while working with Republicans to limit the influence of third parties. The Intercept recently looked at a bill which was introduced by Democrats, although with limited support,which would help to promote real choice in elections:

In 2017, a group of House Democrats, led by Virginia Rep. Don Beyer, introduced H.R. 3057, the Fair Representation Act, which would require every congressional district in America to use ranked-choice voting. It would also require districts to be redrawn by independent redistricting committees, which would diminish the effects of partisan gerrymandering, and it would require the installation of multimember districts — a reform that would allow voters in each district to elect multiple lawmakers instead of just one, so that more people would be represented.

…advocates of ranked-choice voting raised the benefits of alternative voting schemes when, after Michigan’s recent governor’s race, the results suggested that if the third place candidate, who branded himself as a progressive, had been reallocated in a ranked-choice system, Abdul El-Sayed, a genuine progressive, might have come within arm’s reach of winning.

Europe provides several examples of other voting alternatives. French President Emmanuel Macron, for instance, ran on introducing greater proportional representation in the French legislature, and is slowly making good on that promise. Under proportional representation, parties are allotted seats based on the total percentage of the vote they get. Under that system, if Democrats were to receive 51 percent of the vote, Republicans 44 percent, and Greens 5 percent, they’d each get that percentage of seats in Congress.

Proportional representation is how elections are run in countries like Sweden, Germany, and Israel. It’s no surprise that legislatures in these countries often have seven or eight different political parties with significant clout, which then work together in coalitions on legislation, offering far more choices to voters.

By contrast, American political parties tend not to offer third-party voters any sort of election reform plans — even to win over their votes.

Ideally, if we are successful in reducing the influence of superdelegates, the long-term goal should be to both totally eliminate superdelegates and to institute these other reforms.

Abdul El-Sayed Attempting To Bring Progressive Wave To Michigan In Key Primary This Week

The goal this year must not only be to elect candidates to oppose Trump, but to also reform the Democratic Party (which is responsible for the situation in 2016 which enabled Trump to be elected president). Tuesday provides an opportunity for another progressive upset in Michigan, but it will be a challenge due to the presence of both a real progressive (Abdul El-Sayed) and a faux progressive (Shri Thanedar) who will divide the vote against establishment candidate Gretchen Whitmer.

El-Sayed is running on a platform similar to that of Bernie Sanders. Sanders has endorsed El-Sayed, and came to Michigan to campaign for him on Sunday. The previous weekend, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was responsible for a major upset over the Democratic establishment, came to campaign for El-Sayed. He was also recently endorsed by The Nation and previously received endorsements from groups including  Justice DemocratsOur RevolutionThe People for BernieOur Revolution, the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party, and Democracy for America.

El-Sayed is behind in the polls, but victory might be within reach. Progressives are encouraged by the greater enthusiasm seen for his campaign as compared to his opponents. Progressives are also encouraged by the memories of Bernie Sanders coming back from twenty-points behind just prior to the Michigan Democratic primary in 2016 to upset Hillary Clinton. The polls missed support for a progressive alternative to the Democratic establishment then, and could be doing so again.

The front runner, Gretchen Whitmer, is the daughter of a former president and  CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and the recipient of their money. She is also the only Democratic candidate who opposes single payer health care. She has also benefited from dark money contributions, which has become an issue in the race.  When she twisted the facts to respond to El-Sayed, the Truth Squad at a Michigan newspaper called her claims “mostly inaccurate” as she tried to equate contributions from private individuals with her corporate contributions.

The task of upsetting the establishment candidate is made more difficult by the presence of faux-progressive Shri Thanedar, who is running as a progressive for strategic reasons, and has put $10 million of his own money into the race.  Hopefully the efforts of Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and several progressive groups will lead to progressives coming out to vote for the true progressive candidate in the race, Abdul El-Sayed.

Bernie Sanders Congratulates Progressive Winners Last Night–Wins For The Left Even More Important With The Retirement Of Anthony Kennedy

Despite efforts of the Democratic establishment to fight progressive candidates, there have been some major victories for the left, including the surprise upset of  Joseph Crowley in New York. Perhaps this will give Cynthia Nixon some momentum in her primary campaign against  Andrew Cuomo. Bernie Sanders has congratulated two of the progressives who won last night.

Sanders had this to say about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat Crowley, who was previously considered as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi: “She took on the entire local Democratic establishment in her district and won a very strong victory. She demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do.”

Sanders also congratulated Ben Jealous, who won the Democratic nomination for governor in Maryland:

“Ben showed that running a progressive, issue-oriented campaign can bring all working people together in the fight for justice,” Sanders said in the statement. “That’s what Ben has done in the primary and that is what a united Democratic Party will do in the general election.”

“What the people of Maryland understand is that we can most effectively oppose Donald Trump’s extremism with strong progressive leadership at the state and local level — and there are few progressives stronger than Ben,” he added.

The importance of having more true liberals and progressives in state governments and Congress was highlighted by the announcement that Anthony Kennedy is retiring from the Supreme Court, giving Donald Trump a second Court pick. While we cannot understate the significance of the Supreme Court moving further to the right, we must also keep in mind that the Court’s function is to interpret the law. The strongest defense we have now is to increase the number of true liberal and progressives in Congress and state governments, as opposed to Republicans and establishment Democrats, to influence the laws which are written.

The one positive outcome of a Trump presidency is that this does give Democrats a chance to win in Congressional and state elections after a decade of losing, while a Clinton presidency would have led to a continuation of this trend. Democratic victories will only be meaningful if Democrats are willing to stand for something other than being just a little less crazy than the Republicans, as in recent years.  This will take victories by the grassroots over the establishment, as we saw last night.

Democrats Consider Reforms Over Objections Of Party Establishment

The Democratic National Committee is talking about reforms, but it is not clear how real these reforms will be, and whether the party establishment will really allow them. In response to loss of support after the Democratic Party rigged its 2016 nomination for Hillary Clinton, a candidate so terrible that she could not even beat Donald Trump, a unity commission made recommendations for reform. Their recommendations were far too little, such as reducing but not eliminating the role of superdelegates. During a meeting last week, Democrats made some mixed recommendations, with no final decisions made.

The biggest problem with superdelegates in recent years has not been their actual votes but the manner in which they influence the overall race. Inevitability was a major component of Hillary Clinton’s strategy in 2016, which was strongly promoted by news media delegate counts which showed her with a huge lead from the start of the primaries by including the superdelegates.

The most interesting proposal, supported by Tom Perez, would prohibit superdelegates from voting until a second ballot. As the nomination has been settled on the first ballot in recent years, this could be a back-door method of eliminating superdelegates. Many Democratic leaders are upset about this proposal, seeing it as a loss of power. Of course, if they could get beyond their sense of entitlement, they could show more respect for democracy and run to be regular delegates as others do.

Opponents of reform have made a number of irrational arguments, including a claim from DNC member Bob Mulholland that this is a Russian plot, as reported by Huffington Post:

Mulholland, a DNC member and longtime key player in California Democratic politics, sent an email Friday to other DNC members from the Golden State that implied Russian President Vladimir Putin might be behind the reform effort.

The basis for his claim? An activist from West Virginia promoting the changes, who he had seen at two national party gatherings, admitted to him that she was a Green Party member and had voted for its nominee, Jill Stein, in the 2016 election.

“I concluded someone is picking up her expenses but there she and others are, demanding we change our Rules,” Mulholland wrote. “The Putin operation is still active.”

Contacted by HuffPost on Sunday, Mulholland conceded he had no evidence the woman, who he did not name, was bankrolled by Putin.

As we have seen far too often since the 2016 election, too many establishment Democrats, anything which limits their own power to subvert democracy is a Russian plot.

For those who claim that superdelegates are needed in order to prevent a fiasco such as the nomination of another Donald Trump,  keep in mind that in 2016 the Democratic  superdelegates overwhelmingly supported a candidate who was both unelectable and as bad as Donald Trump.

There are potential problems with this proposal. Superdelegates would still be able to vote on matters other than the nomination on the first ballot. This could give them a disproportional influence on matters such as convention rules, including seating of delegates, which could influence the winner. The party establishment might be tempted to circumvent this with rules which would increase the chances of a vote going to the second ballot, such as returning to requiring a super-majority to win the nomination. They might also be dissuaded from doing so due to the tendency in the past for candidates who received the nomination following contested conventions to be less likely to win the general election.

Eliminating superdelegates would not solve all of the problems. Superdelegates are just one of many ways in which the Democratic Party rigs who can win the nomination. I would also like to see an end to front loading Southern states to help more conservative candidates. We would also need an end to many of the other actions seen in 2015-6 including restricting debates, giving one candidate effective control of the Party as they did with Clinton, games like Harry Reid played in Nevada, changing fund raising rules to help Clinton, and restricting who can vote or making it hard to register to help the establishment candidate.

Another proposal of concern is one that requires that candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination must be registered Democrats and must “run and serve” as Democrats. Bernie Sanders reportedly would still be allowed to run due to rules in Vermont which treat him as a Democrat on the state and federal level.  Even if this rule does not interfere with Bernie Sanders running, it does narrow the range of potential candidates. While the election of Donald Trump might have soured any desire for a candidate outside of politics, the limited support for true liberal and progressive ideas in the current Democratic Party shows a need to allow new blood.

The Rules and Bylaws Committee has until June 30 to decide upon these recommendations, and a decision is to be made at the next DNC meeting in August.

Democratic Leaders Aren’t Really Pragmatists–They Just Prefer Moderates

This year we have seen conflicts in the Democratic Party as the party establishment has intervened in primary races to back more moderate or conservative candidates over more progressive candidates. As I have noted previously, the arguments that more moderate candidates are more electable have not held up, with this view being a major reason why Democrats have lost control of the White House, both Houses of Congress, and around one thousand seats in state legislatures.

With increased polarization, the number of persuadable voters has decreased, and elections are frequently won based upon a party’s ability to motivate its potential voters to turn out to vote. Despite growing evidence that their strategy does not work, the Democratic establishment remains resistant to change. The Intercept recently reviewed evidence that this might be because party leaders simply prefer moderates. They reviewed data showing that, even in safe races, party leaders preferred more moderate candidates:

A paper in this month’s edition of the peer-reviewed Legislative Studies Quarterly analyzes a decade’s worth of federal elections, finding that party organizations boost moderate candidates across the board, whether the general election is expected to be competitive or a long shot. In other words, party support for moderates does not appear to be strategic, but sincere. “They’re not doing this to have a better shot at winning elections,” said the paper’s author Hans Hassell, assistant professor of politics at Cornell College in Iowa.

The evidence points more to the conclusion that party elites “have strong incentives to prefer loyalists who can be trusted to implement its preferred policies after the nomination,” Hassell writes.

The study not only breaks with other political science findings, but decades of rhetoric from party leaders. It’s obvious from the most casual survey of primary elections that parties support moderates, but the races that observers tend to watch closely are competitive contests in swing states, so it stands to reason that a moderate in such a district may indeed be the smarter strategic play. Indeed, in a series of high-profile battles with progressive activists, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has consistently positioned itself as being pragmatic, willing to bend on its progressive principles if doing so can lead to victory.

Hassell’s work expanded the field of vision, looking at races in which the Democratic nominee is likely to cruise to victory. The full scope of the research indicates that party leaders are actually committed to elevating candidates with a narrow range of beliefs.

If party elites were merely strategic actors, the data would show higher support for moderate candidates in swing races, while not showing as much support in seats that were either safe or out of reach. That’s not the case. In Hassell’s findings, parties consistently supported the more moderate primary candidate, regardless of the expected outcome of the general election. Even after excluding incumbents — which party committees almost always support — support for moderates holds. It’s also consistent regardless of party. And while this data set used Senate races, for his book Hassell also measured House races, finding the same result.

I wonder to what degree this is a consequence of a sincere view supporting moderate positions among party leaders as opposed to holding views to please their donors. Hassell leans towards sincerity on the party of party leaders, but this would be difficult to prove. Hassell also had one possibly favorable finding for progressives–views of party leaders have not remained static over time. On the one hand the establishment is not fixed. On the other hand, the establishment now dominated by Clinton-style “New Democrats.”

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Despite Their Gestures, Democratic Candidates Continue To Take Corporate Money

Democratic candidates  increasingly feel like they must swear off corporate contributions, but Zaid Jilani at The Intercept shows that this might just be a cheap gesture. He writes:

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-Calif., became the latest lawmaker to swear off all donations from corporate political action committees, telling a radio host in mid-April that she made the move after being asked about it at a town hall by a constituent.

Harris joins five other senators who have vowed not to take corporate PAC contributions: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. …

Swearing off corporate PAC money can be one positive step a lawmaker can take towards reducing the corrupting influence of money on politics. But it’s far from enough.

The reason is that money from PACs – corporate or otherwise — comprises a relatively insignificant portion of these senators’ campaign contributions, raising the question of whether curtailing donations from corporate PACs will really make a difference. Critics think it doesn’t, noting that the bigger threat of influence comes from wealthy donors who don’t funnel their cash through PACs. But for politicians looking to seize on public discontent with the influence of money on politics, the decision makes for an effective messaging ploy.

Michael J. Malbin, a campaign finance researcher at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, pointed out to The Intercept that Harris has received only a small amount of her total campaign funding from PACs. “However, she also received many of her itemized contributions from individuals whose income is derived from their work as corporate executives,” he said.

Benjamin Page, a long-time researcher of political decision-making at Northwestern University, agreed. “Refusing to take corporate PAC money makes a nice symbol, and I suppose we should give it some credit.  But far more money comes from wealthy individuals,” he wrote in an email. “That is much more important, and I believe it tends to corrupt both the Republican and the Democratic party.”

OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, tracked and categorized PAC donations between 2013 and 2018. The data reveals that most of the senators who’ve sworn off corporate PAC money received more from large individual donors — donors giving $200 or more, who can be regular people but also corporate executives and lobbyists — than from PACs in that time period.

  • Cory Booker: 10.37 percent of Booker’s campaign funding has come from PACs, 76.40 percent of which is from business PACs. By contrast, 72.12 percent of Booker’s campaign funding is from large individual donors.
  • Maria Cantwell: Just 0.62 percent of Cantwell’s campaign funding has come from PACs of any kind. In contrast, 73.61 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand:6.95 percent of Gillibrand’s campaign funding has come from PACs. Of this proportion, 65.73 percent is from business PACs. Meanwhile, 62.15 percent of her fundraising has come from large individual donors.
  • Kamala Harris: 4.89 percent of Harris’s campaign fundraising has been through PACs; 41.07 percent of this total has been from business PACs. By contrast, 64.99 percent of her campaign funding has come from large donors. (Though the OpenSecrets analysis covered a five-year period, in Harris’s case, it only goes back to 2015, when she first ran for U.S. Senate.)
  • Bernie Sanders:1.73 percent of Sanders’s funding has come from PACs. Of that, 7.27 percent is from business PACs. 17.70 percent of his funding has come from large individual contributors.
  • Elizabeth Warren: Just 1.4 percent of Warren’s campaign money has come from PACs. Of that, 12.91 percent is from business PACs. Large individual donors made up 29.72 percent of her campaign funding.

These figures make clear that the senators are giving up relatively little money by swearing off donations from corporate PACs — it just isn’t a very big portion of their overall campaign funding. Which raises the question: Is it really possible that the system is being corrupted by sums of money this small? If not, then politicians — and the voters they’re looking to win over — need to look closer at how big money is corrupting Washington.

There are further examples of how corporate influence is not diminished by this gesture, with Kirsten Gillibrand being just one example:

UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS Boston professor emeritus Thomas Ferguson is one of America’s leading academics who studies the influence of money in politics; he is the brain behind “the investment theory of party competition,” which says that politicians are essentially driven by donors, their true political base.

He doesn’t think much of senators disavowing corporate PAC money. “It’s an absolutely cheap gesture that means nothing, that’s why they do it,” Ferguson said in an interview. He pointed out that corporations can also run their money through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and that these senators haven’t disavowed the comittee’s backing.

A close look at Gillibrand’s and Booker’s top donors makes clear just how little it matters when senators swear off corporate PAC money. Gillibrand’s 11th-largest donor is Morgan Stanley, which did not give a penny of its money to Gillibrand through a PAC. Instead, Morgan Stanley employees donated $40,425 to her campaign committee as individuals. Of the $814,463 that she has received from the securities and investment industry, just $70,500 came from PACs.

Gillibrand was one of the Democratic senators who voted down an amendment that would have broken up Wall Street’s largest banks in May 2010. Jeff Connaughton, an aide to then-Sen. Ted Kaufman, D-Del., who co-wrote the amendment, noted dryly in his book that an Obama administration Treasury official later boasted that if the administration had supported the amendment, it would have passed, but because they didn’t, it didn’t. Speaking about the amendment four years later, Warren noted that it “had bipartisan support, and it might have passed, but it ran into powerful opposition from an alliance between Wall Streeters on Wall Street and Wall Streeters who held powerful government jobs. They teamed up and blocked the move to break up the banks.”

This was contrasted with how Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have raised money:

A better path to limiting the influence of big money is for senators to simply develop a small donor base that supplants large donors of any sort, Ferguson said. “Let them say they won’t take money over, you know, a particular limit — $500, $750, whatever you like,” he suggested.

Page agreed. “What we really need from candidates is reliance on small donations, if possible, as was done by Bernie Sanders and (to a lesser extent) Barack Obama,” he wrote to us.

In that regard, Warren and Sanders deserve an honorable mention, as they are the only senators in this group of six who got the majority of their campaign funding from small individual contributors since 2013. Nobody else comes close.

It’s easy to imagine lawmakers getting swayed by a pool of donors from a big bank or fracking company who give them $2,000 donations; it’s less easy to imagine that if the politicians build a donor base of people throwing in relatively small amounts, that they’d fall under pernicious influence.

(The Onion had an amusing article on this topic in 2016, with the headline: “Bernie Sanders Clearly In Pocket Of High-Rolling Teacher Who Donated $300 To His Campaign.”)

Warning Will Robinson: Axios Says “A new Clinton wave is coming this spring”

Sounding as ominous as a warning of an impending swarm of locusts, Axios writes today, “A new Clinton wave is coming this spring.” They go on to say, “The Clinton family has made sporadic and often subdued appearances in the 18 months (538 days) since Hillary Clinton lost her presidential election. But we’re about to see a lot more of them this spring.”

The post notes that, “This family has been on the national stage for 26 years — all or most of the lifetime of anyone under 50.” Yet the nightmare never ends, even if “plenty of top Democrats we talk to would prefer new energy and faces to Clinton nostalgia/redemption.”

They report that:

Longtime Clinton supporters last week received an invitation offering access to the family (the green invitation features photos of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea) at a Clinton Foundation benefit on May 24 in New York, at prices ranging from $2,500 (“Friend”) for cocktail party and dinner, up to $100,000 (“Chair”) for “Leadership.”

There have already been reports that Hillary Clinton plans to reenter politics. Axios warns:

Hillary Clinton this morning will lead the first meeting of her Onward Together political group, on New York’s Upper East Side. She and Howard Dean will welcome 11 partner organizations for a day of sessions “about harnessing the energy and activism post-election.” In the afternoon, the groups have the chance to meet with 150 donors. Last year, OT had 33,000 donors and gave over $1 million to partner groups. The group says that figure will be higher for midterms this year.

Remember when Howard Dean claimed to be a peace candidate, before he became a lobbyist for the health care industry, opposing Bernie Sanders’ proposal for a single payer health plan, and before he started working with ultra-hawk Hillary Clinton?

In addition to Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean pretending they are not has-beens, Bill will have a novel which was written with James Patterson coming out on June 4.

They call Chelsey a “prolific tweeter.” She has been tweeting those who talk about Amy Chozick’s new book, Chasing Hillary. That is the book with inside information, such as Hillary Clinton complaining to her campaign staff, “I Am Getting Pretty Tired of Hearing About How Nobody Likes Me.”

Skimming the book I found other huge revelations, such as how her friends talked about her: “Even Hillary’s close girlfriends describe her as mercurial. Each morning, aides would announce Hillary’s mood as if it were the weather. Crabby with a chance of outburst . . .” Amy Chozick is no T.H. White.