Quarterly Filing Open Thread

I have to retreat from the blogworld temporarily as I complete the Q2 filing for BlogPac. Oh, the joys of being a treasurer. How did I let Matt get off with being the President, which has a better title and less work involved? Anyway, it looks like we raised just about $11,700 this quarter. I was hoping for $15K, so we came close to our goals. In my absence, here is a round-up thread for you to chew on:
  • Bush administration to request another $110M for Iraq next year. Forget all of the nearly pointless resolutions, the fight over this funding will be the real debate over Iraq in Congress. Even though I have favored withdrawal since late 2003, my position on funding the occupation has changed. At first, I thought it was right to vote in favor of Iraq funding, because it would be wrong to leave our soldiers in Iraq without proper equipment and resources. However, I now believe that stopping the funding is the only way to end this disastrous occupation and bring our troops home. End the war by de-funding it, Democrats. Jack Murtha has a useful letter that compares the cost of war and the cost of various domestic programs.

  • Majority Leader John Boehner's issue page

  • Lieberman video at Crooks and Liars: It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation's peril. Lieberman's attitude toward Democratic criticism of the war seems identical to the attitude of his supporters when it comes to the will of the voters. In both cases, the sentiment is that we should all shut up, because he knows best.

  • Street Prophets interviews Obama. While it is true that my criticism of Obama last month was based not on something he actually said, but rather on something that the AP reporter wrote about him, it doesn't stop me from feeling used. As a union organizer for the IFT, I was one of the ground troops for Obama's campaign during the 2004 Illinois Senate primary, and his victory turned out to be the first electoral victory for a progressive movement candidate in the netroots era. It was a great, great moment, and using the new movement was critical to his success in that primary. Whether I am right or wrong in feeling this, it makes me feel as though he used us to get into office, and now he is Sista Soljuh-ing us through liberal strawmen to improve his national image. Frankly, I think he is running with the wrong people in DC, and he needs to remember that the progressive movement is his friend, not the New Republic.

  • I have regularly praised Mark Warner for making smart campaign moves, but I think this is a colossal mistake:Recalling a recent fundraiser for his political action committee, Warner said, "Somebody looked around and said 25 percent of the people in the room are Republicans."

    "That goes to the appeal we are trying to make," he said. "This country can't afford further polarization." Absent a large Democratic trifecta, any Democrat falling for what I have called The Equal Polarization Myth is going to have a very tough time governing like a progressive in Washington DC. IF your political opponents are the ones who have instigated an age of polarization through a base turnout strategy, strong right-wing ideological turns, and a complete departure from independents when it comes to public opinion, then you are making a grave mistake to be the person who does the reaching out in an attempt to end the polarization. Basically, Democrats have not moved to the left, while Republicans have moved to the right. Reaching out to people who have moved to the right validates moving to the right itself. If you do this, you will be forced into a box where you will have to govern as a conservative. And then they will try to illegally remove you from office anyway (see Clinton, Bill post-1994).
Well, I'm off to the fun world of FEC documents. I'll see you tomorrow.

Obama Closes Daou's Triangle On Electoral Strategy

One of the reasons there is so much angst over what Obama said about Democrats and religion today is that, in Peter Daou's formulation, Obama's comments lend tri-partisan support (Democrats, Republicans and the media) to a narrative that Democrats are hostile toward people of faith. This tri-partisan support will result in a "closing of the triangle" against Democrats where it become conventional wisdom that Democrats are hostile to people of faith. This has been how the DLC has managed to reify ever anti-Democratic narrative it likes within the national discourse. So thanks Senator Obama, for reifying this Republican-driven talking point about Democrats. Now almost everyone will think that Democrats are hostile to people of faith. Well done. Your mentor, Joe Lieberman, would be proud.

Being someone who is preoccupied with electoral strategy, I want to focus on how this narrative is perhaps even more dangerous to progressives than the rather simple "Democrats are hostile to faith" narrative it engenders. In a national environment where both parties must focus their electoral strategy on courting the most conservative and pro-Republican voter in the country, we end up with a Congress that is only responsive to the most conservative, pro-Republican voters in the country. In the electoral strategy Obama reifies with his comments, progressive don't matter. Moderates don't matter. Swing voters don't matter. Independents and Democrats don't matter. Many Republicans don't even matter. The only people who matter are the most conservative people in the country. A Congress that is only responsive and responsible to those voters will, no matter who is in charge of Congress, end up producing the most right-wing legislation imaginable.

As an electoral strategist I respect, Tom Schaller, wrote to me in an email today: Imagine for a second that, after the 2000 election in which his candidate finished second, the main media narrative was that Karl Rove needed to figure out a way to reach out to, say, unmarried, professional, college-educated women of color living in cities and suburbs of blue states. He'd have been laughed out of his party and DC.

Yet somehow, conversely, the prevailing narrative that people like Obama are ratifying is that if Democrats don't bow and scrape to white, evangelical, married, non-college educated white males in the south and rural communities---well, then they're tactically stupid, myopic, and out-of-touch. (And, because women, seculars, urban-surburbanites, college grads, and minorities are an increasing share of the electorate with each passing cycle, the "jessica alba vote" is at least a growth market, whereas the bubbas are a shrinking market.)

Rove loses an election, surveys the situation, and concludes that the GOP left 4 million evangelicals off the table and they need to find and mobilize them. We lose four years later and conclude that, um, we need to talk to evangelicals. In other words, they lose and turn to their base, but we lose and turn to...THEIR base! Am I losing my mind or is this about as absurdly upside-down ass-backwards as possible? Obama has not only helped close the triangle on the notion that Democrats are hostile to religion, he has closed the triangle on who Democrats should appeal to in order to win elections. This danger of this is that in a nation where the only voters who matter to both parties are conservative evangelicals, then the only legislation we will ever get will be of the sort that appeals to conservative evangelicals. This will be the case no matter which party is in charge of Congress. Thus, closing the triangle on electoral strategy in this manner completely obliterates progressivism itself.

This is how the "all powerful conservative base" narrative after the 2004 election was not a success for Democrats. Whatever impact it had on making Republicans seem extreme (which I am sure has helped to drop their support among Independents below 30%), when this narrative is reified by Democrats it helps create a permanent conservative governing structure in America no matter which party is in charge. All of the recent media about the rise of the progressive movement, specifically in relation to the Connecticut Senate primary and the netroots, had gone a long way toward convincing Democrats and the media that in order to govern, it is necessary to pay attention to progressives. This is the sort of narrative that will help produce progressive legislation. However, when Democrats start wallowing in post-2004 Republican talking points like Obama did today, we wipe all of that good work away. We will never get progressive legislation in this country unless politicians think they have to be responsive to the progressive movement.

It is particularly frustrating and disgusting that Senator Obama, whose candidacy succeeded largely because it was supported by the nascent progressive movement in Illinois back in 2004, does not believe he has to be responsive to the people who helped put him in office in the first place. I was in Illinois during the 2004 primary when Obama was still single digits in polls. I saw the progressive movement, including the local Chicago netroots, rally behind him. I read that his strategy was to court African-Americans and white liberals. However, now he has tossed many of those progressives aside. I guess that is what happens when soon-to-be ex-Senator Lieberman becomes your mentor. Hopefully, after August 8th, Obama can start taking lessons on how to be a progressive from someone else besides Lieberman.

The Importance of Movement Candidates

William Beutler on Chuck Pennacchio:Right here at MyDD though, Chris Bowers is backing Pennacchio, even though he acknowledges he can't win. (I don't begrudge Chris the ideological stand, but it still strikes me as misdirected energy -- after all, Democrats are nowhere near becoming a pro-life party.)AnthonySF on the Connecticut primary:I've said before that trying to oust Joe Lieberman in a primary is a slight waste of resources when there are other races around the country (Montana, Rhode Island, Missouri) that need urgent attention.Hillary Clinton today:"Progressive blogs beat up on Republicans and other Democrats, while conservative blogs beat up on Democrats and progressives." As we all know, there are many other examples of this line of thinking popping up in Democratic circles this year. There are many people who claim that the progressive movement is wasting resources that could go to fighting Republicans by running primary challenges against other Democrats.

This is a flawed way of thinking. It is based on the assumption that the people who donate to, volunteer for, and create buzz on behalf of Democratic candidates / progressive causes will give a fixed amount of resources no matter what those candidates do and how those causes are run. That simply isn't not true, and even though many people like William Buetler and Hillary Clinton talk as though it is true, they know it is not true. If there were really a fixed amount of resources available for Democratic campaigns and progressive causes, there would be no need for any campaign to hire any fundraising staff. Instead, each campaign would simply receive its automatic, fixed share of resources via a single, one sentence reminder to donors, volunteers and progressive media, and then move forward.

Obviously, that is absurd, and isn't the way it works on any campaign. In order to raise money, all large campaigns hire fundraising staff, make contracts with direct mail vendors, build donor databases, send out fundraising emails, and make sure the candidate conducts significant call time. The reason campaigns do this is because everyone knows that in order for people to donate their money, their time, or their creative juices to a campaign or cause, they need to be convinced that the campaign or cause is worth it. This is why direct mail pieces are drafted and edited multiple times. This is why street and door-to-door canvassers are trained on their pitch every day by progressive organizations. This is why the candidate is often asked to deal personally with the large donors. Campaigns know that the better job they do convincing activsts that their campaing is worthy, the more resources they are likely to receive.

Those who argue that primaries are a waste of money ignore how activist participation within the Democratic primary process is an important means of convincing many progressive activists that the Democratic Party is worth fighting for and being active in. Whenever a progressive activist participates in a Democratic Party primary, that necessarily means that the activist now cares about the direction Democratic Party itself. In the long run, it can only help the Democratic Party to have more activists who care about the party. If more and more activists are convinced that the Democratic Party is something worth fighting for, in the end primary challenges will actually generate far more resources for Democrats than they will drain.

Since 2003, I can think of several movement candidates who have caught the national eye, including Howard Dean, Christine Cegalis, Ned Lamont, and now Jerry McNerney. Starting with the only example form the previous election cycle, can anyone seriously argue that Howard Dean's 2004 Presidential campaign drained resources from the Democratic Party? Since saying that you helped Howard Dean raise $50 million online is one of the easiest ways to secure a job as a Democratic staffer in D.C. these days, I doubt there is anyone in D.C. who would make that argument. Further, can there be any doubt that Howard Dean's campaign was one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, that the Kerry campaign was able to raise $100M online during the general election? I don't know of anyone who would make that argument either. As one of the first candidates representing the new progressive movement, Howard Dean brought droves of activists into the Democratic Party. I was among them. Back in early 2003, I was still a registered as "no party," but now I sit on the Pennsylvania State Democratic committee and help raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democrats. Carol Jenkins, my fellow committee person in Ward 27, Division 23, was also re-energized by the Dean campaign, and now she is our new Ward Leader.

Movement candidates running in Democratic primaries are one of the best means of convincing many activists within the new progressive movement to care about the Democratic Party on both a national and local level. This is why Ned Lamont's primary campaign, especially if he wins, will generate more resources for Democrats nationwide than any other Democratic campaign this electoral cycle. Instead of draining Democratic resources, this campaign will do what the party committees and the congressional leadership have generally struggled at in 2006: inspire a large segment of the activist base into fighting full-force for Democrats in 2006. Best of all, people will be inspired to act through positive means (actually caring about the Democratic Party) rather than negative means (simply being anti-Republican). The same can be said about the campaigns of the other candidates I mentioned, although in a more localized context.

Of course, if Lieberman bolts the party and then Democratic leaders decide to throw the principle of party democracy out the window and endorse someone other than the Democratic nominee, then we will see a major waste of resources. That would be the single best way to drain resources from the party in advance of the elections this fall, since it would be the single best way to convince tens of thousands of progressive activists to stop caring about the Democratic Party altogether.

After 2006

This is cross-posted from FLA Politics. I fully realize this doesn't apply to most of you. However, I do think this might provoke some brainstorming about what your state and community progressives and Democrats will need to do after 2006 is over. -Ray Seaman

We all agree here that this election is critically important for all Floridians and Americans. We're going to work harder than we ever have before to elect Democrats and progressives to office. Great - but we must constantly be looking down the road if we are to be an effective political movement. In the extended entry, I'll discuss a few things we as Democrats and progressives will need to do after 2006 and before 2008, regardless of whether we gain the Governor's mansion or not, or even if we gain seats in the legislature or not.

There's more...

The Progressive Movement and The Looming Pennsylvania Landslides

For a challenger, Casey's lead was actually already quite large, but this is ridiculous:Santorum now trails Democratic challenger Bob Casey 56% to 33% (see crosstabs). Our latest survey of the governor's race also brings good news for the Democrat in that contest.

Last month, Santorum trailed by thirteen percentage points. The incumbent began 2006 down by 20 points and closed to within single digits by March. That was before the Primary Election solidified Casey's position as the Democratic nominee.

Santorum continues to flounder with his base, attracting support from only 67% of GOP voters. Casey now attracts 87% of Democrats, a ten-point gain since our April 20 poll. My repeated assertions that Santorum had basically no chance in this race have resulted in criticisms, both public and private, from a wide variety of Pennsylvania Democrats. Some warn of overconfidence, some warn that progressives will stay home, some warn that Santorum has loads of money, some warn that the Pennsylvania Republican base remains strong, and on and on and on. However, all of those warning and tortured attempts to try and make this race look competitive aside, I think it is time for everyone who is watching this race to look at the numbers and appreciate what is actually happening here. We now have a Republican polling firm showing the race at 56-33in favor of Casey. If an incumbent was leading any campaign 56-33, s/he would be considered safe by every election analyst in the nation. However, that isn't even how bad things are for Santorum. For a challenger to be leading 56-33 is unprecedented. Remember that undecideds tend to break overwhelmingly for the challenger. I have never seen anything like this. Not only is this the best poll for a challenger I have ever seen, nothing else I have ever seen is even remotely close to this. Santorum has a 90% name ID statewide, and only 33% of the state wants to vote for him.

The situation for Pennsylvania Republicans is rapidly collapsing statewide. The residency issue has clearly become a major problem for Santorum. Two weeks ago, in a major conservative stronghold, Democrats won a special election for the Pennsylvania state Senate by 13%. Also on the May 16th primary, Democratic turnout was over 30% higher than Republican turnout.. Rendell has moved form being the primary Republican target among Governors in 2006 to becoming a pretty safe incumbent. Lois Murphy in PA-06, Joe Sestak in PA-07, and Patrick Murphy in PA-08 have all become serious challengers to Republican held congressional seats in districts that Kerry won in 2004. Bush's approval rating in Pennsylvania has sunk to an astounding 28-70.

Pennsylvania is considered a "blue state" in popular electoral parlance, but in truth it has been red for some time. Republicans control both branches of the state legislature, have a 12-7 edge in congressional seats, and have won every full-term US Senate election since 1964. These advantages in ostensibly "blue" Pennsylvania have been absolutely crucial to Republicans maintaining their national governing coalition. However, even as a Republican activist purchases our local papers in Philadelphia, Republican dominance of Pennsylvania politics, fueled in part by longstanding Pennsylvania Democratic incompetence, seems poised to end. If the NRCC has been forced to spend nearly $4M to defend the CA-50, what can they possibly muster to the face of the coming Pennsylvania onslaught?

At the center of the transformation of Pennsylvania politics has been an extremely vibrant, emerging progressive movement statewide. For those of you who still believe that fighting internal Democratic battles is somehow a waste of progressive resources, you need to look no further than to Pennsylvania for counter-evidence. While the newly revitalized progressive movement in Pennsylvania has locked horns with the party establishment, the result has not been drained resources and two separate, warring factions. Instead, the result has been a tremendous upswing in pro-Democratic Party activity in Pennsylvania that has benefited both the new progressive movement and the party establishment. Our new progressive movement is working--the old ways of either simply falling in line behind the party leaders or bolting the party / sitting on your hands were not working. The progressive, internal reform movement has identified hundreds of new activists, resulted in a tremendous fundraising upswing, created new progressive media outlets, started new grassroots organizations, and forged new progressive social networking spaces. This is how you do it. This is how a progressive movement can win back Pennsylvania, and indeed the entire nation.


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