Most of the time, Democrats and their allies in the media are pretty lock step in spinning a narrative. However, what they are doing about 2020 is not nearly as clear. If you watch the media coverage two things appear to be part of the narrative.
First, the more “woke” the primary candidate is, the more favorable the coverage. Apology tours are highlighted and there are no difficult questions asked about radical positions on health insurance or environmental policies during the town halls to date. And any candidate that has ever been part of the “Establishment” is toast. Just observe what they are doing to Joe Biden and he hasn’t even announced yet.
Second, the most radical new members of Congress have been able to suck up all the air in the room. They were billed as the “future of the party” by DNC Chair Tom Perez and the media listened. These far left darlings from deep blue districts get town halls, the cover of Rolling Stone and defense from the media no matter how uninformed or anti-Semitic they seem.
However, if you look at what is going on inside the party, this radical shift to the left does not seem to be a foregone conclusion. Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) made moves to limit the campaigns of insurgent progressive primary challengers by ensuring contractors do not work with them. The Progressive Caucus cried foul and tried to pressure the Committee to reverse the new rule and be more “inclusive”
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez even went so far as to demonstrate her “boss” status by telling people to halt their donations to the DCCC and donate directly to several Democrat incumbents. Oddly, one of them was Representative Katie Hill (D-CA-25). Hill was featured voicing concern about the hard left turn of the party earlier in the week:
“As we run up to this presidential [election], we need to show that Democrats, as a whole, are not socialists,” said Rep. Katie Hill, who last November flipped a Southern California district that Republicans held for the previous quarter-century.
Weird. Ocasio Cortez was a member of the Democratic Socialists when she ran in the primary and is one of the primary reasons the party is being painted as such.
However, despite the foot stomping from the Progressive Caucus, it seems the DCCC isn’t budging. They also have the backing of Speaker Pelosi. From The Washington Post:
“I’m for winning the House for the Democrats,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a brief interview with The Washington Post when asked about changing the policy. “ . . . My focus is strictly on winning the election and to putting our resources where it will win the election for the American people.”
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who oversaw the change as the committee chairwoman, was even more blunt in a private meeting last week, telling several leaders of the caucus’s liberal bloc, “We’re not changing it.”
The article goes on to say that the new policy prohibiting DCCC preferred vendors from working with insurgent primaries is backed by the Congressional Black Caucus also. Oddly, The Progressive Caucus that is in a knot about the new DCCC policy shares over 20 members with the Congressional Black Caucus. And two members who belong to both caucuses, Yvette Clarke and William Lacy Clay, faced primary challenges in 2018 from the Justice Democrats. Preogressive, what does it mean?
A closer look at the situation reveals that DCCC Chair Representative Cheri Bustos has rejected the insurgency from the left in building her own committee. All seven members belong to the New Democrat Coalition. This is a business-friendly caucus within the party. The Coalition supports fiscal responsibility, a balanced budget. From their website:
The New Democrat Coalition is made up of more than 100 forward-thinking Democrats in the House of Representatives who are committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies. New Democrats are a solutions oriented coalition seeking to bridge the gap between left and right by challenging outmoded partisan approaches to governing. New Democrats believe the challenges ahead are too great for Members of Congress to refuse to cooperate purely out of partisanship.
The leftist members of the party were pretty unhappy about this at the time. The DCCC committee is responsible for candidate recruitment and seems unlikely to recruit socialist lightning rods like the preferred candidates of the Justice Democrats. From Huffington Post at the time of the appointments:
The public squabble over progressive representation in DCCC leadership partly reflects a debate over the lessons from the successful 2018 midterm election.
An outsize share of the candidates who flipped Republican House districts had the backing of the New Democrat Coalition and the still more conservative Blue Dog Coalition.
Huh. So the not so crazy members of the party backed the candidates that actually helped gain seats in the House. You’d never know it by who gets airtime.
The media is not going to cover these internal squabbles the way they covered the battles between Speaker John Boehner and the Freedom Caucus. Or Senator Ted Cruz’s renegade image in the Senate. However, one thing seems pretty clear. The Democrats are aiming at the center to maintain or expand their majority in the House. They are not going to embrace the model of candidates from the far left that won safe blue seats.
A few things are far less clear. The Justice Democrats are an aggressive, energetic and digitally savvy organization. Obviously peeved by the snubs from the DCCC, they are doubling down on their primary efforts.
I am not sure how many consultants are going to pass up the opportunity to work with the campaigns of 200 plus members to work with the seven Justice Democrats and a few primary challengers. Most consultants are capitalists after all.
And exactly where are Democrats going in the Presidential primary? Do they have any way to keep moderates interested and engage their far left base? Right now everyone who has announced seems to be running as hard to the left as possible in terms of policy and rhetoric. They are trying to out Bernie Bernie, even though Sanders is the only one who has been consistently far left for his entire career.
Can they really run hard left in the primary and move to the center in the general? If they run to the center will the base stay home? Or is the activist base going to hedge their bets by elevating Bernie to ensure no pivot happens? If they do, will the moderates stay home?
How they attempt to sort all of this out will be interesting. And my bet is the media will be silent on the rift. The perception of some unity will be necessary to motivate voters. But it does not seem likely the insurgency will sit this one out.
This intraparty struggle between moderates and socialists is something Republicans could capitalize on if they are paying attention. Especially if it looks like the socialists may win.