And One Last Thing...
by Chris Bowers, Fri Dec 23, 2005 at 02:41:55 PM EST
Before I go on my vacation, however, I want to make one final post concerning an issue I have spent much of the day thinking about. I think that the DCCC supporting Duckworth against Cegalis is a truly horrendous move on their part, and I honestly believe that in response the netroots should fight back by supporting Cegalis in the primary in any way possible.
I have three basic reasons why I think the DCCC's move to support Duckworth is awful:
- 1. It is an incredible waste of resources. Simply put, the DCCC's fundraising is not very good. While in the 2005-2006 cycle the DCCC has more money relative to the NRCC than they had in 2003-2004, our House committee is still taking a beating at the hands of Republicans when it comes to fundraising. Considering that the NRCC has a 60% advantage in total fundraising and cash on hand, spending any money in any Democratic primary is only going to stretch our resources even thinner come September and October of 2006. However much the DCCC is spending to help Duckworth, it is an utterly unjustified diversion of resources away from challenging incumbent Republicans and toward challenging other Democrats.
- 2. It is a repeat of our losing 2004 strategy. I know that a lot of people are invested in the "Fighting Dems," narrative for 2006, where Democrats run as many Iraq veterans as possible for federal office. In some ways, it is a pretty good strategy, as theoretically it provides us with Iraq truth tellers in the face of administration lies, an image of national service, and potentially a counter to the old "weak on defense" charge.
However, as familiar as I am with the theory, in practice I just don't think it is a winning narrative. With the possible exception of Paul Hackett, who I believe was boosted largely for reasons other than being a veteran, I can't think of any campaigns recently where being a veteran actually helped a candidate. I remember the weak bounce Kerry received after a convention that did little else but portray him as a war hero--a weak bounce that came before the Swift Boat Liars even started getting press. I remember the "draft dodger" charges against Clinton that never went anywhere. I never noticed Dole's service help him, or Bush II's lack of service hurt him. I remember Max Cleland being slimed to the high heavens despite being the ultimate image of a veteran who served his country. I just don't believe that being a veteran, however admirable it is, compels the electorate anymore. I further shudder to think that being a veteran was one of the main reasons why the DCCC decided to back her, even after Kerry, who was basically chosen by Iowa voters for the same reason, failed against a chickenhawk just last year. I think that as political activists we need to finally be honest with ourselves and realize that the era of Eisenhower and Kennedy is long over, and that being a veteran no longer helps anyone at the ballot box. This doesn't mean I am not going to support Democratic candidates who are veterans in primaries, but it does mean that I am not going to support Democratic candidates in primaries simply because they are veterans.
In other words, not only do I not believe that Duckworth being a veteran is much of a bonus to her candidacy, I am actually horrified that we think we could win in 2006 using the same theory we had in 2004. If we are still deluding ourselves into thinking that someone will win because s/he is a veteran, then we didn't learn anything from the past. Are we really so uncritical of our past performances, and are we really doing so little to come up with new ways to run campaigns, that we are just going to use the same strategies from losing campaigns again and again? The lack of vision here is truly disturbing.
- 3. It takes the base for granted. As a proud Deaniac, few things irritated me more during the primary season than the assumption often vocalized by the Democratic powers that be that, even if Dean lost, his new activist movement would be easily transferable to the establishment candidate that won. Admittedly, one of the things that irritated me about it was that anyone who said this was right: we all knew we wanted Bush out of office so badly that, pretty much unless Lieberman won, we would indeed work our butts off for a non-Dean nominee. And so we did, to the tune of tens of millions of volunteer hours, hundreds of millions of dollars, and god knows how much of our new, independent progressive media.
In 2004, we did indeed transfer our new movement to the establishment, and I have a feeling that set a really bad precedent. I believe that many in the establishment came to believe that they could pick whatever candidate they wanted to run, and we would fall in line behind that candidate, causing the money, the activism, and the new alternative media to flow to whoever they wanted. However, in this race it can be different. If the netroots supported candidate can actually defeat the establishment chosen candidate, it will force the establishment to stop taking the base for granted. If we can defeat the establishment in at least one location, it would force them to actually negotiate with us in the future. This could help bring an end to bossed primaries. This could help the netroots to have a real say in the messaging and direction of the party. If Cegalis can win, then they will have to start actually coming to us and asking us what we think before they decide to waste our resources and use other bad strategies in both primary and general elections. The ice is already slightly cracking on their willingness to listen to us: a big primary victory like this could cause it to shatter.
I am out of here now, but in the comments I urge you to offer your actual list of reasons you agree and/or disagree with this post. Please, no ten word responses. Please, no comment rating and flame wars. This is important stuff, and should be treated as such. Let's have a serious discussion.