Is The End Of Progressives In Government Nigh?
Every electoral cycle has it's top sewer money villains-- dozens of single-purpose SuperPACs connected to DC's most odious couple, Nancy Jacobson and Mark Penn, have been leading the pack in recent years. This cycle, at least so far, the war against progressives being orchestrated by Hakeem Jeffries, doesn't seem to include Jacobson and Penn. I have an uneasy, queasy feeling about that.
Most mornings these days, I wake up and check the latest FEC filings for Democratic Majority For Israel (DMFI) and AIPAC's SuperPAC (United Democracy Project) but today I found out that even the reports on the FEC website are not up today date. for example, the latest DMFI sewer money deployed according to the FEC site was on May 27-- $37,952.38 to Sixth Street Strategies for a smear campaign against Marie Newman. But that doesn't even scratch the surface of what they've been up to this week. DMFI is already running $400,000 worth of broadcast and cable ads against Marie, money that won't be on the FEC page for another couple of days!
And the latest AIPAC (UDP) independent expenditure, also on the 27th, is more money going to support Republican-pretending-to-be-a-Democrat Robert Garcia with another direct mail smear of Cristina Garcia (via MCMS LLC), this one for $120,431.74.
DMFI is using its tawdry tactics against Marie Newman in the latest iteration of its war against progressives. (Hakeem Jeffries-- with his coordination and direction of these national efforts-- is riding under the radar and the media, even the best media, leaves him out of it; HUGE mistake.) The Israel lobby has taken on a dozen progressive challengers this cycle, all progressive people of color, mostly women: Nina Turner (OH), Summer Lee (PA), Erica Smith (NC), Nida Allam (NC), Jessica Cisneros (TX), Daniel Lee (CA), Cristina Garcia (CA), David Canepa (CA), Amy Vilela (NV), Michelle Vallejo (TX), Omari Hardy (FL) and Attica Scott (KY).
Now they have begun taking on progressive incumbents-- so far Newman, Andy Levin (MI) and Rashida Tlaib (MI)-- it's a new ballgame. Apparently, Jacobson and Penn, who are tied up in multiple lawsuits and several investigations, are laying low this cycle and pointing their donors to their ally, Mark Mellman, owner of DMFI. As far as I can tell, going after Democratic incumbents isn't something Pelosi has ever condoned, which makes the Hakeem Jeffries role in all this even more interesting. Who would have ever imagined in a million years he had the guts to go up against Pelosi?
The scurrilous and deceitful ad that DMFI just started running against Newman accuses her of "promising a taxpayer-funded job to an opponent if he agreed not to run against her." Th Ethics Committee found the complaint without merit but her sleazy opponent, corrupt New Dem Sean Casten, is basing his whole campaign on it-- as are his allies. Casten has a history of illegally coordinating with sewer money SuperPACs and is under FEC investigation for illegally colluding between his campaign, and a dark money SuperPAC, which was run by his father. He appears to be doing the same thing with DMFI. He’s taken nearly $1 million in corporate PAC money including from Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banks and from big insurance companies like Humana. In other words, he takes bribes. Newman doesn't. So of course he and his allies want to accuse her of doing what's he's guilty of. DMFI says it's "pro-Israel," but its ads never mention Israel. Here's Newman's own ad-- just released-- responding very succinctly to DMFI without mentioning them. Worth watching:
A couple of weeks ago, The Intercept published an extensive look at what DMFI and AIPAC are up to by Austin Ahlman. He wrote that "The gravity of the political moment is forcing at least one purportedly progressive pro-Israel group to pick a side. J Street, an organization that has at times struggled to operate in the gap between traditional pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and unapologetically anti-occupation Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, is leading the counteroffensive against the flood of cash that AIPAC and DMFI are pouring into Democratic primaries. The group has spent over $100,000 backing progressive Jessica Cisneros over AIPAC-endorsed anti-choice incumbent Henry Cuellar, and its statements indicate plans to multiply that amount by 10 before the cycle concludes. J Street’s conduit PAC has also raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for progressive candidates."
Logan Bayroff, J Street’s vice president of communications, told The Intercept that while the group lacks the funding to match AIPAC and DMFI dollar for dollar, its spending does make a difference, especially by providing evidence that progressive Jews and women of color are being dishonestly accused of being antisemitic or anti-Israel. “We are trying to have the backs of those who represent the true values and views of the majority of American Jews and the majority of pro-Israel Americans who don’t believe the AIPAC line,” he said. “We’re doing what we can to push back and call out the smears.”
But he acknowledged that J Street’s actions alone are not enough to counter the “onslaught” facing marginalized progressives. “This is an extremely dangerous time,” he said, “and a lot more needs to be done to call out what AIPAC and their allies are doing and to find ways to mobilize to counter it.”
...Beth Miller, the political director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, emphasized the urgency many Jewish activists feel to support progressive women of color who are willing to fight for Palestinian rights. She described the surge in activity from AIPAC and DMFI as an effort to “keep [voices like Lee and Smith’s] away from Washington at all costs.” Miller says it is important to send a message to the women of color under attack that “progressive American Jews have your back.”
In an interview with The Intercept, [Andy] Levin also expressed alarm at “the extent to which women of color in particular seem to be subject to attacks.” He said his endorsements of Lee and Smith are part of a broader effort to “be a bridge for Jewish people, and Muslim people, and African American people, and immigrants, and everybody else who might be subjected to white supremacist attacks.” According to Levin, that solidarity, which he says “comes straight out of my Judaism,” is also essential to creating the peaceful and secure Israel that he supports. “[Israel’s future] totally depends on realizing the political and human rights of the Palestinian people,” he said.
Lee’s campaign echoed Levin’s call to unite in the face of AIPAC and DMFI’s attacks. In a statement provided to The Intercept, the Lee campaign said voters deserve leaders “who know that our struggles and our safety are interwoven,” and it underlined “the power and possibility of Jewish and Black solidarity” as a tool for fighting white supremacy.
That solidarity appears to be very thing some conservative pro-Israel activists fear most. On Tuesday, former Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman accused Levin of “using his Jewishness” as a cover for softness on the U.S.-Israel relationship. Foxman also pointed to Levin’s relationships with the only two Muslim women in Congress-- Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN)-- as evidence that Levin is weak on Israel and antisemitism. Levin has previously said that his friendship with Tlaib, a fellow Michigan representative who is Palestinian, is a model for the possible reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians.
Foxman’s statements echoed controversial language used by former AIPAC President David Victor in a widely circulated email to members of the Jewish community earlier this year. Victor, who retains considerable influence among Jewish political organizations, pointed to the alliances Levin has formed with progressive women of color like Omar, Tlaib, and Missouri’s Cori Bush to explain why he viewed Levin as the most “corrosive member of Congress to the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Victor goes on to say that Levin’s sincere claims that he is “a lifelong Zionist, proud Jew, and defender of Israel,” make him the “vanguard of [a] threat” to change what it means to support Israel.
Michigan Democratic activist Caryn Noveck, a founding board member of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus, put the stakes of such rhetoric in stark terms. “There’s white nationalist framing about how liberal white Jews are sort of the front for bringing in the people of color and the non-Christians,” she said. “To me, that framing about Andy Levin being the liberal white Jewish cover for these other supposedly more dangerous elements is like full-on Stormfront stuff-- full-on neo-Nazi.”
...Extremist parts of the American right have long found common cause with extremist parts of the Israeli right in their calls for unconditional support for Israel and their hostility toward disenfranchised people of color. As Washington Post national correspondent Phillip Bump has noted, over half of America’s evangelical Christians support Israel-- at least in part-- because of antisemitic religious doctrines that posit that Jews must return to Israel in order to facilitate the second coming of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, nearly half of Republicans believe in some form of the “great replacement” theory, which holds that there is a group of people-- often implied to be progressive Jews-- who seek to replace native-born Americans with immigrants in order to seize political power.
According to Noveck, Victor’s statements are also reminiscent of the culture that preceded the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Israeli prime minister who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995 for his efforts to pursue peace with Palestinians. “I was a kid, but I remember where I was when I heard on the radio in the car that Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated,” she said. “And there was a culture of incitement in Israel against the Jewish left. And it was coming straight from Bibi Netanyahu at the time, who was obviously part of the right-wing Jewish establishment in Israel.”
Noveck pointed out the similarities between Levin’s positions and Rabin’s. While she expressed pride in Levin’s approach, she also expressed fear that inciting language used by his detractors might make him and other Michigan Jews a target for white supremacist violence. “I’ll just say this: I go to the same synagogue as Andy Levin,” she said. “God forbid, someone sees ‘Andy Levin is the vanguard of the threat to Israel in Congress’ and goes to try and harm him and gets me instead sitting next to him.”
Like Levin, Noveck identifies as a pro-peace Zionist. She lamented the ongoing refusal to condemn rhetoric like Victor’s by leaders in high-profile Jewish and pro-Israel political organizations. (Spokespeople for AIPAC and DMFI declined to comment on Victor’s rhetoric.)
Noveck, who said she feels warmly toward Stevens and considers her a family friend, expressed particular dismay at the representative’s silence on Victor’s comments. In an interview with AIPAC after the comments were made public, Stevens praised Victor at length and emphasized how influential his thinking on Israel is to her own. She has given no indication that she takes issue with his exposed remarks. Her congressional office and campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Does [Stevens] really not understand how dangerous this rhetoric in support of her is to me and the entire local Jewish community?” Noveck said. “Does she not get it? Or does she not care? Because I don’t know which one is worse.”
I hope you caught the post from last night about the need we have as progressives to go beyond just counting on elected officials. Jonathan Bollag noted in Current Affairs that nothing truly transformative is going to ever get accomplished unless progressive social movements and organized labor are pushing mostly worthless politicians along the right path. "Clearly," he wrote, "the strategy of electing people who support progressive policies and trusting them to do the work of getting the policies passed, with superficial involvement from social movements at best, has failed. Progressive lawmakers must be part of, accountable to, and in daily dialogue with radical grassroots social movements. They must be willing to have an 'open clash,' with the Democratic establishment. They must understand that the left’s power comes from mobilizing and organizing, not private pleading and friendly negotiation."
I've been more disappointed than gratified with the members of Congress I've worked with. Marie Newman, Andy Levin and Rashida Tlaib are exceptions, rare exceptions... and worth supporting in this dire time of need when all this reactionary Republican money is being deployed against them by AIPAC and DMFI, directed by the most dangerous Democrat in the House. And believe me, in a few years you may look back and say, to yourself, 'Self, back in 2022 Howie warned us about Hakeem Jeffries. I should have paid attention when I had the chance to.' Meanwhile-- that thermometer is embedded so you can contribute to Marie, Andy and Rashida... please no-one else today, just those three. We need to protect them because, unlike most members of Congress, they're working to protect us.