I Guess Rich Republicans Laugh About Centrists' "Electability" Bullshit
Yesterday, Cook published an Amy Walter essay on the so-called electability argument not working this cycle. Walters' idea of "electability" is some Beltway mumbo-jumbo that translates to a "lesser of two evils" candidate-- a corrupt conservative Democrat who she always labels a "moderate," as though people who favor Medicare for All, fair drug prices and addressing Climate change and unaffordable housing are "radicals" or "extremists" or whatever the opposite of "moderate" is. The Democratic establishment always uses the argument to deny primary nominations to progressives and to make sure sheep-like conservatives become the party's nominees. I often quote a guest post, Crippling Political Fear, from former Columbus, Georgia mayor Teresa Tomlinson and I want to use a different part of her statement than I usually do.
"A classic example of this crippling Democratic political plague of fear," she wrote, "is 2014 Democratic Senate candidate Alison Grimes, who refused to say whether she voted for the leader of her party, the two-term first black president, Barack Obama. And, the legion of Democratic candidates that year who refused to say they supported the Affordable Care Act (ACA), because the polling showed it was unpopular. Did we think any voter believed that a Democrat running for federal office didn’t fundamentally support the notion of providing healthcare coverage for millions of previously uninsured constituents? Our citizens could have used a little leadership from Democratic candidates during that cycle. Our president would have benefitted from the leadership of those Democratic candidates because fear begets disrespect and that disrespect spilled throughout the party and weakened Obama as its leader. Maybe if we had all spoken out and pushed back against the Republican political propaganda machine, we would not have allowed the bell-curve to slide so far right. The nation has had its share of politically lukewarm Democratic candidates-- structured by the national party for perceived winnability not leadership."
Grimes, who lost with 41% of the vote, spent $18,829,908 and outside groups spent another $13 million supporting her and attacking Mitch McConnell. Walters wrote that "a restive Democratic base, discouraged by a lack of action on many of their key issues (like climate and student loan debt), and frustrated by GOP attacks on issues like abortion and election integrity, want fighters, not unifiers as their candidates."
There's no greater example of this shift in priorities for Democratic voters than Rep. Conor Lamb's struggling campaign in the Democratic primary for the Pennsylvania Senate. Lamb was easily 2018's 'Electability' poster-child. As a moderate outsider who distanced himself from the party's more divisive positions, his profile helped him win a Trump-leaning CD in a special election. Lamb raised more than $3M in small donations for that contest, an unheard-of sum for a candidate who doesn't have a national profile or a progressive platform. Donors were less interested in his policy positions than they were in his role of denying Trump a GOP majority in Congress.
This year, however, Lamb's attacks on front runner Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as too liberal to win in this swing state in November haven’t worked. And, both Lamb, and the SuperPAC set up to help him, have struggled to raise money. For his part, Fetterman, a former Bernie Sanders supporter, isn't running as a progressive warrior. None of his ads talk about "Medicare for All," or feature testimonials from liberal activists. Instead, he leans into his blue-collar background and outsider image. More important, the six-foot-nine Fetterman casts himself in his ads as a fighter. He describes himself as a "Democrat with a backbone" who is "taking on every politician, insider and out of state rich guy trying to take over Pennsylvania."
In Oregon, Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader is facing an existential primary threat on May 17 from a Democratic opponent to his left. One of just a handful of Blue Dog Democrats left in Congress, he's also one of the few Democrats representing a substantially rural district. He's won this 'swingy' district even in tough environments, like 2010.
But, as my colleague David Wasserman writes, Schrader has also "gone out of his way to infuriate those on his left by publicly dissing Nancy Pelosi, comparing the 2021 impeachment of Donald Trump to a "lynching" (for which he later apologized) and initially throwing cold water on the American Rescue Plan."
On top of all of that, Schrader's newly drawn 5th CD includes the liberal-leaning city of Bend, where his opponent has a devoted activist base of support.
Schrader, like Lamb, is leaning into 'electability' in this contest. In his ads, he argues that he "knows how to win in this part of Oregon" and that he is the "only Democratic who can win [this seat] in November.”
However, insiders, we talk to believe Schrader is in genuine danger of losing the primary.
Walter won't even mention Schrader's opponent's name, which is Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Blue America has been running a series of Facebook/Instagram ads for her, like this one:
Please consider contributing to her field operation for a race that ends Tuesday! You can contribute here. Walter reported that she senses Democratic primary voters want fighters over "pragmatists." Generally, "fighters" is a description of progressives and "pragmatists" is another word for what Walters usually calls, inaccurately, "moderates." Referencing a pair of focus groups, she noted that when Democrats were asked to describe congressional Democrats as an animal, "almost all picked docile creatures, or as one man described them, animals that are 'slow and arboreal.' When asked what kind of animal they wished Democrats would be, they chose 'great white shark,' and 'grizzly bear.' Another said she wanted them to be like a hyena, an animal that is 'fast, aggressive, assertive, and gets what they want done.' Overall, these voters were tired of what they perceived as Democrats getting rolled by the GOP. In 2018 and 2020, Democratic voters were united by the shared interest in beating Donald Trump. But, with Trump gone and Democratic priorities in tatters, Democratic voters are less swayed by 'electability' or pragmatism arguments and more eager to support a fighter willing to take it to the GOP."
Meanwhile massive amounts of Republican money is being laundered into Democratic primaries via AIPAC's sleazy United Democracy Project and Mark Mellman's even sleazier Democratic Majority for Israel. The two crooked right-wing organizations are attacking-- usually with out-right lies-- Erica Smith and Nida Allam in North Carolina, Summer Lee in Pennsylvania, Jamie McLeod-Skinner in Oregon, Jessica Cisneros in Texas. One of Hellman's more outrageous ads was banned from North Carolina TV after it had already started running, falsely asserting that Erica is a Republican. You can contribute to Erica, Summer, Jamie and Jessica here.