Do The Democrats Have What It Takes To Pull It Off In November? Maybe

Looking at the websites of the DCCC-recruited candidates, speaking with local political activists, campaign managers and candidates themselves, I'm getting a sinking feeling that the Democratic Party strategy for November is to let the Republicans defeat themselves. The Inside-the-Beltway Democrats-- the consultants, congressional leaders and professional losers who have authored a series of catastrophic Democratic Party defeats that have brought us the ugliness of the current Regime-- think shining a light on the excesses of the culture of corruption is somehow going to convince voters in red districts to overthrow the existing order.

Yesterday's WASHINGTON POST ran a guardedly optimistic article called "Handful of Races May Tip Control of Congress" by Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza. They site a handful of vulnerable Repugs caught up in the  myriad of GOP scandals-- the odious Santorum and Conrad Burns, and the hapless and pathetic Mike DeWine in Ohio-- as likely victims. "Not since 1994 has the party in power -- in this case the Republicans -- faced such a discouraging landscape in a midterm election. President Bush is weaker than he was just a year ago, a majority of voters in recent polls have signaled their desire for a change in direction, and Democrats outpoll Republicans on which party voters think is more capable of handling the country's biggest problems. The result is a midterm already headed toward what appears to be an inevitable conclusion: Democrats are poised to gain seats in the House and in the Senate for the first time since 2000. The difference between modest gains (a few seats in the Senate and fewer than 10 in the House) and significant gains (half a dozen in the Senate and well more than a dozen in the House) is where the battle for control of Congress will be fought."

Balz and Cillizza postulate that "what makes the year ahead compelling is the tension between two powerful factors: the broader political environment plainly favors Democrats, but the on-the-ground realities of many races give Republicans an advantage as they seek to preserve their majorities." The on-the-ground realities are what have been disturbing me as well.

Are there enough districts (which haven't been gerrymandered for incumbent protection) in play? (And this is a bi-partisan scandal.) Look, for instance, at my own horribly gerrymandered state of California. Aside from Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who has already plead guilty to taking millions of dollars in bribes and is now cooperating with investigators against "others," there are at least half a dozen entrenched Republican congressmen who may well wind up indicted or even in prison before their hand-picked voters turn them out of office! Duncan Hunter and Jerry Lewis were in on almost all of Cunningham's bribery schemes-- and more. Cunningham was small potatoes and a clown compared to these two powerful-- and powerfully greedy-- committee chairmen! Neither seems seriously in jeopardy from Democrats; both have more serious worries from law enforcement agencies. Further north in the state Richard Pombo and John Doolittle have clearly been two cogs in the DeLay-Abramoff-K Streetwheel of corruption in Washington. Both have excellent grassroots challengers, respectively Jerry McNerney (who Emanuel is trying to drive out of the race for some clueless shill of his own) and Charlie Brown. But it is yet to be seen if the DCCC, busily depleting its funds on Emanuel's maniacal thirst to drive progressives out of the races, will be able to finance the races against entrenched Republican gut fighters like Doolittle and Pombo-- on their own inhospitable turf. Last time out, only 32 districts were won with less than 55% of the vote-- i.e., not many close calls there.

According to the POST story "Republicans and Democrats have adopted contrasting strategies in the race for the House. Democrats hope to nationalize the elections around the issues of corruption and dissatisfaction with Bush. Republicans want their candidates to run strictly local races. 'Incumbents don't get beat because there's a bad national environment,' said Carl Forti, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). But Joe Gaylord, top political lieutenant to Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) during the 1994 takeover, said Republicans should not underestimate the impact of national tides. 'If you have mechanics without message, you have no motivation," he said. "The danger is in a bad year, as the Democrats would remember from 1994, is that you have supporters who stay home.'" Can the rough-and-tumble Rahm Emanuel, a man who never lets ethical considerations stand in the way of anything, pull off a '94 Gingrich-style power-grab? The POST says the Dems, have done a good job at recruitment-- highly debatable in terms of the House until after the first Tuesday in November-- and at fund-raising (presumably the funds Emanuel is squandering trying to wreck the challenges from grassroots, progressive and anti-war Democrats). Well, the DSCC has raked in a lot of dough. (Yippeee, I guess, given the inherently corrupt and sickening anti-democratic-- and anti-Democratic-- way we finance our elections.) Emanuel's DCCC hasn't done nearly as well as the DSCC-- or, more importantly, as the NRCC. And, in any case, the right wing party holds a $28.5 advantage over the Democratic Party.

The POST seems to accept the professional Beltway November outlook: "the number of genuinely competitive House races ranges from a low of 25 or 30 to as high as 40 in the most optimistic Democratic scenarios." They think the Democrats' best chances are in open GOP seats (being vacated by Kolbe in Arizona, Beauprez in Colorado and Nussle in Iowa), which would be a completely pathetic scenario were this a campaign based on ideas and solutions, but, under the current circumstances, not an unrealistic scenario at all. The POST also points out the Dems should be able to oust DeLay and Ney since they are so tangled up in the Abramoff (and other) scandals and then throws in a couple of vulnerable Indiana congressloons (Sodrel and Hostettler). If the Dems can't do better than that in this political environment, with as many as 60 Republicans tainted in the worst scandals since the administration of Ulysses S Grant and after 6 years of Bush's failed governance, it should finally be apparent to progressives that the current Democratic Party has utterly failed as a vehicle for our national aspirations (and minimal needs).

Today's ROLL CALL features a story called "Democrats 'Recalibrating' Message Strategy" which shows a Democratic Party still reeling from internal fissures. "National Democratic leaders remain engaged in strategic talks over how and when to unveil their 2006 campaign platform, with recent discussions focused on laying out the party agenda in installments rather than all at once." No doubt the national aspirations of progressives, represented by the popularly-elected grassroots-oriented Howard Dean, are still not completely subsumed by the more modest goals-- i.e., personal career-preservation-- of the Beltway professionals who actually control the poor little Party.

"I think we are recalibrating," said one senior House Democratic staffer. "We are reconsidering the strategy. It's not clear that we have to go out with a bold, comprehensive package." God forbid! The very concept entailed in a word like "bold" is anathema to careerist party officeholders. They haven't stopped Bush from instituting anything-- and even derailing his destruction of Social Security, which many treacherous Democratic scumbags were/are willing to sit down and "negotiate" on, had far more to do with genuine grassroots revulsion at Bush's plans than with anything the Democrats as a party were able to accomplish.

ROLL CALL mentions that "Democratic leaders have been huddling for more than a year on the message, slogan and agenda the party will embrace as they try to reclaim House and Senate majorities. Led by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Congressional Democrats unveiled their theme for the cycle-- Together, America can do better-- late last year and unveiled a major focal point of their platform in January when they called for a more honest government free of corruption and influence peddling."

Well, that sounds nice and cautiously non-controversial-- and probably easy enough for Rove to overcome in his sleep. "A senior Democratic aide," continues the ROLL CALL piece, "said the party is still split over some aspects of the agenda, including both timing and substance. This staffer said House and Senate leaders, as well as national party officials, have never seen completely eye to eye on the planning... Early draft copies of the Democratic platform have consisted of a half-dozen items, but leadership is now talking about narrowing it to two or three broader topics with specific policy proposals attached. Among the individual initiatives are energy independence within the decade, more access to affordable health care and higher education, stronger national security and an ethical government."

They're keeping it all under wraps because they don't know how to fight on the field of ideas. They're a pathetic, leaderless flock of geese. Emanuel at the DCCC and Schumer at the DSCC think playing political games-- which they almost always lose anyway-- are easier than a battle of philosophies that would convince Americans what is already apparent, that the Far Right has captured the GOP and that their ideas are harmful and destructive and un-American. They think it is better to hold off telling anyone what the party platform is "until closer to Election Day in order to avoid having to weather months of Republican criticism of their proposals, as well as minimizing internal strife between conservative and liberal Democrats."

The one sane voice in the Democratic Party hierarchy, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, sees this whole debate over timing for the bullshit it is. "I'm not too worried about the timing, given that Gingrich came out with his message in September of the election year. Whatever we end up doing I think will be OK. The only thing I think we'll worry about [is] the time it takes to get people on the same page."
And with a non-authoritarian non-top-down party like the Democrats, that will take more time than it takes the Republicans to just issue marching orders to their mindless stepford candidates.

Crossposted at Down With Tyranny

Tags: dccc, DSCC, election '06 (all tags)

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