The Democratic Party Is Self-Destructing At The Worst Possible Time
Yesterday, if you got past my reminiscences about my early experiences with dal makhani in New Delhi, you might have seen my self-flagellation about compromising— in light of the fascist threat— on never voting for lesser evil candidates. A reader responded by sending me Jason Zengerle’s NY Times piece from last week on how what he called the Democratic Party’s moderates vanishing. That’s how long it took me to suspend my suspension of writing mean things about the Democraps.
But let me start in a place where Zengerle never bothered to venture. What’s a moderate Democrat? Let’s talk about the House and let’s leave policy aside for a moment and just talk numbers. After corrupt conservative Blue Dog scumbag (ie- “moderate”) Filemon Vela resigned to takes dream job as a lobbyist, virtually handing the seat the far right-nut job Mayra Flores last month, just 220 Democrats were left in the House. The center of the party would be #110. That happens to be New Dem André Carson of Indiana, who has a “C” rating from Progressive Punch.
I guess you could call Carson a moderate. I’m thinking you could call all the Democrats with C scores moderates— and I would include the ones with the B scores and the ones with the D scores. The members with A scores are progressives and the members with F scores are conservatives. But that’s where the trouble comes in with the media. The media insists, insists, insists— as do the p.r. people for the conservatives— that the conservatives with the F scores are moderates.
They might be “moderates” if you want to compare them to Marjorie Traitor Greene, Gym Jordan, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Matt Gaetz, Mike Johnson, Mary Miller, Mo Brooks, Scott Perry, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert and Clay Higgins… but not compared to any other Democrats.
47 Democrats have F scores. The worst dozen, from bad to worst, are Ann Kirkpatrick (New Dem-NH), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR), Chris Bustos (New Dem-IL), Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY), Jared Golden (Blue Dog-ME), Scott Peters (New Dem-CA), Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL), Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA), Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ), Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN), Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA) and Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX). The problem with Zengerle’s piece is that he specifically refers to several of them, particularly grossly corrupt Blue Dogs Josh Gottheimer and Stephanie Murphy as “moderates.”
Right from the start, Zengerle made it clear that Gottheimer, one of the most self-serving and most detested Democrats inside the Democratic caucus, has sought to undermine the party agenda. He wrote that since taking office in 2017 “Gottheimer has been the cause of more headaches than celebrations for Pelosi and her leadership team. As co-chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus— a group of 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans that quixotically aspires to the goal of bipartisan compromise— he has frequently found himself at odds with his fellow Democrats on everything from foreign policy to President Biden’s domestic agenda to Pelosi’s leadership. In 2018, Gottheimer and eight other Problem Solver Democrats threatened to reject Pelosi’s bid for speaker if she didn’t concede to their demands for rules changes that would make it easier for bipartisan ideas to be considered, angering colleagues who viewed it as yet another instance of Gottheimer and his group’s engaging in pointless grandstanding rather than constructive behind-the-scenes work. ‘Tell me a problem they’ve solved,’ Representative Susan Wild, a [moderate, New Dem] Democrat from Pennsylvania, says… It would not be hyperbole to say that Gottheimer runs his political life there according to Clinton’s tenets.”
Another common Beltway mistake— conventional wisdom— Zengerle fell right into: “Over the last decade, the Democratic Party has moved significantly to the left on almost every salient political issue.” That is so wrong that he had to explain himself and so imbued with false GOP propaganda that the had to modify his statement. The voters have moved left; the leadership, which is geriatric now, has moved right.
“Some of these shifts in a more ambitiously progressive direction especially as they pertain to economic issues,” he tap-danced, “have largely tracked with public opinion: While [the word] socialism might not poll well with [older] voters, Democratic proposals to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and lower the age of Medicare eligibility do. But on social, cultural and religious issues, particularly those related to criminal justice, race, abortion and gender identity, the Democrats have taken up ideological stances that many of the college-educated voters who now make up a sizable portion of the party’s base cheer but the rest of the electorate does not. ‘The Democratic Party moved left,’ says Will Marshall, the president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute, a moderate Democratic think tank, ‘but the country as a whole hasn’t.’” Here we go again with the word “moderate.” The purposefully misleading name “Progressive Policy Institute” is not moderate. It’s a DLC offshoot, 100% neoliberal and VERY anti-progressive. Basically it is part of the reactionary, anti-FDR wing of the Democratic Party. Will Marshall, one of the founders of the New Dems, is a douche bag, who has worked to steer the Democratic Party to the right for his entire miserable career. And worked with Joe Lieberman to build support for Bush’s and Cheney’s decision to invade Iraq.
If that’s what Zengerle defines as “moderate,” it makes his work very questionable. Like the Beltway media in general, Zengerle obsess on pushing Republican culture war propaganda, steering clear of progressive leaders like Bernie, Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Merkley and instead highlighting an incendiary junior member or two hoping make a name for themselves that way Marjorie Traitor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Madison Cawthorn have. Even if the policy goals behind “Defund the Police” are sound, the bone-headed motto, primarily pushed by the GOP and media jerks trying to be provocative, has wrecked any possibility of progress on that criminal justice reform. The Republicans would like nothing more than to make the election all about critical race theory, trans people, defunding the police, racist and xenophobic dog whistles and employing the media to blame Trump’s inflationary spiral on Biden.
Zengerle then identified another right-wing slime bag, Staten Island Blue Dog Max Rose, who ran pro-Trump ads in his unsuccessful bid for a second term and hopes to run again this cycle with establishment Democratic support. Rose, whose ideology is far from the Democratic Party mainstream told him that “There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Democratic Party has a problem as a toxic brand. There’s a perception that the party is not on the side of working people, that it’s not on the side of the middle class.” Well, Rose got that second point right but without the introspection that would be needed to understand that the reason is because of himself and his fellow Blue Dogs.
Also dug up for quotes by Zengerle are Mayo Pete’s p.r. person, Lis Smith, and, of course DCCC chair— corrupt conservative Sean Patrick Maloney, who fundraises from an office of a friendly hedge fund and told Zengerle that “If we become a party of the elite-elites, there death awaits… We’ll all agree with each other right into extinction.” Zengerle warns it is these anti-FDR Democrats who are most in danger of extinction in November, who he keeps insisting on calling moderates rather than conservatives. “Although Biden won Gottheimer’s district by more than five points in 2020, and the district got even bluer under New Jersey’s newly drawn congressional maps so that Democrats now have a seven-point edge there, the DCCC has put him on its ‘Frontline’ list of vulnerable incumbents. Of the 37 Frontliners, the overwhelming majority belong to the Problem Solvers or one of the other two groups for moderate House Democrats: the New Democrat Coalition and the Blue Dog Coalition. And then there are the two dozen or so moderate House Democrats who have decided not to run at all in 2022, quitting before they could be fired.” Two wretched conservative Blue Dogss have been defeated in primaries so far, Kurt Schrader (OR) and Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA), both pictured in the No Labels "Unbreakable Nine" ad above.
Gottheimer, who reeks of corruption, does little besides raise sewer money campaign funds. He currently has over $13 million on hand, having just raised around $6 million as of mid-May. His opponent, he’s demanding the DCCC spend money against, is some extremist schlub named Frank Pallotta who has $35,154 cash on hand. A shady anti-progressive SuperPAC, Opportunity for All Action Fund, secretly directed by another Wall Street sleaze bag, Hakeem Jeffries, has already spent $153,405 smearing Pallotta to make sure he would be Gottheimer’s opponent.
Gottheimer, wrote Zengerle refers to his fellow Democrats as the “herbal tea party.” Gottheimer has never had a competent viable opponent. If that ever happens he wouldn’t stand a chance. On Friday, Jonathan Chait dedicated to his own column to the Zengerle piece, which droned on for so long that I haven’t found a single person who claims to have gotten through all of it. “The trouble,” wrote Chait, “is that the Democratic Party’s moderates often grasp the abstract value of moderation but have trouble translating it into practical terms. Jason Zengerle’s feature story on Democratic moderates puts the myopia of the party’s centrist wing on display. It is not a pretty sight. A valuable critique available to the centrists is that their party has been captured by affluent, college-educated professionals and is steadily losing working-class voters as a result. But the reality is that the centrists are compounding that problem rather than alleviating it.” He then quoted Zengerle’s mini-profile of New Dem Susan Wild:
Wild, a former lawyer, was eating a lunch of crab asparagus bisque and blackened tuna roll topped with lobster salad at an upscale bistro in Bethlehem’s intermittently gentrifying downtown during Congress’s Easter recess. She continued, “People look at me as a 64-year-old woman who was a lawyer and represented a lot of corporations and hospitals over the years, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s not a socialist.’” (She has since turned 65.) She is unequivocal in her support of abortion rights and gay rights and says concerns that critical race theory is being taught in schools are, in her estimation, “completely cooked up.” But she talks about these culture-war issues only when asked. Instead, she prefers to focus on her support of business.
“Wild’s formula,” wrote Chait, a moderate himself, “is to combine completely orthodox progressive positions on social issues with assurances that she fits right in with the C-suite. This is also the formulation Kyrsten Sinema has adopted. Sinema hangs out with executives, fights hard to protect them from taxes, and says things like, “Never drink cheap wine.” Sound familiar to anyone?
He notes that “Gottheimer’s focus has been on restoring the deductibility of state and local taxes— a cause that benefits a slice of his own constituents but has little purchase to the vast majority of the country. Gottheimer’s method was to take Biden’s agenda hostage in an effort to secure leverage for his narrow priority. The problem, of course, is that if everybody did that, the agenda would collapse. So what Gottheimer is offering is not a workable model for his party to follow but a model of the kind of antisocial behavior it has to expunge if it stands any chance of survival.”