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Donna Edwards' win in the MD CD-4 was big news, welcome news, to the progressive community and the netroots who backed her -- big time. We've succeeded in ousting a corrupt and so-called "moderate" Democrat in favor of a much more progressive and left-leaning one. Congratulations are in order for Ms. Edwards, her campaign staff, and her supporters.

While we're celebrating, though, it would be a good thing to bend our brains around the meaning of Edwards' win when it is coupled with the other "upset" in Maryland yesterday: Representative Wayne Gilchrest's loss in the Republican primary to a "real conservative" backed by James Dobson and the Club for Growth. (Though I have always voted for the doomed Democrat in previous district elections, Gilchrest is my representative in Congress and I have on several occasions contacted his office to express my views.) Teacherken notes the Gilchrest defeat in passing, but he does not reflect much on its meaning. Other than that, I've seen little mention of the two upsets together. So, follow me after the break for some noodling.

Gilchrest had two opponents, both on his right, in yesterday's primary. Andy Harris, the chap who won, had outraised Gilchrest by $1, 095,618 to $567,192. His other opponent also raised more money -- a total of $600,556. So the forces arrayed against Gilchrest raised and spent nearly 3 times the amount the incumbent was able to raise. I'm guessing, but don't really know, that the defense from the republicans' congressional campaign committee was pretty anemic. In any case, Gilchrest -- who has been anti-war, pro-environment, and for a Republican rather pro-labor -- represents the mirror image of the Wynn battle. We (progressives) won with Edwards. But did we also lose with Gilchrest?

Of course it is possible that that democratic candidate for MD-01 will now have a shot and could therefore increase our majority in the House. Andy Harris is very right-wing and the district has supported the moderate Gilchrest through a lot of previous election cycles. But looking at his loss that way might be missing the forest for the trees. (Moreover, Harris won his primary with 30,853 votes out of a total of ~70,000 votes cast in the Republican primary; Kratovil won his primary with 26,284 votes with a total of ~65,000 votes cast in the Democratic primary in this CD. MD-01 is in fact heavily Republican and looks to remain that way despite the best efforts of my husband and myself after we moved into the district in 2003.)

What strikes me most about the pair of changes, taken together, is that we're all becoming more partisan, not less, and that our elation at unseating Wynn has to be understood that way. Just as the elation of Red State bloggers (see Moe Lane's post One that Breaks a Little Our Way. A Little) and the Club for Growth celebrates the defeat of a moderate by a conservative.

So how do these events fit into the Obama-crafted frame about post-partisanship? I don't think they do. In fact, I would argue that what we are seeing is some cognitive dissonance: Obama supporters wanting to believe, or wanting others to believe, that there is an important, MODERATE, constituency out there whom he can attract and on whom he can base his mandate for change while at the same time they work hard (and successfully) to make the Democratic party more progressive.

Or put this problem another way. If Wayne Gilchrest were to run as an Independent, would we (in the progressive blogosphere) support him the way Republicans fought to elect Joe Lieberman? Would a Republican we can work with be worth it to us? Enough for us to pour our money and our energies into defeating Harris (and also Kratovil, who won the Democratic primary)? I don't have any idea whether Gilchrest would even consider such a thing nor do I know enough to be able to guess at its probable outcome. I'm just putting this forward as a thought-experiment.

The whole "post-partisan" rhetoric, frankly, makes me nervous. I don't think it is the way the world works, at least not now. (For an interesting account of why it seemed to have worked in the 50s, see Paul Krugman's account in Conscience of a Liberal.) It does not speak to me in any specific terms -- I can't quite get what it actually might mean in practice. What I do believe is that we cannot negotiate with the Andy Harrises, Karl Roves, Dick Cheneys, George Bushes, leadership or foot soldiers in the House and Senate, and so on. We're just fooling ourselves, I'm afraid. We cannot afford to disarm unilaterally. And that's what I fear we are doing when we don't recognize the meaning both of our own behavior (in ousting Wynn) and our opponents' behavior (in ousting Gilchrest). These are two sides of the same dynamic and they portend sharper divisions to come.

Originally posted to naknak on Wed Feb 13, 2008 at 11:42 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hi there-- I'm also in MD-01 (0+ / 0-)

    in Bel Air.  I've also contacted Gilchrest many times over the years and have often supported him, especially on the environment, where has been very strong.  Yet, for years he also voted on many, many issues with the GOP leadership, including the bogus Medicare reform, etc. and was with DeLay et. al. more than he was against them.    

    The idea of him running as an independent is interesting & something to think about.  Yet, I wouldn't write off Kratovil so quickly since he has the MD Dem. establishment behind him.  Also, Dems in our district may be on a comeback: Dem registration here in Harford was up more than GOP since 2006 & yesterday 25,067 voted for Dems for president in Harford and only 22,251 for the GOP.  I know that the Eastern Shore is traditionally Democratic as well.

    Gilchrest may be an alternative-- IF he's interested-- but right now, I think we have a good shot at taking the race with Kratovil, especially when Harris' extreme right-wing views (and he IS extreme) are exposed to the general electorate.    

  •  Very interesting diary (0+ / 0-)

    Not sure that I agree, but you've given me things to think about.

  •  Post-partisanship (0+ / 0-)

    ...is a recurring fantasy, which hasn't occurred throughout US history. Republicans and Democrats will continue to vote as largely distinct units.

  •  Gilchrest Facts (0+ / 0-)

    Can't speak for Wayne but I know him personally (for some pre-primary commentary see my diary here) and I cover political news at an Eastern Shore weekly.

    Wayne told us today he isn't going to run as an Independent and he isn't going to stay around in politics ... his quote was "you can get more done on the outside."

    As far as I know he raised about $800,000 versus Handy Andy's 1 or 1.2 million. Pipkin is a millionaire politician and spent about $800,000 of his own money. Maybe more.

    MD-01 has an edge in registered Democrats over registered Rebubblicans. I think about 54,000 to 50,000 (I'm pulling these numbers out of my head after proofing an article today, they're close but not exact).

    Here's my analysis of why Wayne lost: Maryland's primary is closed. Dems vote for Dems, Bubs for Bubs, and Independents for F-All.

    I don't much like that setup, but I'm sure there's a compelling reason that it's like that, one to the benefit of the Dem machine pols in the state.

    I NEVER vote Reptilican. Elsewhere I have said I'm "progressive, independent, Democrat" -- in that order.

    But on the Eastern Shore I've voted Republican twice. Once for E.J. Pipkin against Walter Baker for state senate. Baker was anti-environmental, and worse, senile and drooling. But his inability to grasp how much Bay preservation and eventual cleanup means to me and most other Eastern Sho' men and women made that an easy vote. Pipkin based his campaign on oppositino to open bay dredge spoils dumping. (It may have been that his mansion on Kent Island would have looked out over the barges dumping muck, but he got engaged in depth on that).

    The other times have been for Wayne, who has been both progressive and independent-minded. He's nothing if not thoughtful and pragmatic, though, and for the things which he wanted to get for the Delmarva Peninsula and Bay he was willing to toe the Bubs' line.

    I had an opportunity (I think it was in the grocery store) to personally thank him for his vote on the Iraq withdrawal. We have spoken many times on the phone about the phenomenal idiocy of a flawed and failing policy, and worse, the insane COST of Dick Cheney's misbegotten war.

    All that said, the reason Wayne lost was that he has always gotten a lot of the crossover vote: Democrats and Independents who recognized his essential worth, when it came time in the polling booth, would vote for him.

    In a closed primary, the people who might have come out in support but who are not registered Republicans were denied their say.

    I think there are a lot of Gilchrest supporters who, while they might vote for a McCain, won't vote for Andy Harris.

    Since Wayne has said he's not going back into the political game, I would love to see him give the Republican Party the finger by endorsing Frank Kratovil.

    I think Andy Harris' run against him only illustrates how absolutely desperate the Rebubblican wingers are.

  •  Red State? (0+ / 0-)

    I went and read the Red State commentary, and it didn't seem to have any connection with reality. I'm quite sure none of the micropunditi who posted comments, let alone the one who wrote the little blog post, has a clue about Maryland's 1st District.

    •  your helpful insights (0+ / 0-)

      Dadadata: thanks for all the helpful info. My larger point, about the folly of any kind of post-partisan thinking, kind of got lost in the issues around Gilchrest's loss, though. I will take your word on the relative strength of Democratic registration in the CD, though I would point out that by my calculations more people voted in the Republican primary in MD-01 than voted in the Democratic primary, even though at the presidential level all the excitement and interest should have been on the Democratic side. (It's notable too that our district bucks national trends in this regard also, with Democrats coming out to vote in much larger numbers than Republicans in nearly every primary so far.) So I remain skeptical that we can beat Harris in November. But my concern may be colored by the fact that I do not live on the Eastern Shore, but rather in that chunk of Baltimore County that has somehow been shoe-horned in with the rest of the district. The lawn signs and my research on opensecrets.org tell me that my neighbors are a pretty deep shade of crimson!

      It's nice to know that there are several Kossacks living in the MD-01. Maybe when the campaign starts up in earnest, we'll cross paths in real life?

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