Friday, January 26, 2018

Resisting the Resistance


theintercept |  In his farewell address, President Barack Obama had some practical advice for those frustrated by his successor. “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,” Obama implored.

Yet across the country, the DCCC, its allied groups, or leaders within the Democratic Party are working hard against some of these new candidates for Congress, publicly backing their more established opponents, according to interviews with more than 50 candidates, party operatives, and members of Congress. Winning the support of Washington heavyweights, including the DCCC — implicit or explicit — is critical for endorsements back home and a boost to fundraising. In general, it can give a candidate a tremendous advantage over opponents in a Democratic primary.

In district after district, the national party is throwing its weight behind candidates who are out of step with the national mood. The DCCC — known as “the D-trip” in Washington — has officially named 18 candidates as part of its “Red to Blue” program. (A D-trip spokesperson cautioned that a red-to-blue designation is not an official endorsement, but functions that way in practice. Program designees get exclusive financial and strategy resources from the party.) In many of those districts, there is at least one progressive challenger the party is working to elbow aside, some more viable than others. 

Outside of those 18, the party is coalescing in less formal ways around a chosen candidate — such as in the case of Pennsylvania’s Hartman — even if the DCCC itself is not publicly endorsing.
It’s happening despite a very real shift going on inside the party’s establishment, as it increasingly recognizes the value of small-dollar donors and grassroots networks. “In assessing the strength of candidates for Congress this cycle, we have put a greater premium on their grassroots engagement and local support, recognizing the power and energy of our allies on the ground,” said DCCC Communications Director Meredith Kelly. “A deep and early connection to people in the district is always essential to winning, but it’s more important than ever at this moment in our history.” The committee, meanwhile, has made major investments in grassroots organizing, field work and candidate training, which also represents a genuine change.

But change is hard, and it isn’t happening fast enough for candidates like King. So a constellation of outside progressive groups — some new to this cycle, some legacies of the last decade’s growth in online organizing — are stepping in, seeing explosive fundraising gains while the Democratic National Committee falls further and further behind. The time between now and July, by which most states will have held primaries, will be among the most important six months for the future of the Democratic Party, as the contests will decide what kind of party heads into the midterms in November 2018. The outcome will also shape the Democratic strategy for 2020, which in turn will shape the party’s agenda when and if it does reclaim power.

“We are proud to work with women, veterans, local job creators, and first-time candidates in their runs for Congress, whose records of service to our country and communities are being recognized – first and foremost – in the districts they aim to serve,” Kelly said.