(Great comments so far. Join the discussion on what candidates Open Left should assist in 2010! - promoted by Chris Bowers)
With the health reform fight over, it is time on Open Left to turn out attention to other matters. One of those other matters is supporting Better Democrats in the 2010 elections.
Here are the 32 campaigns I have an eye on for 2010. We obviously cannot endorse them all, so please let me know your thoughts on any of these for which you have opinions. Feel free to suggest others, too:
Should be slam dunks for endorsements Alan Grayson, FL-08 (already raising money for Grayson)
Bill Halter, AR-Sen (broad movement behind Halter)
Connie Stallonstall, MI-01 (primary challenge to Stupak)
Barbara Boxer, CA-Sen
Joe Sestak, PA-Sen (already raising money for Sestak)
Russ Feingold, WI-Sen
Ned Lamont, CT-Gov
Possible primary challenger endorsements, House CA-36: Marcy Winograd? (blue district)
GA-12: Regina Thomas? (swing district)
NC-08: Nancy Shakir? (swing district)
PA-17: Shelia Dow-Ford? (red district)
Possible open seat and challenger endorsements, House Anyone worth noting in AL-07 or WA-03?
Anyone worth noting in DE-AL, LA-02 or PA-06? (all Republican-held)
FL-12: Doug Tudor? (red district, Republican-held, competitive primary)
HI-01: Colleen Hanabusa? (blue district)
NH-02: Ann McLane Kuster? (swing district, competitive primary)
PA-07: Brian Lentz? (swing district)
PA-15: John Callahan? (swing district, Republican-held)
VA-01: Krystal Ball? (red district, Republican-held)
Possible incumbent endorsements, House AZ-07: Raul Grijalva (does he need help?)
MD-04: Donnda Edwards (does she need help?)
NH-01: Carol Shea Porter? (swing district)
OH-10: Dennis Kucinich (does he need help?)
OH-15: Mary Jo Kilroy? (swing district)
VA-05: Tom Perriello? (red district)
Possible Senate endorsements Colorado: Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff? Or no endorsement?
Missouri: Robin Carnahan?
North Carolina: Elaine Marshall?
Ohio: Jennifer Brunner?
We need to narrow this list down, get more information on all of the candidates, start taking votes, and get to work quickly. By "getting to work," I mean more than just raising money. Among other activities, I intend to conduct search engine optimization and Google Ad campaigns for virtually everyone we endorse.
So, let's get this discussion started. Who do you want to help?
In the last few years a lot of new Democrats were elected to the House. Some were elected to fill House seats previously held by Democrats but most were elected to fill seats they took over from Republicans. How has it worked?
For an easy judgement I used the Progressive Punch Career scores for crucial votes. To make things even easier, I went down the list and used my memory to select the recently elected and those who were filling Democratic seats.
Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, a self-proclaimed "Democrat with guts," appears unlikely to be subject to a resolution of disapproval for suggesting that part of the Republican health care plan is for Americans to "die quickly if you get sick."
The Associated Press is reporting that a spokesman for Republican Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, who drafted a resolution of disapproval against Grayson and threatened to introduce it on the House floor, is suggesting that Price does not plan to do so.
It is almost unprecedented for Republicans to back down from their demands for an apology from a Democrat. And yet, that is exactly what happened here.
As I wrote last week, other Democrats need to take notice of this. You don't have to back down when the Republican smear machine comes after you. In fact, you can pick--and win--a fight with that smear machine, if you are smart about it and know who your allies are.
"Honestly, the people I deal with, the people I actually am across the aisle with every day, I don't think they care about ordinary people. I don't think that the Republicans in Congress actually have a heart. I'll be honest with you."
"But that's not the same as saying that they want you -- I mean, let's get straight what I said," he explained. "I said their health care plan is 'don't get sick,' and if you do get sick, then die quickly. And what did I mean by that? Because if you get sick and those bills are mounting, and you're in the hospital and you're feeling weaker and weaker, and you've got no way to pay for this, then what are they gonna do for you? Nothing. They're gonna do nothing."
Usually when Republicans and conservative media join together to throw a coordinated hissy fit against something "outrageous" a Democrat has said, it resulted in apologies (John Kerry in 2006), resignations (Van Jones) and public condemnations in Congress (MoveOn.org). Yesterday, however, Republicans actually backed down from their hissy fit when Rep. Alan Grayson stood up to them. Even as Grayson intensified his rhetoric, Republicans withdrew their resolution to condemn him on the House floor.
There were several important differences between this and most of the other attacks from the Republican manufactured outrage machine. Other Democrats in Congress could stand to learn from them:
Grayson specifically chose to use rhetoric that echoed earlier rhetoric used by many prominent Republicans. Lesson: Throwing Republican rhetoric back at them can potentially be more effective then just condemning Republican rhetoric.
Too often, Democrats allow policy discussions to be derailed by Republican rhetorical excess. By contrast, Grayson used his rhetorical moment to shift to a policy argument about tens of thousands of people dying from lack of health insurance. Lesson: rhetorical moments like these can allow you to control the debate, as Republicans long ago learned
Many Democrats in congress are oblivious to the existence of the progressive netroots or even progressive media. As such, they think no one will be around to support them if they pick a fight like this. Alan Garyson, by contrast, hired Matt Stoller, thus making his office more aware of the netroots than anyone else in Congress. His non-apology yesterday was targeted directly at the progressive netroots, and earned him $100,000. Further, progressive media like the Huffington Post and the Daily Show immediately produced reams of quotes and video showing Republicans using the same sort of rhetoric over the summer.
Lesson: If you want to pick a fight, and if you understand the medium, progressive media and the progressive netroots can help you.
It is a landmark moment for a freshman Democrat from a marginal, R+2 district to win a rhetorical fight with the Republican smear machine like this. Hopefully, it will become a teachable moment for other Democrats in Congress.
The combination of today's jobs report and the less-than-great polling picture in the House has left me thinking that that large netroots email and blog organizations should consider a serious change in allocation of resources for the 2010 elections. Instead of raising money almost entirely for challengers, as we did in 2004, 2006 and 2008, perhaps we should focus more on making sure that the incumbent Democrats who are defeated in 2010 are not the Democrats we really like. A strategy of lose the bad Democrats, but keep the good ones.
Good Democrats in either swing or Republican leaning districts who I would like to protect include Representatives Tom Perriello, Eric Massa (yeah, I know I have ragged on him before), Alan Grayson, and Senator Russ Feingold. Even Democrats like Representatives Brad Miller, Phil Hare, Raul Grijalva, Betty Sutton, Chellie Pingree and Senator Barbara Boxer might face some trouble. It seems to me that keeping these members of Congress around is a more prudent allocation of resources than taking a chance on candidates who, even if they are lucky enough to take away open and / or blue seats from Republicans, might not end up being all that great once they are in Congress. We know who the better Democrats already are--isn't it better to keep them than to take chances on new ones?
Now, I'm not saying that we should abandon all offense. Republican-held blue seats, open seats, and lightning rod seats (the leadership and Michelle Bachmann loud mouth types), can and should be vigorously challenged. Plus, we should keep hitting primary challenges as hard as possible, in as many seats as possible. However, it is just that if we lose 20-30 seats in the House, and 4-5 in the Senate, wouldn't it be a lot better if we made certain those seats were overwhelmingly the Democrats we find most annoying, rather than the relatively few members of Congress who both understand our community and are willing to work with it?
If such a strategy was successful, it is possible that we wouldn't even lose that many votes on key issues. We could also create a storyline where the Democrats who lost were mainly those who let the base down the most. It won't be easy, and it will take a change in thinking, but shouldn't we be working just as hard to keep the Better Democrats we have as we should to create more Better Democrats? As long as we keep our champions, then we won't really lose any ground, no matter the partisan seat distribution in 2010.
As we saw again today on the delay in bankruptcy mortgage "cram down" legislation, and also in the delay on net neutrality legislation, it is a simple fact that certain Democratic members of Congress are more likely to listen to financial services lobbyists, and other corporate industry lobbyists, then they are to their own constituents. After all, there aren't many average constituents who can deliver $10K to your re-election fund every two years, but most corporate PACs will do so dutifully and without any real hassle.
Now, there is a new organization that is going to do something about this. Accountability Now, an alliance of several blogs, netroots organizations and SEIU, is seeking to redress the imbalance of members of Congress responding more to corporate interests than the interests of their constituents. From the New York Times:
A group of liberal bloggers said it was teaming up with organized labor and MoveOn.org to form a political action committee that would seek to push the Democratic Party further to the left.
Soliciting donations from their readers, the bloggers said they were planning to recruit liberal candidates to challenge more centrist Democrats currently in Congress.(...)
Left-leaning bloggers have already proven themselves influential in Congressional races, most notably providing muscle for the movement that helped Ned Lamont defeat Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary in 2006. (Mr. Lieberman retained his seat after winning the general election as an independent.)(...)
The political action committee will formally start up on Friday. Organizers said they already had $500,000 in their bank account, money that was raised over a short period in September when several blogs solicited donations. Organizers said they expected to collect far more than that when they start fund-raising in earnest next month.
Both Open Left and BlogPac will be a part of this effort, which has been desperately needed for some time. Kudos to the leading organizers, especially Jane Hamsher, in making it happen.
Anyone who followed the Barack Obama presidential campaign, whether a supporter or not, had to be impressed by the sheer reach of his online presence. Not to state the obvious; President Obama's online infrastructure has been discussed and dissected to the core. But as satisfying as Obama's victory was, it would be great to maximize its effect by parlaying it into a greater proportion of progressive officeholders at a local level.
These local offices -- mayor, city councilman, county executive, state delegate, etc. -- are the farm system of the Democratic Party. They provide the pool from which future Presidents, Governors, Senators, and Representatives emerge. And it should be our goal, as progressive activists, that this farm system produce more Russ Feingolds and Barbara Boxers and fewer Joe Liebermans and Ben Nelsons. We really haven't yet organized effectively to ensure that we push quality Democrats through the system. We've done well with the "more", but not necessarily as well with the "better".
Alan Grayson, the outspoken member from Orlando, as usual, wasn't mincing words: "Rush Limbaugh is a has-been hypocrite loser, who craves attention. His right-wing lunacy sounds like Mikhail Gorbachev, extolling the virtues of communism. Limbaugh actually was more lucid when he was a drug addict. If America ever did 1% of what he wanted us to do, then we'd all need pain killers."
Yesterday, David and I both blogged about passing mortgage related bankruptcy reform in the stimulus package (see David's post and my post). The specific legislation we are seeking to include in the stimulus is, in the House, HR 225 from Representative Brad Miller and, in the Senate, S 61 from Dick Durbin. The legislation will allow bankruptcy judges to re-write mortgages according to current home values rather than inflated "bubble" values, thus allowing hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people to keep their homes over the next two years. It is good legislation that will help lots of real people, and start putting the country back on track toward a post-bubble economy.
Here is the state of play on this legislation:
Senator Durbin is leading the charge to have the legislation included in the stimulus package. Considering his Senate position (ranking behind only Reid) and his close relationship with President-elect Obama, and that he is reportedly taking the inclusion of this legislation in the Senate as his personal mission, there is a good chance he can succeed. However, at this time, there is no definitive word that he has succeeded.
In the House, Brad Miller is basically a one-man campaign for this bill. Representative Miller and his staff are basically the only people around and available for this campaign. He is out-resourced by the opponents of the bill, as the next bullet point discusses.
In late 2007, Miller's bill was defeated by an alliance of Blue Dogs and the banking and realtor lobbies. At the behest of the National Association of Realtors, which gives more money to congressional candidates than any other PAC in the country, and which has 28 people working on the Hill full time as either lobbyists or researchers, sixteen Blue Dogs sent a letter to the House leadership asking them to spike the bill. The end result was that the bill was delayed, severely watered down, and ultimately deemed insufficient by the bill's sponsor, Brad Miller. There is every reason to expect a similar effort will be attempted to spike the bill this time around. And, as I already noted, the realtors and their Blue Dog lackeys have a lot more resources than Dick Durbin and Brad Miller, who are operating this campaign almost entirely by themselves.
To prevent this attempt to pass mortgage related bankruptcy reform, and thus a partial repeal of the odious Bankruptcy Bill of 2005, the strategy is simple: try to get as many Representatives and Senators supporting the inclusion of this legislation in the stimulus as possible. However, recognizing the relatively small size of our activist base here on Open Left, we can't just expect readers here to call their members of Congress, and the end result to be that enough members feel sufficiently pressured from their constituents to back the inclusion of this legislation in the stimulus. Instead, we have to be more selective in our targets, and choose carefully where we target our pressure.
So, my first idea is for Open Left readers to try and get all of our Better Democrats, for whom we raised money in 2008 and who are now members of Congress, to become sponsors of the bill and support its inclusion in the stimulus. Donna Edwards (MD-04) and Alan Grayson (FL-08) are already sponsors of H.R. 225, so they are spoken for. However, there are five members of the House and Senate from the Better Democrats page that have not yet sponsored either HR 225 (if they are House members) or S 61 (if they are Senators). Here are those four, along with the phone numbers of their Washington, D.C. offices:
The idea behind targeting these five is that, even though few of us are constituents of these five members of Congress, most of us can call as donors to one or more of these five members of Congress.
So, please, politely contact one of these five, and leave a message asking for to become a co-sponsor of either HR 225 (for House members) or S 61 (for Senators). Additionally, urge them to support the inclusion of this legislation in the stimulus package. If they ask for your constituent information and you are not a constituent, indicate that you were a donor to the 2008 campaign of that member of Congress.
Don't worry about it being after hours in D.C. If no one answers, leave a message-it will still be heard. Also, remember that we are entering a new era in D.C. where pressure like this can actually work. For example, Obama shelved his stimulus business tax cut proposal today, after Senators and grassroots alike raised their voice. Hopefully, we can get a few more sponsors for these bills as a result of this action. If it works, we can more onto more targets.
This is amazing. You guys are amazing. Earlier this week, when we unveiled our Better Democrats 2010 page, it quickly shot up to over 100 contributors, and more than $5,700. Now, in less than seven hours today, the Save Soapblox campaign has reached over 60% of it's goal, hitting $10,978 already!
For a time just after the holidays, just after an exhausting and expensive campaign, and during an economic downturn, this is a remarkable effort. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has contributed, and everyone who has helped out so far! You can help us get over the top here.
The efforts of the netroots over the last six years have been a remarkable testament to what a group of dedicated grassroots activists can do. Right now, it is hard not to feel excited, and hopeful for the future. We have the organizing energy. We have the growing numbers. We are making change happen, and turning the country bluer. The remarkable efforts of this community over the past week are just another example. In a time of great need for 100 progressive blogs around the country, you are coming through. Again, thanks to all, and let's keep it going!
An exciting new piece of progressive infrastructure is emerging to help progressive candidates in federal campaigns: The Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Rather than focusing on large, independent expenditures, ala the Club for Growth, it seeks to help progressive federal candidates, such as Tom Geoghegan, by providing them with expert staff, advice, strategy and connection to the netroots. The focus will be on open seat primaries, and progressives who face competitive general elections, but primaries against conservative Democrats might also come into play. From a Huffington Post story today:
A group of progressive operatives from MoveOn and labor circles have teamed with a prominent Internet pioneer to try to give the Sam Bennetts of the world the final push they need -- and send even more Perriellos to Congress. The organization will be the first of its kind exclusively to focus on electing progressive Democrats in congressional elections.
It won't focus its energy on unseating conservative Democrats, but Green, a cofounder, didn't rule out the possibility. Instead, it will prioritize competitive open-seat primaries and help general election candidates like Bennett and Perriello run effective campaigns.
The group's first forays are likely to be in the Illinois district vacated by Rahm Emanuel, who left to become Obama's chief of staff. Green says the group is in talks with a progressive labor lawyer, Tom Geoghegan, in that district. Another potential target: the California district emptied by Hilda Solis, who's been tapped to be labor secretary.(...)
The PCCC aims to be something of a guiding resource for first-time candidates like Bennett. By helping candidates find good campaign staff and make more effective use of the Internet, the group thinks candidates could save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in consultant fees. Whereas consultants might charge thousands to record and pump out robo-calls, for instance, the PCCC could show a candidate how to do it in-house, online, for a fraction of the cost.
The organization is for real, composed of former campaign staff, MoveOn.org staff, and labor organizers. It is also on track to raise $650,000 this year, and has MoveOn.org backing. It should hit its fundraising targets no sweat, and it's experienced team knows what it is doing in a campaign setting. This is an exciting new piece of progressive infrastructure that should combine nicely with other emerging efforts, such as the primary project that I mentioned last month.
Organizing energy is clearly with progressives right now. Since noon Wednesday, 47 members of the Open Left community have raised over $2,200 $2,600 for Tom Geoghagen and BlogPac. Now, the PCCC has been added to Better Democrats 2010 as well. While it may seem shocking early to start a 2010 campaign page, the early bird gets to govern.
Look, if you've read my work at all, you know I don't have a lot of good things to say about lots of politicians, and I don't spend my time shilling for anyone simply because they have a D behind their name. So I hope you take that into consideration when you read what I'm about to write:
As the Washington Post reports today, Tom is running in the March 3rd special election primary in Illinois' 5th district to replace Rahm Emanuel - one of the worst influences on Democratic politics in a generation. The idea that a lawmaker as soulless as Emanuel could be replaced with a progressive - any progressive - is an amazing thought. The idea that he could be replaced with one of the greatest living progressives in America is beyond amazing - it should make you contribute whatever you can right now.
As I said to start, I don't use phrases like "one of the greatest living progressives in America" often - if ever. But I mean it when I say it about Tom. I've written two columns about him in the last year (here and here), and if you've read any of his work, you know why I use superlatives to describe him.
Congressional insiders point out that Barack Obama, in a little-noticed move a few days ago, appointed as the top White House liason to Congress one Philip Schiliro, who has spent many of his past 25 years on the Hill working for (you guessed it) Waxman.
In the wake of Waxman's victory, this is significant. It means Waxman will be closer to the center of the action and will have a direct line into the White House. Congressional insiders also point out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is an ally of Waxman -- and hence, of Obama's liason to Congress.
How significant is all of this? It puts progressives firmly in control of the House leadership, and right at the center of Obama's top priorities. Harold Meyerson:
Fundamentally, there are two reasons Waxman would be the better chairman of Energy and Commerce. First, he is probably the House's most accomplished legislator in three issue areas that are high on the agendas of the nation and President-elect Barack Obama: universal health care, global warming and enhanced consumer protections (no small matter with a steadily rising percentage of our food and medication ingredients coming from China). On environmental questions, Waxman offers a sharp contrast to Dingell, who has long been the primary opponent of stricter standards for auto emissions and fuel efficiency.
Meyerson then provides a long list of Waxman's legislative accomplishments in the pre-1994 U.S. House, and they are indeed impressive. He is not just progressive, he is also highly effective.
The House is alright. We done good in that branch of Congress. It looks very likely that progressives will have a major voice at the table for all of Obama's legislative priorities.
Now, if we can just get good picks for Defense, State and Treasury, we will be doing alright when it comes to Obama's administrative priorities.
Ed Kilgore writes that the candidates on the Better Democrats page actually outperformed the Blue Dogs this cycle:
According to Chris Bowers of OpenLeft, five members of ActBlue's BetterDemocrats list of reliably progressive House candidates were among those who won Republican seats last night: Alan Grayson of FL, Eric Massa of NY, Joshua Segall of AL, Tom Perriello of VA, and Gary Peters of MI. Two others, Darcy Burner of WA and Charlie Brown of CA, are in very close races that haven't yet been decided.
Meanwhile, according to an email from Blue Dog Coalition communications director Kristen Hawn, they're claiming Bobby Bright of AL and Walt Minnick of ID, who won Republican seats, plus Frank Kradovil of MD, who's in an undecided race. But of the four incumbent Democrats who lost, two (Nick Lampson of TX and Tim Mahoney of FL) were officially Blue Dogs, while the other two (Nancy Boyda of KS and Don Cazayoux of LA) were closely aligned with the Blue Dogs.
Now, turns out I was wrong, and Segall lost. Also, Charlie Brown wasn't on our list of candidates. Still, that makes four House victories, with Burner's campaign still pending. That tops the Blue Dog's performance, as they actually netted zero seats in Congress.
Further, according to an email I received earlier today, the Progressive Caucus projects eleven new members:
U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), anticipate adding up to 11 new CPC Members in the 111th Congress. This could increase the size of the CPC to at least 84 Members, making it by far the largest and most diverse sub-group among all Democrats in the new 111th Congress -- an increase of up to 27 new House Members since Lee and Woolsey became CPC leaders.
With the Blue Dogs staying even while Better Democrats, the Progressive Caucus, and Responsible Plan candidates all gaining, it sure seems to me like we made not only more Democrats yesterday, but better ones too.
I did some GOTV work with Natasha today, and tomorrow we will be making a bunch of Rice Krispy treats to give to people to help convince them to stay and vote even if the lines are long. The treats will be funded by the $100 I received for the general lection from the Philadelphia Democratic Party. Yes, this is the evil "street money" that I receive twice a year, as part of being a committee person: $100 bucks worth of Rice Krispy Treats to give to voters to stay on the line. Oh, the evils of street money.
In the meantime, I want to make two final activism pleas to Open Left:
Even though it is not reflected in the current totals, the Better Democrats matching money came in today. Take the current totals, add $5,000, and that is actually where we are. This means with one final push of $2,468, we will reach our goal of $75,000 for the page. Can we do it? You guys have been amazing so far, so I have faith that we can. Let's do it!
Second, if you haven't already, there is still time to run a Personal Paid Media campaign. Natasha and I launched our 10th, and final, ad this afternoon. It is targeted at Republican Christopher Lee in the New York 26th:
Over the past week alone, our ten ad campaigns received 48,898 search impressions (we turn off the content network on all ads), and 368 click-throughs. The best performing ad, by far, is our one in Minnesota:
This ad has a click-through rate of 3.93%, triple our click-through rate of any other ad. It feels great to be able to effectively knock on doors of voters in any campaign I wish, and to only reach voters when they are most curious about the campaign for which you are advertising. If you haven't started a personal paid media campaign, get started on one now. If you are already running one, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. And, whether you are just starting one or if you have already started, check out this great guide on how to improve your campaigns.
Rice Krispy treats tomorrow, but tonight let's top off the Better Democrats page, and let's run one more Personal Paid Media campaign. And then, they day after that, we change the world.
This is also an open thread to tell stories about your weekend electoral activism.