Gaius Publius: Field Notes from the Battle Within the Democratic Party

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

TYT reporter Nomiki Konst interviews DNC Chair candidate Tom Perez

If you ask mainstream Democrats (not a homogeneous group, but easily identifiable by their Clintonist, Obamist policies), and also their collaborators in the so-called “left media,” this question — “What about the battle within the Party?” — they’ll ask incredulously back, “What battle? Doesn’t everyone want unity?”

Which is, itself, the next phase of the battle within the Party. The old guard, the Clinton and Obama factions, want unity  — so long as they’re still in charge. Which sets the twin terms over which the next phase of the battle will be fought: the demand for “Party unity,” and the insistence on silence about fundamental, irreconcilable differences.

Here are two small instances to illustrate that battle and its terms, field notes if you will about how the Party split is being handled its leaders. Both are from the above interview by TYT reporter Nomiki Konst with Tom Perez, the Obama wing candidate for DNC Chair.

Keeping the Money Game Alive

Let’s begin with an exchange about the interests of big-money consultants and consulting firms in keeping the Party’s budget “bloated” (Konst’s term) so they could drain into consultant coffers money that could bolster state party organizations instead. (Recall that Party funding and use of money was a key Sanders concern.)

At 3:48, Konst asks Perez about the Party’s ties to those high-dollar consultants and firms. His answer is revealing. He starts by saying he believes in “grassroots organizing” instead of just putting money into high-dollar TV advertising. Yet when pressed (at 6:08, which is where I cued the clip) about the role of those consulting firms, who benefit financially from their role in current Party practices, in shaping the future of the Party, he avoids the question completely.

So she tries again. At 7:30 she asks about conflicts of interest between what the consulting class wants and what the Party needs. Her example is the forward-looking “Unity” commission, on which a major Party consultant sits. This, to her, is a clear conflict of interest.

Here’s that exchange (my transcript; emphasis in the original conversation):

Konst: Aren’t conflicts of interest a concern? If you’re going to change the culture on the ground, how do you change it without banning these conflicts of interest who want to keep the party bloated?

Perez: When you say that someone wants to keep the party bloated, I don’t know. The people that I talk to want to build a Democratic Party that works for everyone. … The folks that are running the Unity Commission, there’s going to be a lot of different perspectives that are put to bear — that’s what we want!

Konst (incredulous): Including consultants?

Perez: We have a big tent in the Democratic Party….

He then pivots to talking about how he would use more “minority contractors” — in other words, he repeats the Democratic Party appeal to “identity” rights and benefits as a way to distract Democratic voters and supporters from how money changes hands in the inner circles.

Shorter Perez: We’re a big-tent party. Even the corrupt have a seat.(For a real-life example of what that corruption looks like, scroll or jump down to the end of this piece.)

Where Are Your Sanders Supporters?

The second interview chunk I want to point out is about why his own campaign for DNC Chair contains no high profile Sanders supporters or surrogates. At 9:08, Konst sees she’s being given the off-camera signal by a Perez staffer to wrap it up, so she hurries to ask “one last question”:

Konst: This is about unity, right? Who in the Bernie Sanders world, of the surrogates, is supporting you? … Do you have any notable Bernie Sanders supporters? …

Perez: I think you’re asking the wrong questions.

Konst: I mean, you’re talking about unity. Every single candidate has both sides. Every single candidate that we’ve asked has a surrogate from both sides.

Perez: … Do only celebrities count?

Konst: No it’s not celebrities … union leaders, party chairs …

Ponder that. For Perez, it seems the only Sanders people of note are “celebrities.” And the capper — after Konst says that the future of the Party is “about unity” (a statement I’m not in agreement with, by the way), we hear this:

Perez (emphasizing each word): I think the future of the party is about making sure that we are focused on what we have to do together to take on our existential threat, which is Donald Trump. And when we focus on that existential threat together, that’s how we move forward.

Shorter Perez: But … Trump! That’s the unity I’m talking about.

Yes, Donald Trump is certainly an “existential threat” … to the country. But it sure sounds like for Perez, the existential threat to the Party are those pesky Sanders people and their challenges about money, about who gets it, and about how the consulting class, which feeds on and impoverishes the Party, is protected by Party’s leaders, its Obama and Clinton wings.

The Democratic Consulting Class

I’ll have more to say in a bit about the Democratic Party consulting class — a group of, I have to say it, predators. But this should get you started if the topic is new to you. From my friend Joe Sudbay via email, we find this article on the subject from 2005. The writer, Amy Sullivan, asks the question, “Why do Democrats continue to hire campaign advisors who lose races?” and then illustrates with examples.

Here’s the start of her answer (my emphasis):

Fire the Consultants

Why do Democrats continue to hire campaign advisors who lose races?

If you were a Democrat running as a first-time candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2002, Joe Hansen was most likely a familiar part of your life. As the field director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Hansen was responsible for recruiting promising candidates, and then for getting the nascent campaigns off to a running start. In the first overwhelming days of your campaign, Joe was a lifeline. He took you out to dinner for pep talks, broke down the fundraising process into something almost manageable, walked you through the selection of campaign staff and consultants, and promised that – if you proved you were a serious candidate by putting together the right team – the DSCC would happily write the checks that might make the difference when things really heated up in the fall. And when it came to choosing just the right firm to design and produce the fliers, postcards, and door hangers that would blanket your state in the closing weeks of the campaign, Joe recommended the very best consultant he knew: Joe Hansen.

In addition to his job at the DSCC, Hansen was also a partner in the direct mail firm of Ambrosino, Muir & Hansen. His sales pitch must have been effective – Democrats in nine of the closest Senate contests in 2002 signed up with Hansen, including Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Max Cleland in Georgia, and Alex Sanders in South Carolina. The day after the election, only two(Tim Johnson in South Dakota and Mark Pryor in Arkansas) were still standing.

Why do I call them predators? Because the only people whose success they feed, is their own.

Bottom Line

Four points:

  • There’s also no question, whatever the organizational merits of any of the DNC Chair candidates, that for medium- to low-information voters this is seen as a proxy battle between the Obama-Clinton wing and the Sanders wing of the Party (search here for the phrase “proxy battle”).
  • And there’s absolutely no question that one of Sanders’ big issues in the primary was (a) the role of money in politics, and (b) the role of money in the way the Party does business. Needless to say, that message resonated with a great many supporters who had no interest in seeing the Party’s current leadership continue. That was not only true for all Sanders voters in the primary; it was true for many Sanders supporters who failed to turn out in general election as well.
  • Which means, finally, that if Perez wins this contest, those medium- to low-information voters may well think the Party hasn’t changed much after all, and just stay home again in 2018.

After all, don’t you think that if every Sanders supporter had pulled the lever for Clinton, she’d have won in a landslide instead of lost in a squeaker? It’s not on the voters to think the Party is attractive, no matter how ugly the Trump regime is. It’s on the Party to make its own self attractive enough to prevent another Trump-size disaster.

Or so one would think, unless one had a vested interest in keeping the Party just the way it is. Field notes from the battle within the Democratic Party. Stay tuned.

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93 comments

  1. lambert strether

    > low-information voters

    Perhaps we might substitute “unprogrammed,” or “propaganda-free.” Because those low information voters have it exactly right. In the country of the deliberately self-blinded…

    Reply
    1. aab

      Nice point. The people that can’t name the sitting SCOTUS justices are labelled “low information,” but they often know quite well other information that’s more salient, like how many people in their family have jobs and how far you have to drive to see a doctor.

      A voter learning that Tom Perez has been selected as DNC Chair and deciding that means the party hasn’t changed wouldn’t be “low information.” That voter would be “correct.”

      Reply
      1. Quanka

        +1. The “low information” slur was also used against people who voted for Trump b/c they used to have manufacturing jobs and decent health care and saw those things evaporate under the leadership of both parties.

        I know plenty of “low information” voters who claim to be liberal (note: not leftists) and who still believe with the heart of their hearts that the identity politics, driven by these consultants, is really truly the way back to power.

        Reply
        1. Big River Bandido

          Since this seems to have disappeared down the memory hole:

          the slur “low-information voters” was first used by Hillary Clinton in the 2008 campaign. IIRC, it was another one of those tone-deaf phrases coined by the genius Mark Penn.

          Reply
    2. Uahsenaa

      I have to agree. So many people I talk to have a more or less nihilistic attitude about politics: to hell with the lot of ’em. They recognize, perhaps accurately, just how powerless they are to change anything beyond the immediate sphere of their day-to-day lives. So, because they put most of their effort there, some call them “low information,” simply due to the fact that they don’t hyperventilate on twitter about the most recent gaff.

      What’s more, if one were to judge from the furor meeting Congresscritters at town halls and public meetings, people do seem, as Lambert suggests, to understand what’s up.

      Reply
    3. Katharine

      The existence of one sort does not preclude the existence of the other. There are people who scarcely know who the candidates are the day before the election, let alone what they stand for. That’s low information.

      Reply
      1. witters

        “”There are people who scarcely know who the candidates are the day before the election, let alone what they stand for”

        You’re kidding right? Everyone knows what they stand for. Look around. 40 years of data!

        Reply
      2. Pelham

        True. But the low-info voters I’ve encountered tend to be highly informed and quite intelligent about things that matter to them. The problem isn’t their supposed stupidity (as low-information implies) but the flat-out fact that decent people can reach the perfectly rational conclusion that politics at the national level, by and large, are irrelevant. And that is abundantly evident from the record of the past four decades or so, with sharply declining living standards under both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses.

        Reply
    1. Katharine

      Following Yves’s thought, try leaning on a big old tree, just stand against the trunk, maybe look up, maybe out, stay a while. Trees take a long view, and it is infectious–got me through one of the worst patches in my life.

      Reply
    2. johnnygl

      I think you need a little perspective. 1) the fact that this fight is even happening represents progress. 2) there’s a genuine fight on the repub side, too. When is the last time anyone picked a fight with the intel community?

      Don’t sweat losing any one particular battle. This is a long fight. I’m optimistic that we’re actually having it. Interesting times.

      Reply
  2. ToivoS

    As one who was active in the Democratic Party for 20 years and left to work for Sanders I cannot see how the party can be reformed. It is corrupt from the top down to the county level. Every major issue is decided by those in the food chain meaning those who are consultants or hired by elected representatives. Our local club tried to restrict the involvement of professional consultants and for a brief period succeeded but pressure from above forced us to rescind the rule. This is in California where one has to be a Democrat to win so half of our electeds would be Republicans in any other state.

    Though some of us tried to promote Sanders inside the formal organization it was quite impossible to be active in his campaign and stay active with the Party. I hope the Sanders people succeed but from here it will be a very difficult job. I can see Sander’s people winning seats in the organization but they will be competing against a machine that has tremendous amounts of money. Our club could raise 20 k in an election cycle but the individual candidates in our region would raise millions.

    Reply
    1. aab

      Do you think it’s naive to believe that if we throw a significant percentage more national level Democratic elected officials out of office, the corporate money feeding the machine will dry up?

      It seems to me if we can make the party weak enough nationally, there won’t be any reason for corporations to fund all the think tanks and consultants and revolving door lobbying gigs. Once the money dries up, the consultants would go look for other marks and the electeds who just want to be wealthy and go to dinner parties would have to do something else, and that’s when change can begin.

      Reply
      1. Deadl E Cheese

        By itself, I’m afraid it’s naive. Remember, the GOP is even more indebted to capital than the Democratic Party and the destruction of the latter will likely mean the hegemony of the former. While there is some good schadenfreude to be had by watching these mediocrities suddenly have to work for a living, this will mostly affect the neurotic intern set at the bottom of the ladder. Goofies like Yglesias and Chait and Krugman and Tanden and Maddow and even Kos and Oliver work for the same set of masters as the Douthat / Will / Brooks set and will continue to push the same propaganda so long as their billionaires allow. Maher and Milo teaming up so shortly after Beck and Bee did should’ve given the whole game away.

        More broadly, even if the Justice Democrats or whatever managed to wield electoral dominance, it still wouldn’t mean much in of itself. Recall the 30s/40s: the GOP still unapologetically remained the champions of capital even after they were reduced to a rump, and they could just wait out the corruption of the Democratic Party’s urban and Southern wings.

        Getting rid of the overclass’s corrupt politics can’t be done by getting rid of the corrupt politics. The overclass will just bide their time and install the corrupt politics just after the worker’s party inevitably fucks up with corruption or recession or a bungled war or some other black swan event. To speak nothing of the worker’s party getting co-opted by the overclass.

        Nah, man. If you want to get rid of the overclass’s corrupt politics, you have to get rid of the overclass.

        Reply
        1. readerOfTeaLeaves

          First, please take a gander here at what really happened in the 2016 election: “Did Not Vote” won about 41 of the 50 states. Start with that fact and it really is scandalous incompetence on the part of the DNC.
          http://brilliantmaps.com/did-not-vote/

          Second, the ‘overclass’ is based upon a lot of extractive resources: pipelines, oil & gas, climate denial, Big Pharma, Big Ag, telecomm. All of those require government licenses and permitting, in addition to tax dodges. IOW, the thing holding up the ‘overclass’ is an outdated economic system, which refuses to publicly acknowledge or discuss resource depletion (minerals, fisheries, rich ag soils, etc) and climate instability.

          The politics are already changing, because the underlying economy in some sectors appears to be on life support, having been sucked dry by M&A, short-termism, financialization, and crappy wages (i.e., a dying middle class).

          On some levels, it is just sad to see the DNC and GOP trying to retain a system that is past its pull date. They are in deep, deep denial. Hiring overpriced consultants helps them stay stuck, because they mistake price for quality.

          Reply
        2. aab

          Your point is well-taken, but I was thinking about something smaller, something tactical. I’m only referring to the possibility of the real left taking over the Democratic Party in the near term so there ‘s a viable opposition to capital for the time being, and maybe do baseline things like universal health care. I am pungently conscious of the problem of how, under capitalism, capital is always advantaged and can wait out and corrupt labor.

          Reply
      2. different clue

        If the Big Donors feel that a slo-mo imploding DemParty will create a vacuum that Republicans and Libertarians and Koch-suckers will fill, then they will feel it is in their interest to keep funding the current DemParty Rulership in order to subsidize it in burning the DemParty all the way down to where there is nothing left for the Sanderists and other reformers to inherit.

        If I am write in my thinking about why the Big Donors are Big Donating . . . . then if the DemParty can create some more losses, the Big Donors will give even MORE money to keep the current DemParty loss makers in charge of the Party.

        Reply
    2. bmeisen

      The tension between SMDP (single member district pluralities – which is the way the US votes, the Presidency excluded) and the silence of the Constitution on parties has produced dysfunction. A large-format, winner-take-all system compells dominant “parties” to generate celebrity instead of policy. A democratic process of building a shared political opinion and corresponding policy proposals, which are then, in the wake of success at the polls, transformed into law, has been decoupled from “politics”. Accountability does not exist because in this system success is a function of medialized personal appeal and not of party process: those who fail get punished. They don’t get into office. They’re the single non-members, not the party leaders. Consultants and single-issue factions rule, and the electorate loses.

      The solution is constitutionally defined proportional voting including party lists and direct mandates – one man, 2 votes – and a parliamentary system in which a 5% threshold guards admission to parliament and access to public funding.

      An irony of Bernie’s attempt was that the out-dated and absurdly prolonged primary process allowed the electorate to catch-up to the potential of his candidacy. I do not doubt that he would have compensated for his lack of celebrity, i.e. become a celebrity, and defeated Trump soundly.

      Reply
        1. bmeisen

          What can be done short of creative destruction? A national citizen registration law would transform the country without violent revolution. We’d have to register at city hall whenever we move. Without registration no drivers license, no water, no sewage, no garbage collection, no use of dump, no school, no (or dramatically reduced) illegal immigration and most relevant here – no voting. With registration all of the above plus reminders of upcoming votes and offers of help in case you can’t get to the polls. The result will be increased voter turnout and disarmament of single-issue factions.

          Trump’s Great Fence is batshit crazy. Illegal immigration is out of control because once you are beyond customs there are effectively no controls. An infrastructure is in place to support more controls. It’s called city hall.

          Reply
          1. JTMcPhee

            National registration? Now where has that notion cropped up before? Will it include an implanted chip, or just a tattoo?

            Not that the equivalent, Cobb;ed out of all your cell phone data and chipped credit and debit cards and facial recognition and net-traces does not already exist — nice touch, though, the idea to tying all “benefits” of “citizenship” like water, sewer, trash, driver license, schooling, and all that, to that simple act of “registering at city hall.” Rahm Emanuel’s city hall?

            We just loves us some authoritarian “solutions,” dowsn’t we? Maybe the manacles will be equipped with velvet linings… some like the feel of restraints, I am told…

            Reply
            1. Lord Koos

              We already have national registration (your social security number), so what’s the problem in tying that to voting registration?

              Reply
          2. yoghurt

            I already register at the town hall for all that (except driver’s license which is done at the DMV). I am not sure what it is you are saying.

            Reply
            1. cyclist

              This might be a good idea if strict constitutional rules limited just what the national ID could be used for and how the information could be shared.

              Reply
            2. bmeisen

              The common good benefits from the state collecting information about its citizens – by keeping up to date on demographic changes in its population the state can plan where to build new schools, hospitals, transport infrastructure, etc. The 200+ year old census model enshrined in the Constitution is testimony to the foresight and public-spiritedness of the authors. As a model for tracking demographic changes it is obsolete.

              Income information is collected by the IRS and we have Soc Sec numbers that can be used to track our financial fates and accordingly some of our broader impact as individuals. But I argue that the state would benefit from and in fact should have more specific and timely information on our impact as individuals. We do not need a trillion dollar scheme that covertly collects information on all citizens in the hope of preventing terrorist attacks – there is no need for that kind of information. Here in the West you are more likely to be killed by a your TV than by a terrorist attack. The state should have your name, age, nationality, members of your household and address. That’s enough to be able to track relevant demographic developments.

              Beyond this there are at least 3 benefits to citizen registration:
              1) Streamlining of municipal services. Yoghurt lives where city hall is already doing this. There are I believe municipalities in which services are spread out all over town and outside of town, perhaps sometimes intentionally in order to reduce demand.
              2) Enhance democracy by facilitating voter turnout. REgistered citizens are automatically registered to vote and receive reminders about upcoming elections and offers of help when they need a ride to the polls. Again some people don’t wnat to enhance democracy.
              3) Reduce illegal immigration. Make it difficult for illegal immigrants to stay once they have gotten past customs by tying access to municipal services to citizen registration. Again maybe where Yoghurt lives authorities have found a solution for illegal immigration in their municipality. The national situation is different.

              Reply
      1. B1whois

        This sounds like the system in Uruguay. What other countries have this system? What terms would I use to gain more information via Google search? A little knowledge is the first step to more knowledge….

        Reply
    3. lyman alpha blob

      “This is in California where one has to be a Democrat to win so half of our electeds would be Republicans in any other state.”

      And this right here is the problem, and it isn’t just in CA. I have argued for years that just because someone throws a ‘D’ after their name on the ballot doesn’t make them the 2nd coming of FDR – lots of Republicans do it in order to get elected in otherwise left leaning states which is why the Democrat party is essentially a bunch of Reagan republicans (looking at HRC and Barry in particular here) and the Republican party is now filled with people who thought St Ronnie was really a secret commie.

      Rather than reforming or taking over either party, we’d be a lot better off abolishing all of them and make each candidate speak his or her mind if they want votes.

      Independent forever!

      Reply
      1. WheresOurTeddy

        The Overton Window has been pulled so far to the right that an actual Roosevelt Democrat ran on the (D) side proposing what amounted to a watered-down New Deal and was pilloried as a fanciful old man with crazy ideas leading college kids off a cliff of hopelessness. 2016 was a watershed moment in my life.

        Those who make peaceful change impossible…

        Reply
  3. Kim Kaufman

    Some Berniecrats should start a new “consulting firm” so the money doesn’t go to the establishment douchebags.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      …who will then, seeing how easy it is to get rich if one swims with the current, become another new set of predators living off a faux pedigree? Mr. Schmidt goes to Washington…

      Reply
  4. Dead Dog

    The ability to donate money has to be out, for all political parties. They should only get their votes through influencing voters using their own money.

    Nah, what was I thinking, change is top down, not bottom up.

    Reply
  5. Disturbed Voter

    The same bureaucratizing and specializing that happens in every corporation and government department. And protecting the money flow, is never far from the holders of power. When expertise becomes self conscious and monetized … everyone becomes like an attorney who charges $250 per hour.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      $250 per hour? That was considered pretty good back when I was practicing, 25 years ago.

      Now? for the K Street types and other “consultants?” “Some lawyers charging $1,500 an hour,” http://fortune.com/2016/02/09/lawyer-hourly-rates/

      But hey, they are WORTH every penny! And how many are like the one partner I used to work for, who often billed 24 hours of work in a 24-hour day, claiming he was so smart that he could be thinking about 3 clients’ matters at the same time!

      Reply
  6. aab

    This seems relevant: https://www.reddit.com/r/WayOfTheBern/comments/5ufncy/naomi_konst_on_the_state_of_the_dnc_chair_race/

    He corrects the spelling of Nomiki’s name in the body of the text, but you can’t correct post titles in Reddit.

    All the details about what members are thinking and how even Hillary Clinton supporting state chairs are upset with how the party spends money with no transparency or accountability was eye-opening for me. There are additional details about the consultants in the comments.

    Reply
  7. PH

    The article certainly reflects my view of the state of things. But I am not sure how much winning the DNC would help.

    By its function, it is part of the establishment.

    Miscellaneous grassroots primary challengers are the best hope.

    In the battle of slogans and press hits and internal debates, the smug will never be defeated.

    Only winning elections will make a dent.

    Reply
    1. PH

      We should probably start moving the conversation to specifics. 2018 Senate seats. Will get national coverage. Who can we get to challenge the following:

      Diane Fienstein. California and really old. Best chance to win.

      Debbie Stabenow. Michigan. Ground Zero.

      Joe Manchin. West Virginia. Plenty of rural poor. What is our message?

      Angus King. Maine. Also plenty of rural poor.

      Plenty of others to target, but these seem like top candidates.

      Who can we run against them?

      Reply
      1. Adam Eran

        When some unions said they’d like to oppose a corporate D congressman, the local Democrats said they’d be happy to primary him as long as the opposition could recruit a candidate with $500,000 in his pocket.

        …in other words, what’s the definition of cluelessness squared?

        Reply
        1. PH

          Agreed. Have to recruit beyond the usual suspects, and use social media to organize and fundraise.

          Not easy. Not impossible.

          If we show it can work — even once or twice — it becomes a template for future challenges.

          Once the challenges are perceived as a real threat, the Dem establishment will move. At least on big issues.

          Nothing, no one, and no idea is more precious to them than their seats.

          Reply
          1. NYPaul

            How about organizing a bunch of Sanders’ “Hit Squads” that would identify, then organize Primaries against some of the more entrenched Luddites in key Democratic districts. It wouldn’t take more than a couple of inert, fossilized seat clutchers, like Feinstein, to come crashing down, and out, into oblivion in order to seed a turnaround.

            Reply
      2. Big River Bandido

        With all due respect, I think aiming for Senate seats is too high up the food chain. Primary elections at that level are really just a sham. In most races “the party” (that is to say, the members of the party committees) has already chosen its candidate — behind closed doors. Only in a rare handful of those races does a grassroots candidate emerge who is willing and able to mount an effective challenge against the party’s anointed candidate. And in those rare instances, it is still more rare for a challenger to prevail. This is why the “primarying” strategy hasn’t been too successful. Even when a primary challenger is successful…they end up being co-opted by the establishment because once they get in, they have little or no institutional support to maintain their position while still going against the establishment.

        If the Democrats are to be reformed/taken over, activists will need to start at the very bottom: local races, within the actual party structure. Go for the lowest positions within the party that actually have the power to choose the candidates in the first place. By taking over the local party committees, insurgent Democrats could begin to tilt the playing field in our favor, before the votes are even cast, by eliminating unfavorable candidates before they even get on the ballot.

        Once an insurgent Democrat movement gains local control, it can then raise its sights to the state legislative arena. Once it takes that over, it moves to the U.S. House. And *then* the U.S. Senate. All along the way, as they are doing this, the establishment toadies who are in elected offices higher up start to find that they are becoming isolated from their local political structures (just like well-meaning insurgents now who get elected and then co-opted for lack of support from below). By the time the old deadwoods realize they’re out of touch with their local party committees, it’s already too late and they’re like dead, hollow trees, just waiting to be toppled by a slight gust of unfavorable wind.

        Reply
        1. PH

          There is more than one way to skin a cat.

          Unusual times are more volitile, and people are more open to new approaches.

          I think a high profile splash will change the equation in DC and in the party. But you are quite right to say it will take an unusual effort. And my judgment is that effort should be concentrated on a few races.

          In addition, I fully endorse what you suggest.

          Reply
  8. Ignacio

    An alternative would be the rise of a candidate cynical enough to get the support of consultants and kicking them off after the election.

    They play dirty, you have to play in the same ground.

    Reply
  9. dbk

    This piece is spot on.

    Anybody in doubt can mosey on over to LGM, where two posts by front-pagers (Erik Loomis, Scott Lemieux) have been devoted to the topic in the past 48 hours. Each attracted nearly 500 comments (high even by LGM standards), and what each demonstrated was that what both of the posters were trying to argue – that Perez and Ellison were both equally progressive, both would be fine for the DNC going forward, and Bernie Sanders’ supporters should basically suck it up and get with the program – is absolutely not the case. And LGM has not a few high-information commenters.

    Comments were divided and there was some trolling on the first thread, but there were plenty of serious commenters who disagreed with the posters; in fact, both threads just went to prove how deep the rift between these two groups has become.

    The general attitude of Perez supporters and those who chimed in with “Oh, they’re both equally progressive and either would be fine, let’s just get on with it already because unity” seemed to be that the DNC isn’t important anyway except for the Presidential election cycle, and that State and local chairs do all the real work. To this I would say “Huh?” An overall strategy, a regional strategy, and a state-by-state strategy aren’t important? Since when?

    The establishment Demo crowd also seems to feel there’s no point in (a) fielding candidates where Republicans seem to have a lock or (b) where DINOs seem firmly entrenched in red states. I can understand not wasting resources pointlessly, but there are plenty of members of Congress who could be challenged by a hard primary fight. This take on the 2018 cycle seems not to be in fashion, however.

    Anyway, if anyone has an hour or five to while away on those two threads, they’re a pretty convincing example of Q.E.D.

    Reply
  10. Alex Morfesis

    As strumer gave way to trepoff who then gave way to prince golitzin who then watched rodzianko demand the czar form a new govt…and as workers had gone on strike in early january at munition factories, leaving russian soldiers with nothing but bayonets…

    No one could imagine, 100 years ago, this would be the last four weeks of the czar…

    I think tom perez will do a great imitation of prince golitzin…the party will collapse within 60 days of his insertion

    Reply
      1. Altandmain

        They would rather lose badly with Perez than win with a Bernie Sanders type person.

        The election showed that. They would rather lose with Clinton than win with Bernie Sanders.

        Reply
        1. WheresOurTeddy

          Losing with Clinton allows a Restoration masquerading as #Resistance – remember how righteous everyone was under Herr Bush and the Oilmen?

          And how all those policies continued (while the criticism stopped) once an acceptable puppet took over?

          Sanders winning is the Apocalypse for the grifter class.

          Speaking of the #Resistance, kinda disappointing that convicted rapist, kidnapper, torturer, and murderer Donna Hylton was a featured speaker at the Women’s March:

          With Friends Like These…
          http://www.snopes.com/2017/01/30/donna-hylton-background/

          Reply
  11. notabanker

    So where does Brand New Congress fit into their plans? Ignore it and it will go away?

    These are Berniecrats recruiting bi-partisan candidates to run on a consolidated platform. I am not affiliated or shilling for them, but it seems to me this has the ability to gain significant momentum and specifically designed to undercut both the DNC and RNC.

    We’re not Trump has already failed at the polls, and they are not going to unify the Sanders supporters with that strategy. ” so long as they’re still in charge” pretty much nails it.

    Reply
    1. Deadl E Cheese

      They’re planning to, if they can’t block them entirely, co-opt the Brand New Congress like the GOP did with the Tea Party.

      That is, a slate of Berniecrats gets seduced by cash and media attention and power and backslide into becoming Clinton-Obama style corporate democrats. This is why I think that it’s important to have parallel organizations like unions and the DSA to put continual pressure onto that of the Berniecrats.

      http://www.carlbeijer.com/2017/01/liberals-are-already-working-to-co-opt_3.html

      People whose first major intellectual and emotional engagement with politics was as Deaniacs…became entrenched enough in the establishment that by 2016 they found themselves on the other side of familiar sounding arguments about a previously-obscure Vermont politician’s insurgent primary campaign.

      The promise and the peril of the current generation of people under thirty is that they very much hate the Republican Party but they don’t like the Democratic Party very much either… If that mass of people remains where they were throughout the 2016 election, they’ll be a potentially dangerous force…

      I am not sure how much more explicit Yglesias could be. For elite Democrats, the primary and decisive advantage of an Ellison win is his influence with Sanders voters. But this isn’t just about his ability to bring them to the polls – when Yglesias writes that Dean voters moved to “the other side of familiar sounding arguments” about politics and policy and “became entrenched enough in the establishment”, he writes that approvingly. The hope is not that liberal Democratics will cooperate with the “new people and new energy” that Sanders brought into American politics; the hope is that the establishment will co-opt this movement, just as it did with Howard Dean.

      Reply
      1. Deadl E Cheese

        The endgame for the Berniecrats right now is like what happened with the Tea Party. Use their energy for a short-term juice, mitigate the worst of the damage, and then seduce them with institutional goodies.

        There will be some fallout damage, like what happened with Todd Akins and Cantor losing his seat, but on the whole the TP has been advantageous for the GOP. And now that they’re drained of money and energy, they have outlived their usefulness and the GOP (at least until Trump came along) has backslid to its wan Bushite posturing.

        Reply
        1. Altandmain

          The anger that spawned Trump is in significant overlap with the anger that spawned the Tea Party.

          The have very real and still unaddressed economic grievances. Unless those are addressed or the demographic behind the Tea Party begins to die, this won’t change.

          In the case of the Bernie Sanders supporters, many are Generation Y. Dying out from old age is not a huge issue. Not yet.

          Reply
      2. Nippers dad

        I read yesterday about another organization, We Will Replace You, that sounded like it was meant to fill that. Gap. A standalone group that does nothing but catalogue and publicize Democratic malfeasance would work well in tandem with Brand New Congress, and wouldn’t have the exposure to cooptation that an explicitly candidate driven org would have.

        Reply
      3. Praedor

        Unions are out. They cannot be counted upon as a source of strength or power because the Republicans AND DEMOCRATS have gutted them for decades until the point of today: no power, little money, no influence (the Dem Party IGNORES THEM now).

        Reply
  12. mad as hell.

    It’s still ringing in my ears.

    “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Sen. Chuck Schumer.

    So we have the leader of the senate minority giving advice on taking on the American spy agencies.
    Don’t these guys know what they sound like?

    Reply
  13. Arizona Slim

    Where did those Bernie supporters go? A lot of us Demexited after last year’s primary season.

    Me? I went back to being an Independent after the AZ primary. Massive vote suppression here, and the Democrats did nothing about it.

    Reply
  14. John Wright

    I suspect the Democrats will conduct their business in the same way some old line industrial companies in the USA have when they see their market disappearing, try to promote a new face (do an acquisition) or hope to survive on the existing shrinking businesses (Eastman Kodak).

    Maybe Obama was the attempted “new face”?

    The Democrats at the top LIKE the current system that pays themselves and their families well.

    Only compete irrelevance, with the shutdown of the money flowing in, when Democrats can’t deliver the legislation the elite wants, will cause the Democrats to change.

    If they can’t deliver the votes/voters or their votes don’t matter to pass new legislation the funding will dry up.

    To judge by my Democratic state, it is not that our prominent Democratic leaders, such as very wealthy “glass ceiling breakers” Pelosi and Feinstein, have been looking out for the typical “low-information” voter.

    I can’t imagine them changing, the system is still working for them, just as senior executives at failing companies make sure their pay and pensions are secure.

    Perhaps Obama’s lasting legacy is the hastened irrelevance of the Democratic Party.

    Reply
  15. maria gostrey

    abt 25 years ago, working at a “progressive” nonprofit, i was struck by how often i heard the word “folks”.

    since then ive paid attention to the use of this word & have often found – as at the nonprofit – it used by credentialed “liberals” as a way to gloss over views which differ from the approved party line, all while wanting to sound like we are all in this together so there is no need to bring up uncomfortable topics – uncomfortable, they mean, for credentialed “liberals”.

    perez uses it at least 6 times.

    run!

    Reply
  16. aliteralmind

    …it was true for many Sanders supporters who failed to turn out in general election as well.

    How many Bernie people did turn out, but voted for Trump in revenge for Bernie being stolen from them by the Democratic Party? I think it’s a small but substantial margin that helped push Trump over the edge/sank Hillary once and for all.

    Reply
    1. Deadl E Cheese

      It’s really hard to say without exit polls.

      However, note that Trump’s vote-% over Romney (which, accounting for population growth, was entirely static by raw numbers) came from his improvement with racial minorities. You can make a very good case that what caused Clinton’s defeat wasn’t the WWC/Berniebros but working class PoC deciding that the heir of the Deporter-In-Chief Judas Goat Obama wasn’t that much better for their future than Donald Trump.

      Of course, Democrats will absolutely NOT discuss how a guy who kickstarted his campaign with Heartland ethnonationalism managed to lose about 6% of absolute nonwhite vote (not voter turnout, absolute preference) over the self-deportation plutocrat. Democrats are whiny and entitled, but are also above all-else cowardly and would rather complain about phantom Berniebros than enter the minefield that is PoC defections.

      Not just because they literally have no idea how to do outreach other than superficial paeans to cosmopolitanism (of which an honest assessment of racial preferences would ruin) but also because Democrats are seriously not mentally prepared to discuss politics in any terms other than electoralism. The idea that Latinx might be able to fight for their rights more effectively under Trump than Clinton despite the legislative and law enforcement crackdown is not only horrifying to them, but incomprehensible.

      Reply
      1. aab

        Made more so by the problem that many of those goodthinking, liberal Democrats don’t actually want Latinx to fight for their rights and actually win.

        Reply
    2. Altandmain

      Considering how narrow Trump’s margin of victory was in many of the Midwest swing states and Florida, that may very well have been enough to decide the election.

      Reply
        1. Deadl E Cheese

          If the Democrats were earnestly looking for each and every factor that led them to defeat so that they could plug up as many holes as they could, that’d be one thing.

          But they’re clearly just fishing for a convenient dolchstoßlegende.

          It’s a politically useless dolchstoßlegende, because not only do they have no plan to deal with it but the mere act of uselessly complaining about it will worsen the problem, but liberals were never worried too much about political efficacy. They downright resent basic retail politics, even.

          Reply
  17. Figaro

    I’m new here. I used to post at firedoglake but gave up on changing the system after Obama’s first two years. Thank you all for this highly intelligent comments section.

    We already know how to change the system and it is super easy. Withhold your vote. If I were still an activist, I would go to one of those crowdfunding sites and fund a billboard to be placed in Sacramento to be run after the DNC vote that says, “the people who lost to Donald Trump are still in control of the Democratic Party, withhold your vote from Pelosi and Feinstein until they get the message.”

    In fact, we need to run a full fledged Withhold Your Vote campaign to counteract the narrative that one must vote or you are a bad person. I don’t have much hope that the state Dem party would ever allow a primary challenge in CA but they can’t manufacture votes. If we can create a space where it is not only legitimate but patriotic and responsible to withhold your vote, we could regain the power that the vote was intended to give us.

    Reply
    1. Altandmain

      The withhold your vote campaign should be most aggressively targeted in the swing states.

      That will really get to them. Even a small percentage point there could very well decide the election – as 2016 showed.

      In the Democrats case, even worse, there are signs that the Midwest may be turning Red. That puts even more pressure on the Democrats if such a campaign takes off.

      Reply
    2. PH

      I think you underestimate how smug the Blue Dogs are. Simply losing elections teaches them nothing. They assume that they know the only way to win in purple states, and if petulant Progressives sabotage them, well those dirty hippies are too stupid for words.

      Withholding a vote is not enough.

      We must find good Progressive candidates and win BOTH the primary and general elections.

      Then we are a real threat to their view of the world and their clique networks.

      Much harder to do than simply withholding a vote, but I think it is the minimum we need to do to move in a better direction.

      Otherwise, all we do is ensure Republican rule.

      Reply
      1. hunkerdown

        Government’s legitimacy is a function of turnout. In that case, the vote is withheld not only from Team Blue, but from the system itself. An election in which two citizens vote red and one citizen votes blue doesn’t actually matter. Likewise, an election in which only 10% of eligible voters affirm the system by casting a ballot in it has much less freedom to maneuver and much less power to dictate terms, which is almost never a bad thing against a growth-oriented Establishment. This is an important distinction and a common blind spot for those who believe management creates its own mandate.

        Reply
  18. Portia

    establishment Dems new “white moderates”?

    Letter from Birmingham Jail (ext)

    By Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., 16 April 1963

    “First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

    Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

    Reply
  19. Avalon Sparks

    Just commenting that there are some great discussions and comments on this essay. I’ve been watching closely how the Democratic ‘leadership’ is responding to their crisis, and I enjoyed reading the intelligent and thoughtful insights from the readers here.

    This site is so helpful to my mental health when it comes to worrying about the US Oligarchy. Just knowing that other people ‘get it’ is a big relief.

    Reply
  20. Seamus Padraig

    Shorter Perez: We’re a big-tent party. Even the corrupt have a seat.

    This really reminds me of the statement released by the Clinton campaign back in early November, right before the election, finally breaking Hillary’s total silence on the DAPL protests up till then:

    We received a letter today from representatives of the tribes protesting the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Now, all of the parties involved — including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes — need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. [Emphasis mine.]

    That’s right: the interests of the contractors profiting off the pipeline are equal to the interests of Indians living there!

    Reply
    1. Darius

      Just like after Honduran coup, Hillary called for new elections, not the restoration of the constitutionally elected government. With her, you always can count on the back stab so I was never with her.

      Reply
  21. CJA

    Look up and join your local Progressive Democrats of America group. Their charter is to take over the Dem Party from the inside like the tea baggers did to the Rethug Party. I think its our only shot and real change but I am closely watching what Bernie says and does. Redistricting in 2020 will lock in permanent gerrrymandering for a generation if we can’t flip the House or Senate in ’18.

    Reply
  22. Pelham

    It appears that the Sanders people have insufficient leverage.

    Just as Sanders’ refusal during the primaries to hold out the possibility of running as a third-party candidate — even after the disclosure of the DNC emails — left him far weaker than he needed to be, his supporters now have little to work with short of threatening to leave the party unless certain minimum demands are met. Getting big money completely out of the party should be first on the list.

    Reply

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