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Monday, December 08, 2014

Addition by Subtraction

by Gaius Publius

[Updated; see below.]

Howie Klein had a good post-mortem of the Landrieu debacle which confirmed something I've suspected. Perhaps the best way for Democrats to win elections is to "clean house" first — to eliminate money-compromised corporatists and neoliberal privatizers from leadership positions and diminish their numbers so that progressives can control the party's direction and policies.

In other words, perhaps the way to win elections is to "win the caucus" first. After all, the corporate Democrats sure look like they care more about "winning the caucus." I wrote about that here, and there's more evidence below. Consider these thoughts from Klein's piece, starting with his opening paragraphs (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):
It isn't difficult to do a post mortem on Mary Landrieu's idiotically-doomed Senate race. Saturday's runoff saw the 3-term Louisiana Senator struggle to reach beyond 40%. In 2008 she beat Republican John Kennedy 988,298 (52%) to 867,177 (46%), the same percentage she got in her 2002 reelection. Saturday's results were Cassidy 712,330 (55.94%), Landieu 561,099 (44.06%). She won 15 of the state's 64 parishes.

She never had a chance. Although she raised $18,570,680 to Bill Cassidy's $13,165,150 (as of Nov. 16), outside spending was heavily weighted against her, with conservative groups like Rove's American Crossroads, the Koch's Americans for Prosperity, the Koch's Freedom Partners Action Fund, the NRSC, the NRA, the Patriot Majority [DELETED from list; see Update below] each kicking in millions to pulverize her, while liberal groups largely looked away in disgust at the Senate's second most right-wing Democrat (after Joe Manchin). ... 

In recent weeks she tried working with the Republicans to pass Keystone XL Pipeline and when that didn't work, she went on radio to brag that she didn't vote for Obama, which probably contributed to the depth of the loss she suffered Saturday, keeping base Democratic voters home.
Democratic voters again showed they don't want corporate Democrats in office, which hands wins to Republicans. More and more it seems entirely likely — it's at least worth considering — that to defeat Republicans, we have to take control of the party first and remove bought "leaders" who are electorally weaker than we are. Because more and more, electoral losses are on them and not on us.

For example (again from Klein's piece):
As we've pointed out, Blue Dogs and New Dems-- the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- were the big losers in this past cycle. With just one or two exceptions (and in red-leaning districts) progressives kept their seats and won open seats.

Ted Lieu (CA-33) is a good example. Henry Waxman with a well-financed conservative opponent in 2012 had a close call (54-46%). But Lieu never deviated an inch from his cutting edge progressive values-- his first ad was about his legislation reigning in unconstitutional domestic spying-- and, although Adelson and his allies dumped close to a million dollars in media smears against him, Ted beat the Adelson candidate 59.2% to 40.8% with the biggest turn-out of any of L.A.'s congressional districts.
Above Klein compares Lieu's electoral results to Waxman's in the same district. Then he compares Lieu's results to California Assemblyman Muratsuchi's, whose Assembly district lies within Lieu's congressional district. Again, this is a straight-up progressive-to-corporate comparison:
What makes this even more interesting is that, Al Muratsuchi, the conservative Democratic Assembly incumbent in AD66, a part of the congressional district that Ted did really well in (his South Bay home turf), campaigned as a Republican-lite candidate and lost to a Republican, breaking the Democrats' 2/3s supermajority in the Assembly.

Democrats have a 40.4- 32.6% registration advantage in the Assembly district, which stretches from Manhattan Beach to the Palos Verdes Peninsula and east to Carson and Gardena, and Jerry Brown was in the district campaigning for Muratsuchi. Obama won the district against Romney 54.2- 43.2%. Muratsuchi only managed 49.7%.
Klein offers other examples as well, including the fact that a corporatist will set up the party's "Post Mortem" committee. (That committee will include the ultimate corporatist, Google's Eric Schmidt.) The lesson of these examples is clear. In today's electoral climate, progressives mainly win and corporate Democrats mainly lose. (Muratsuchi's loss just cost the Democrats their super-majority in the CA Assembly.) Yet as seems more and more obvious, corporate Democrats in leadership positions would rather keep Money happy than keep voters happy, and it's costing the party at the booth.

If they're the reason the party is losing, not us, shouldn't they be taken out first? After all, as the Piketty world grows darker and more stark, it's our solutions that voters are looking for. Should we let "party loyalty" prevent us from giving the country and its voters what they both want and need?

In that sense, perhaps the 2014 election was a win after all. Addition by subtraction. Also, a useful signal that 2016 may not be Ms. Clinton's Dem-corporate cakewalk and needs a rethink. Time to start challenging those "leaders" for party control? I would say Yes, and firmly. (I even have a candidate, a name to start with. Feel free to offer your own.)

UPDATE: Howie Klein has corrected the quote above to delete the "Patriot Majority" from the list of groups spending money against Landrieu. His update reads as follows:
Patriot Majority spent $3,012,977 bolstering Landrieu, not attacking her. What a waste of $3 million!