Yesterday, Democratic state Senator Steve Roberts launched a primary challenge against one of the most-- if the most-- progressive members in the House, Cori Bush. The premise of Roberts' campaign is that Bush voted to hold the line and vote against the infrastructure bill. That turned out to be a very prescient move since the minute Manchin and Sinema got their way on the infrastructure bill, they torpedoed Biden's far more important Build Back Better proposal. Roberts began his campaign by trying to mislead St Louis voters. And, by the way, with just 6 exceptions, the Progressive Caucus made the colossal error of bending to pressure from Pelosi and Biden and prematurely giving up the Hold The Line strategy. Just 6... that was it. The one piece of leverage anyone had to use on Manchin and the whole Democratic Party let it go, making the most reactionary-- and corrupt-- Democrat in the Senate the de facto leader of the Party. Roberts may think he's funny using that against Cori but she should be celebrated for courageously sticking up for working families-- along with AOC, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Jamaal Bowman.
Does anyone else even deserve to call themselves progressives? Come to think of it, the Congressional Progressive Caucus didn't support Cori when she took on a corrupt product of mindless nepotism-- just like they didn't support AOC or Ayanna Pressley. The Congressional Progressive PAC... isn't all that progressive-- and isn't bold at all. One of the co-chairs, Mark Pocan, is leading the efforts to bamboozle progressives into backing establishment Wall Street shill Hakeem Jeffries for the post-Pelosi party leader position.
Pocan is also the one who decided the most important thing in the world-- more so than values or policy-- was to keep the CPC the biggest caucus within the House Democratic Conference, so he fluffed it up by selling insurance policies to corrupt and conservative Democrats in blue districts. Sign up and pay your dues and you get to tell the poor suckers you represent that you're a progressive. Off the top of my head, there are over a dozen New Dems-- members of the Wall Street-owned centrist caucus-- in the Progressive Caucus: Donald Norcross (NJ), a Vice Chair of the caucus, no less, Don Beyer (VA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Brendan Boyle (PA), Shontel Brown (OH), Andre Carson (IN), Madeleine Dean (PA), Sara Jacobs (CA), Steven Horsford (NV), Veronica Escobar (TX), Joe Morelle (NY), Jimmy Panetta (CA), Darren Soto (FL), Adam Smith (WA), Lori Trahan (MA) and Juan Vargas (CA). Minnesota New Dem Angie Craig appears to have finally quit the CPC.
Today they either have endorsed or are about to endorse Republican-pretending-to-be-a-Democrat Robert Garcia against kick-ass, fire-breathing progressive Cristina Garcia. Robert, the very definition of a values-free careerist, also claims he's a progressive-- a bad joke that caucus members should see right through, especially the ones in the Los Angeles Basin.
Most of the Blue America-endorsed candidates told me this morning that they are disappointed in the CPC but plan to join it and work to reform it from inside... most, but not all. And we'll come back to that in a moment. Let's take Ruth Luevanos in the Santa Clarita-Antelope Valley area congressional district. Ruth's an impeccable, proven progressive and she's up against a conservative establishment three-time loser. "I have yet to receive the support of the Congressional Progressive Caucus," she told me. "Given the fact that the vice chair recently endorsed one of my corporate opponents I doubt they will endorse someone like myself who actually has the political courage of someone who fights for their progressive platform and who is not simply a PINO. If elected I would join the CPC because there are still some actual progressives like Congresswoman Cori Bush and someone needs to hold this caucus accountable so they actually start supporting candidates who fight for their platform."
On the other had, northwest Washington grassroots progressive Jason Call isn't having any of that. He's fed up with the CPC and has no intention of joining up with them. "I’m doing an endorsement interview with a large and well-respected progressive group next week. First item on the questionnaire was 'Will you join the Progressive Caucus?' My answer of No, could have lost me the endorsement outright, but as it turned out, they were actually enthusiastic about interviewing me after they read why. I wrote, 'Before this No answer disqualifies me, please read why-- I will not join the CPC until they choose to dissociate themselves from crossover membership with the New Democrats coalition and members who get a majority of their funding from Corporate PACs. The qualifications for CPC membership are virtually nonexistent. I couldn’t be in the same caucus as Adam Smith (for instance) and pretend we share the same values. I would seek to form an #ActuallyProgressive caucus that demands membership be actually progressive. Should the CPC revise their membership requirements, I would similarly reconsider my position.' I am enthused to hear that many of my candidate colleagues are open to the idea of an #ActuallyProgressive caucus, and I look forward to this coalition as we take office in Jan 2023. Of course, it will be open to currently elected and committed progressive Reps like Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush. We have to build a voting bloc against corporatists. The entire future of the planet is riding on it."
New Jersey progressive David Ocampo, the only candidate in his race who isn’t taking money from corporate PACs and lobbyists said that when he's elected he is planning on joining the CPC. "There are a growing number of Democrats pretending to be progressive so that they can either benefit from grassroots support or ward off challengers from the left. If we want real change, we as progressives need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and I believe the best way to set those standards within the Progressive Caucus is from the inside. It's not enough to say the right things; leaders have to deliver. That's why I'm proud to be one of the original signers of the Green New Deal Champions pledge alongside leaders like Nina Turner and AOC. In addition to not accepting money from fossil fuel PACs, lobbyists, and corporate executives-- I've also committed to co-sponsoring 10 key pieces of Green New Deal legislation within 6 months of my swearing-in. We should replicate that model so that being "progressive" is tied to concrete commitments, not just platitudes. Empty promises might work at a fundraiser, but voters aren't buying it anymore. I'm the only candidate in my race who has made commitments on critical issues. My opponent, Rob Menendez Jr., has said he aims to tackle the climate crisis but hasn't actually stated what he plans to support. Just last week, Menendez Jr. raised over $200,000 in one night from special interest groups at a fundraiser hosted by his father, Senator Bob Menendez. Meanwhile, every day I speak with voters who feel disillusioned; they tell me the Democratic party hasn't been delivering for them. If we don't start delivering then this is going to be a tough year for Democrats across the country.
Northern Virginia progressive candidate Ally Dalsimer sent me a long e-mail after I asked her if the CPC is supporting her:
No, the CPC is not supporting my campaign in any way. To be honest, this is incredibly disappointing. As your readers know, Howie, truly grassroots people-driven campaigns like mine and like those of Blue America's other endorsed candidates struggle every day to get the name recognition they need to win against long-term entrenched incumbents who, regardless of what they might say, continue to vote in ways that promote the interests of their corporate and big donors.
My opponent, Gerald Connolly, is in the top 10 for taking money from the military industrial complex. He is a war hawk who calls himself a 'friend in progressive causes' but does not support universal healthcare, does not support the right of all Americans to vote, does not support universal access to free pre-K through public college/trade school, and who takes corporate dollars including from the oil&gas industry. He isn't even a member of the Progressive Caucus, but instead a proud centrist New Dem. Unlike him, I fully support policies that benefit the 99% of Americans who care about healthcare, education, living wage, the environment, and ending the corrupting involvement of corporate influence in our electoral system.
If we are to make meaningful progress towards people-driven policy outcomes, we have got to get more of us elected. It would really help achieve that goal if the ones already in gave those of us trying to join the fight a helping hand-- a hand up, not a hand out... maybe a shout out on Twitter or maybe a full endorsement, maybe showing up to a fundraiser or offering some campaign staff time, maybe just offering some advice and guidance. There are a couple Representatives who are giving this hand up to a few candidates, like Cori Bush, who showed up to support progressive Black Women candidates at an event earlier this week. These actions are huge, but most of the CPC has been silent. If progressive elected officials really want reinforcements in Congress, they need to risk admonishment from the centrists, be brave and bold, and get out in the field those reinforcements!
The CPC isn't going to endorse Denver progressive Neal Walia, anymore than they endorsed Ro Khanna or AOC when they ran. In fact, he told me today, "The Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed my opponent, Congresswoman Degette, earlier this year. Congresswoman Degette is someone who has accepted millions of dollars from corporate PACs over the course of her 25 year career in Congress, does not support the Green New Deal, and is not a champion of treating healthcare as a human right. While I fully intend to join the CPC once I am elected into office, it's clear there isn't a clear standard of what being 'progressive' means in the caucus."
San Diego area progressive Joaquin Vasquez is much harsher towards the CPC and is running for a seat held by a crooked conservative New Dem, Juan Vargas, who was allowed to join the CPC even though Progressive Punch rates his record a "C" grade. Joaquin told me that "Much of the progressive caucus is made up of establishment corporate Democrats. Unsurprisingly, the caucus ends up admitting almost any member of Congress who decides to pay the dues and join its ranks, including conservatives calling themselves Democrats. In the case of my race for the new CA-52 congressional district, they are supporting entrenched Rep. Juan Vargas, who has, as recently as the last few months, been changing his messaging to mislead voters into believing he is progressive. The Caucus' membership bylaws are in dire need of renewal. It needs a clean up to weed out all corporate funded members, with specific rules included that fill loopholes regarding the no corporate PACs money pledge. This should include not taking a dime above a very minor amount of campaign donations from professionals in industries like fossil fuels, insurance, developers, real estate, pharmaceuticals, private prisons, nor police associations. Say, $200 like the No Fossil Fuels Money Pledge."
Joaquin concluded by pledging that if he gets elected, he will join the CPC "and unapologetically, publicly oppose the admission and endorsement of any Blue Dog/New Democrat, to the extent that I will endorse their challengers from the Left and campaign for them. I will make the effort of reforming the caucus, and if there is pushback, I will waste no time in working with unbought colleagues to establish a separate caucus in the hope that we truly represent the people and not ever allow ourselves to sell out. This endorsing the so-called "moderates" and conservatives thing is ridiculous and disgraceful, and I cannot wait to get to Congress and show them how the work for the people is actually done.