Let's Put Donna Edwards in the House
by Matt Stoller, Mon Jun 11, 2007 at 11:06:38 PM EDT
I just threw in $25 to Donna Edwards via the Blue Majority page, which is the new name for the netroots page from last cycle. She was just added today, along with Charlie Brown. I would hope, as you consider your political giving this cycle, that you consider her race worthy of your resources.
One of the most significant primary challenges we had last cycle was Donna Edwards against Al Wynn, for a whole host of reasons. I just got done reading Death by a Thousand Cuts, which is ostensibly about the elimination of the estate tax in modern America. Really, though, like many of the great modern political books, Death by a Thousand Cuts is about how the ideological right builds its coalitions and how the left simply does not fight back. The key strategy, whether on NAFTA, health care, the estate tax, the Bankruptcy Bill or net neutrality, is to solidify right-wing business interests - Chamber of Commerce, NFIB, NAM, ATR, Business Roundtable, etc - and then use their network of think tanks, policy organizations, PACs, and grasstops to wedge parts of the Democratic coalition. Legislative victories for the powerful follow. We've seen this again and again; it's why many of us are in politics, on the blogs. We ask ourselves the question, 'Ack, why did the Democrats vote for XYZ?!?!' Well, one reason is because of people like Al Wynn.
In the fight over the estate tax, Wynn was cited as a key figure in this strategy. The estate tax was the single most progressive tax there is, so normal criticisms from rich corporations won't work to broaden the coalition. But having a CBC member like Wynn, along with a variety of other members, helped to mask the right-wing essence of the idea. Wynn likes to talk about how the estate tax hurts small businesses in his district, which was roughly the same rationale he used to pass the bankruptcy bill, and the same rationale he uses to support energy legislation, telecom-friendly legislation, and defense contractor-friendly legislation (such as his original support for the war). You can see Wynn's allies in his PAC donations, which even after he ostensibly moved left after he 'learned his lesson' from Donna in 2006, are obviously right-wing. He's not just getting cash from your standard financial services companies, he's pulling in cash from Walmart and the US Chamber of Commerce. That's stunning. That's a brazen 'I haven't changed' moment.
Getting people like Wynn to support corporate-friendly policies has been a lynchpin of right-wing power, which means that Donna Edwards's challenge to Wynn is both critical and systemic. This is not a normal primary challenge, this is a clash of two systems of power, of influence, and of ideas. It's not a surprise that the Chamber is already weighing in on this race, for Wynn. This primary was critical in 2006, when her underfunded campaign, which was dismissed in DC because she did no polling, no TV, and only a bit of direct mail, nearly toppled Wynn, who was seen as invincible. It's even more critical now. Donna is a real, legitimate candidate. She is going to raise a lot of money, and she's going to fight for values and ideas that actually are progressive. We lost in 2006, and we see what that got us - a Democratic Party that is only responsive when it's convenient for them. We can't afford this kind of Democratic party, and we must support people like Donna in our movement to change it.
The choice here, in the primary, is so stark it's almost unbelievable. Wynn, aside from getting cash from the US Chamber and Walmart, is one of 26 signatories to the letter encouraging the Presidentials to attend the CBC Institute's Fox News debate. He's an opponent of net neutrality. And though he repudiated his Iraq vote, he is still bringing in Harold Ford Jr. to kick off his campaign, an event at which Ford said we'd need to be in Iraq for a long time, a sentiment Wynn came very close to endorsing.
I'm a progressive because I believe in ideas, but I also believe, strongly, that we must give our ideas power through our force of argument, activism, and resources. We need to build a better country, and the vehicle we have and will use is the Democratic Party. As we've seen over the past four months, this Democratic Party isn't entirely ours. Sometimes we're going to get greatness and investigations, a Congress that will do its job. Sometimes we're going to get complete flaccidity sparked by fealty to silly people like Stuart Rothenberg and Kenny Baer. But ultimately, we must give our own ideas force by making the argument that we're not going to go away, that our people are going to be in office, and that it is our ideas that must be taken seriously by the political system.
Update [2007-6-11 17:52:26 by Matt Stoller]:: EMILY's List stands for 'early money is like yeast' for a good reason. I know it's not always fun to put up money now, when there's no horse race feeling to these contests. But it is the most important cash you can give. This is when a few thousand dollars can hire that critical staffer to help start a field organization, as opposed to October 2008, when a few thousand dollars will get thrown into the giant sucking television budget of a million. More to the point, if we want our ideas in Congress, we need to fight for them, and that means putting up cash when it makes a difference. Early cash helps unlock other money, like labor cash, who might be on the fence about who to endorse. It can help establish that critical sense of 'legitimacy', which is an ephemeral but critical quality in politics. Giving early to key races like this now is a sign of maturity and seriousness in politics; it's why the US Chamber and Walmart each wrote a check to Wynn a few months ago. They were making a statement that Wynn is their guy. We need to make that statement about Donna.