‘Gatekeeper Mentality’ of DCCC Blacklist Adding to Divisions Within Democratic Party

Jerri-Lynn here. Surprisingly, this Common Dreams post doesn’t include a link to the New York Times article it analyzes, which discusses the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) decision to blacklist vendors who work with anyone who challenges a sitting member of the House Democratic Caucus. Here it is: Insurgent Democrats, Many of Them Women, Worry a New Party Policy Will Block Them.
By Eoin Higgins, staff writer, Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

Progressive Democrats are going on record with their displeasure over the establishment higher-up’s decision to protect incumbents, a reflection of the party’s division over a vendor blacklist.

“The only time they support getting more women is when male incumbents leave or die.”
—Lizz Winstead

On Sunday, The New York Times published an article from reporter Jennifer Steinhauer in which a number of the party’s rising stars took public positions against a March decision by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to blacklist vendors who work with anyone—including primary challengers—who run against an incumbent Democrat.

As Common Dreams reported at the time, the policy says the DCCC “will not conduct business with, nor recommend to any of its targeted campaigns, any consultant that works with an opponent of a sitting member of the House Democratic Caucus.”

Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), who won her seat by beating fellow political newcomer Mary Glassman in a primary contest for retiring Rep. Elizabeth Esty in 2018 before winning the general election, said that the policy is choking off the possibility of fresh ideas and and a new generation of leaders.

“If I waited my turn, I wouldn’t be here,” Hayes told the Times. “There is a gatekeeper mentality that sometimes can diminish new ideas.”

That point was echoed by Steve Welchert, a spokesperson for Crisanta Duran, who is challenging Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) in next year’s primary.

“It is having a chilling effect on everyone’s capacity to move forward,” said Welchert, who also called the DCCC policy “bullying.”

Other Democrats Steinhauer spoke to were more specific in their criticism, citing the party’s incumbent bench of white men as the main thing that will be protected by the new rules. Two-thirds of the caucus’s longest-serving members are white, and two-thirds are men.

“It is hard enough for challengers, for a lot of reasons,” said the consultant, Amy Pritchard, who worked last year for Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, in her successful campaign to defeat a 10-term Democratic incumbent. “And this policy is a bridge too far. I’d like to see a majority of women in Congress, and it’s not going to happen with this policy.”


The new policy will most likely block candidates seeking to follow in the footsteps of Ms. Pressley, who is black, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who is of Puerto Rican descent, both of whom defeated veteran white male Democrats last year, Michael Capuano and Joseph Crowley.

Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, in an angry tweet, sounded off on the policy.

“The only time they support getting more women is when male incumbents leave or die,” said Winstead.

“It makes sense that the incumbent faction would try to block the challengers,” writer David Menefee-Libey said on Twitter, adding that he was referring both to candidates and the entrenched consultant class that runs Democratic campaigns.

Menefee-Libey’s read was similar to that of NBC News reporter Jonathan Allen, who put the DCCC action in the context of where the organization gets its money—and who it protects. They’re not necessarily the same people, said Allen.

“The DCCC is an incumbent-protection organization funded in part by member dues,” Allen said. “But, over time, its budget has grown as a result of fundraising outside of members and their big-dollar supporters. So, they’re now asking grassroots to fund incumbent-protection services.”

Thus far the policy has only been softly enforced, but it’s had an effect.

In April, Common Dreams reported that Marie Newman, an Illinois Democrat challenging anti-choice incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), was having trouble finding people to work on her campaign due to the blacklist. Earlier that month, a story at The Intercept showed the same issue was being navigated by McKayla Wilkes, who is running to replace longtime Democrat Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

“Progressive challengers like Marie Newman will see more of this cronyism,” said Progressive Change Committee’s Marissa Barrow.

“But,” Barrow said, “the progressive grassroots will have their backs.”

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  1. divadab

    Why would anyone volunteer for a party that is actively working against their interests? Why would any working person give the Dem party any money at all (as if the Party needs it from other than the .1% for whom they work)? Both parties are as corrupt as corrupt can be in a systematically-corrupt political apparatus. Devoted to maintaining the status quo, except that both parties also are trying to destroy any aspect of the federal government that benefits ALL citizens – because their funders demand more government money go only to a select few which is them. And in order to accomplish what the wealthy demand, the political class lies habitually (Hillary Clinton: “I have a public position, and a private position”). And now their bright idea to go against Trump is flipping Joe Biden? Another flipping aw shucks salesman who takes his orders from MBNA?

    I just shake my head at the stupidity of people who think either party works for them. I guess you do get the government you deserve.

    1. Cal2

      Julius Nyerere,
      “The United States is also a one party state but, with typical American extravagance, it has two of them!”

      Whenever we get a call from the Democrats,
      (somebody who had our # before must have given a lot of money), we ask them:

      “After Bernie is the nominee, we’ll send you a thousand bucks.
      Until then you get nothing. No, I don’t care about defeating Jeff Sessions…”

      “It’s really important to take back the senate, can you send just X$?”
      “Run better candidates then. By the way, we will vote for Trump if Bernie is not the nominee.”
      The calls are recorded. Maybe someone will take heed.

      1. John k

        They can’t listen to this message. They’re owned by their donors, and donors job 1 is to defeat Bernie, not trump.
        In fact, I suspect the donors have said ‘if you can’t do job 1, what good are you?’
        Bernie threatens to break many golden rice bowls.

        1. Jobs

          They are in the tricky position of talking loudly about defeating Trump while at the same time needing to fight the best candidates to defeat him.

    2. Oh

      The left wing of the Dim party needs to leave en masse and form a new party. While it will take time (several years) they need to nominate their own candidate in each state, one by one. Only if they play the long game will they have any chance of changing the duopoly that cons the people and enriches the upper level 10%. There are no easy solutions. This problem took years to rear its ugly head and it will take at least as long to be destroyed.

      All of us wanting an independent candidate and party need to support this break away.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If that happens, the emerging Real Democrat Party will need to do extreme vetting on every single person wanting to join at the volunteer or paid worker or visible-face member . . . . to prevent secret undercover Catfood Democrat agents from infiltrating the Real Democrat Party.

        The Real Democrat Party will need a large and powerful Intelligence-CounterIntelligence division. They will need to keep track of every single Democrat who was ever a Catfood Politician or a Catfood Delegate or a Catfood Staffer or connected to the Catfood Democrats in any way whatsoever. Every such person should be viewed as an AIDS virus looking to infect the Real Democrat Party and destroy its immune system so as to bring in more political AIDS-Catfood Democrats and attrit-degrade-destroy the Real Democrat Party.

        If even one single “former” Clintonite or Obamazoid or Pelosian or Hoyerite or etc. etc. is allowed into this new Party, this new Party will be destroyed.

  2. Ptb

    It is actually less of a “problem” for incumbents in competitive districts.

    In a lot of congressional districts, the Primary *is* the election, since the general is not competitive. And voters know it, and are thus not vulnerable to the usual fearmongering or mindless partisanship.

    Furthermore, in such districts, the incumbent rep’s voting record has to be defended. In other words, actual, vibrant democracy, just at the primary level. Something that sadly both parties oppose. At the request of big $ sponsors, who are right to be scared.

    Let’s remember that it’s not “the other party” the incumbents are scared of in most of these cases. (And big$ sponsors, almost never scared of that).

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      in rural Texas, the gop primary is often where the action is at…and if one wants some say in local issues(like sheriff), one must hold one’s nose and vote in that gop primary….the dem primary being top heavy, often with no local or even regional candidates at all.
      this serves to inflate the gop’s numbers(they think I’m a frelling republican, fer dog’s sake, because i cared more about the sheriff’s race than any others more than a decade ago), and skews the picture of the electorate used by dems and the media, big and little.
      a big part of this can be laid at the feet of the demparty, itself: a moribund and blind adherence to status quo-ism, an unwillingness to actually fight the gop, lest they be called names(and anger the Donors)…leading to a lack of enthusiasm at the grass level, and a withering of the Farm Team(nobody wants to run for office)
      all through obama’s terms, i made my own yard signs…because you couldn’t find any til after the election(!) and the dems had few, if any field offices or local presence(emails and phone numbers that didn’t work).

  3. Kenneth Gallaher

    There are many old time Democrats who need to be retired in favor of the new progressives.
    Hillary is an example – and you see where that got us.

    1. polecat

      Old ones dying off —

      Does the fruit fall very far from the crabapple tree, from both the blue branch, as well as the red …. Chelsea, anyone ?? … how about Megan ?? … Micah ?? … ‘spittleboy’ Kennedy ?? … Cuomo, son of .. Cuomo ??? … J.BrownManGood! ????? …

      I feel that New political cambium is generally a necessary thing … as long as any family scions wither on the stump !

      I can hardly wait to see what sour political ‘fruitwood’ might grow from, say, the current Ca. Gov, as an example …

  4. XXYY

    “It is hard enough for challengers, for a lot of reasons,” said the consultant, Amy Pritchard, who worked last year for Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, in her successful campaign to defeat a 10-term Democratic incumbent. “And this policy is a bridge too far. I’d like to see a majority of women in Congress, and it’s not going to happen with this policy.”

    I hate this kind of blatant sexism by any gender. If someone said “I’d like to see a majority of men in (some female dominated body)”, everyone would rightly fall down dead at the outrageous offensiveness of it all. But somehow women can make these kinds of statements in public and it’s supposed to be all woke and everything.

    The feminist movement wasn’t about privileging one gender or denegrating others, or building walls between people.

    If the last 20 years have taught us anything, it’s that good and bad people can come in any gender, age, race, orientation, culture, whatever.

    1. False Solace

      While I agree with the spirit of your comment, the reality is that only 20% of Congress are women. Policies that favor incumbents will preserve a stark gender disparity. It is not “blatant sexism” to point this out, nor is it “privileging one gender” to hope for a ratio that aligns more closely with the population at large in what is supposedly a representational democracy.

      For the exact same reasons, I would hope for a Congress composed of a representative ratio of millionaires to non-millionaires. Does it make me a blatant classist to espouse this wish?

      Now, there would be fewer objections to 4:1 or 10:1 or even 100:1 if the current system actually selected the best person, but that is clearly not the case. Most of the people in Congress are moral nematodes. The system needs change.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        If 50% of the Congress is women and every single woman in Congress is a Goldman-Sachs Oligarch, who or what is being represented?

  5. Donna

    An interesting series at Naked Capitalism would be the many ways that third party movements have been snuffed out since the Progressive Party was successful in the beginning of the 20th century. I pick up articles here and there but have never seen anything comprehensive. The most recent article I saw explained that in many states it is even more difficult to run at the local and state levels as a third party candidate than at the national because of the number of voters’ signatures required on the petition to run. So when the MSM and our Democratic reps say why don’t the Greens start at the bottom they know that is a very big ask. Of course, Democrats and Republicans have no hoops to jump through because no petition is required to be on the ballot. That is Democrats who get the nod from the powers that be.

    1. JBird4049

      The last permanently successful new national political party was the Republican Party in 1856-1860 and that only happened because like the current Democratic Party, the antecedent American Whig Party could not come to a consensus on slavery, and with the growing political violence turning into a small scale civil war between the pro and anti slavery factions, it just fell apart.

      Aside from the Progressives, there were moderately short term regional parties in the post Reconstruction South and elsewhere in the United States. There were also three national successful socialist and communist parties until the 1950s.

      That late 19th century Southern reforming party of socialist and pro small farmers leadership was shot and hanged out of existence. The three socialist/communist parties in the 20th were destroyed by the Red Scare and the often illegal tactics of the FBI, local police, as well as big businesses. Think of the Hollywood Blacklist.

      People tend to think of American politics as fairly peaceful when actually the past forty years has been an anomaly. The major parties as well as the big economic interest have been willing to to Americans the same things that they have done to other countries. It is just on a usually smaller scale and the legal system does tend to tamp it down. Most people regardless of ideology tend to dislike murder as a person tactic.

      However the KKK and the local police were used by the Southern elites very successfully. We have the alt right and its links to the military and many police departments. The left, including the unions, political parties, and even to some extent the many religions denomination have been willing to respond in kind. I think that it is going to get… entertaining soon.

    2. flora

      There’s a very interesting Wiki article about the US People’s Party of the 1880s-90s.

      It became for a time very successful. It took over the Kansas Legislature in 1890 winning 92 seats.


      After a politically disasterous year for populist parties in 1896, both the GOP and Dem parties lured populist party members to merge with one of the two established parties. Many state People’s Party or populist partyorganizations or individuals did so thinking it would give them more clout and their issues more prominence. They discovered too late their force was diluted by alliances – fusions with the larger parties. Instead of playing the Dems off against the GOP, they were submerged into the larger parties.


      “The Populist movement never recovered from the failure of 1896, and national fusion with the Democrats proved disastrous to the party. In the Midwest, the Populist Party essentially merged into the Democratic Party before the end of the 1890s.[71] In the South, the National alliance with the Democrats sapped the ability of the Populists to remain independent. Tennessee’s Populist Party was demoralized by a diminishing membership, and puzzled and split by the dilemma of whether to fight the state-level enemy (the Democrats) or the national foe (the Republicans and Wall Street). By 1900 the People’s Party of Tennessee was a shadow of what it once was.[72][page needed] A similar pattern was repeated elsewhere throughout the South, where the Populist Party had previously sought alliances with the Republican Party against the dominant state Democrats, including in Watson’s Georgia. ”

      It’s interesting that during the OWS protests both the Dem and GOP estab sounded desperate to know just what it was the OWS movement wanted, and who its leaders were, and what its demands were; not necessarily so either party would fight for those causes, imo, but so both parties would better know how to make ‘come hither’ noises to the OWS supporters.

  6. William Hunter Duncan

    Presumably if a Clintonite challenged Bernie Sanders or AOC in the primary, the only vendors blacklisted would be the one’s working with the incumbent?

  7. stevelaudig

    For the time being those who control the DCCC, taking 2016 and since as the evidence, have shown themselves unworthy of support for their poor judgment [Clinton II as the preferred]; corruption [‘fixing’ is for Clinton II]; venality [taking corporate money is taking bribe money, there’s no other way to characterize it. Ask yourself, does the corporate giver view this $5K [or pick a sum] as a ‘contribution’ or an ‘investment/purchase of influence or outcome or vote’?; simple cowardice; blindness [the middle is over for a while, and has been since the assassination attempt on Clinton I [the impeachment]; poor judgment [betting the ‘house’, as it were, on ‘Russiagate’] and now vindictiveness [this policy of choking those who would assist those who would challenge non-responsive of neo-Republican Democratic incumbents, Lipinski just being one].

  8. Felix_47

    As nutty as he is…..it looks like Trump is going to win the next election unless Sanders gains traction with the democratic establishment. Most of the democrats I know that spout anyone but Trump really mean anyone but Sanders. I wonder why the upper middle class lawyers and doctors, professors and professionals I associate with, all democrats, are so afraid of Sanders. Could it be that national health insurance would decimate personal injury cases since they are based on a multiple of medical costs? Could it be that the others are afraid that funding for unnecessary surgery and other medical care will be cut? Are they afraid of potential malpractice tort reform.. Are they afraid that with a better safety net not everyone will want a university education for a few hundred thousand? Law, education and medical care are huge parts of the US economy that are not productive and their parasitic structure is really unique in the civilized world.

  9. Jen


    “Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), recently announced that they would prohibit the organization from doing business with organizations, consultants, and vendors that support primary challengers to incumbents. The DCCC is using their financial leverage to intimidate and blacklist many hardworking people in our movement in a blatant attempt to protect a handful of out-of-touch incumbents.

    We’re launching The Blacklist to fight back and provide potential primary challengers with a database of go-to vendors, organizations, and consultants who will continue to support efforts to usher in a new generation of leaders into the Democratic Party.”


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