THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY NEEDS A NAME CHANGEMy last post took a shot at the
The source of my frustration is Senator Charles Schumer and his minions at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). That august body is charged with the job of electing more Democrats to the senate. It’s a worthy goal, in my view, but like all worthy ends, some means to that end are appropriate and some are not.
This week, Schumer sent around an e-mail to contacts across the nation that began as follows:
“I’ve been traveling the country since January on a single-minded quest: to recruit Democratic leaders who’ve got the smarts and fortitude to win Senate races in 2008. And let me tell you, we’ve got ‘em. Former Gov. Mark Warner in
The letter goes on to solicit donations of “$50, $75 or more” and adds that “for the next 5 days, your gift will be tripled by a group of Democratic senators.” Because, Schumer said, “we need your support now.”
What’s the rush? Schumer never said. But I’ll tell you.
Schumer sent out his solicitation on September 25th, five days before the end of the political quarter. When the quarter ends, all candidates for national office must publicly release the amount of campaign contributions raised during the quarter. If they can boast a relatively high number, this will help them substantially against any opponent they have in a contested Democratic primary.
Consider now the race in
Schumer claims to be progressive, as does his boy Merkley. Novick is a progressive. In fact, he has devoted his career to a series of progressive causes, including fighting environmental polluters (while as a lawyer for the DOJ) and working tirelessly for economic equity. Having come from no money himself, Novick is like John Edwards – without the 25,000 square foot house. He’s been too busy toiling for the public interest to feather his own nest. He is, in short, the real deal. As a U.S. Senator, he’d go on national news shows and explain to people, articulately and with passion, that it’s time for Democrats to stop playing defense and to go on the offense. In other words, it is time to stop blaming the Republicans for our inaction and to aggressively fight to implement honest to God progressive changes in
If you’re thinking that Novick is my favorite politician, you’re correct. I’m sure that many Oregonians would say the same, as would many other members of my law school class. But that view is obviously not shared by Charles Schumer. The Senior Senator from
When Merkley agreed to run, I wasn’t at all disturbed. I figured that the Democrats’ best chance of beating the incumbent Republican is to have a contested Democratic primary in which both candidates explain why they can do the best job of campaigning and, ultimately, governing. If, after such a primary, the Oregonians should choose Merkley, so be it. He would have deserved the chance to challenge Gordon Smith.
What I didn’t count on was that Schumer and his fellow senators from the DSCC would try to rig the deck. I wasn’t so cynical as to believe that senators from other states would try to buy the primary for one so-called progressive who is running against another progressive, especially when the latter was the first to throw his hat in the ring.
Novick has a lot of support in
Merkley, not surprisingly, agreed to take Novick up on his offer. But that was a few months ago, and since then, we have seen no signs that Merkley was serious. Apparently, Schumer and the boys had a better idea. What if, instead of having to go face to face with Novick and prove to the people of Oregon that he is the better man, Merkley can hide behind the endorsements of professional politicians throughout the nation and let the political machine catapult him to the nomination? What if, instead of having to show that his personal charisma is at least one-tenth that of Novick’s, he can simply sit back and let Uncle Chuck do the heavy lifting?
True, if Merkley took that path, he wouldn’t have made much of a connection with the people of
I found out about Schumer’s e-mail solicitation because he sent it out to a wide range of people, including Kalyn Free, a woman who runs a political action committee created to advance the interests of Native American candidates (www.indslist.org). Free, who lives in
“I am disappointed that you actively recruited a candidate to run in the
“The fact that the DSCC has chosen to wade into this primary and ‘anoint’ our Party’s nominee is a perfect example of why too many of our elected officials lack the integrity and commitment to be our Party’s standard bearers, and why we, in
That pretty much says it all, if you ask me. One minute, the Democratic establishment is funding the war in
The real problem is that in the past 20 years, there has only been one Paul Wellstone – one unabashed progressive whose first reaction is to tell the truth, rather than to test the political winds. Wellstone is now deceased, however, and the hope was that Novick could replace him as the token non-politician politician in the Senate. Well, Schumer and his apparatchiks apparently have better ideas. They’d like to see another yawner of a politician enter the Senate and “fit in” as one of the boys. Merkley, while a good guy, is charisma-challenged; it is difficult to believe that he could shake things up in
I suppose I shouldn’t be so indignant about all of this. After all, it’s just politics, right? But the problem is that we’re talking here about the Democratic Party, which was supposed to stand for things like the right of the common people to decide for themselves who they want to represent them and who they don’t. That approach is precisely what Novick was proposing and what Merkley originally pledged to honor. Schumer, by contrast, offers an approach based on centralizing political power among the elites in
Feel free to share this story. It needs to be told to every American whose politics have yet to be swallowed up 100% by cynicism.