So I watched in unsurprised disappointment the Senate Finance Committee voting on Tuesday and came away agreeing that 60 Democrats is not sufficient. Despite calls from bloggers "Primary Him!" this is, at present, just not realistic. Many Congesspersons, and moreso Senators, are nearly impossible to defeat in their home states and districts. Besides having their own war chests, they get the support of the DSCC and DCCC.
The DSCC and DCCC look strategically at who is running and where they think it would be best to "invest" in candidate races. But many loyal progressives and Democrats have vowed not to fund the DSCC and DCCC because they have a penchant for funding Democrats who are not adhering to the party platform and in fact, working against it.
So I thought, why not a PSCC or a PCCC?
From the DSCC Website
Our mission is to elect Democrats to the United States Senate. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is the only organization solely dedicated to electing more Democrats to the United States Senate. From grassroots organizing to candidate recruitment to providing campaign funds for tight races, the DSCC is working hard all year, every year to increase the number of Democratic Senators.
This says they are the only organization solely dedicated to electing more Democrats to the US Senate. Does that mean there is room for another? Here's my version:
Our mission is to elect Progressive Democrats to the United States Senate. The Progressive Senatorial Campaign Committee is the only organization solely dedicated to electing more Progressive Democrats to the United States Senate. From grassroots organizing to candidate recruitment to providing campaign funds for tight races, the PSCC is working hard all year, every year to increase the number of Progressive Democratic Senators.
BUT, you say, what about ActBlue?
ActBlue is an indisputable ally in the fight. It's fantastic for individual campaign contributions and candidates will need to use them no matter what. But ActBlue can only raise funds for existing candidates. It cannot and does not recruit candidates. It does not strategize about where pick-ups are possible. It lacks the "punch" of being able to say "This quarter the PSCC raised 15 million." It lacks the ability to deliver consequences for the stupidity we've seen all summer and into the fall with regard to health care. NOT donating to DSCC and DCCC matters but it doesn't matter much. Ultimately, it doesn't do what we want it to do which is force them to support candidates that don't actively work against the stated Democratic platform. At best withholding money from DSCC and DCCC forces them to make decisions that may not benefit the party overall.
Here's a practical example: Joe Sestak. He's running against Specter despite the lack of establishment backing (and indeed, attempts at dissuasion from running!). Think about that for a second. He had an impressive war chest and his decision to run (and his ability to be taken seriously) is BECAUSE he has money and support from grassroots organizations like unions in PA. And guess what? The credible challenge to his seat had forced Senator Specter LEFT, so much so that he's Tweeting his support for the public option! That's what I'm talking about.
So the issue is CREDIBLE CHALLENGES. Because let's face it. The ONLY important thing to these congresscritters is that they keep their jobs. It's NOT the lobbyist money that's corrupting this process. The lobbyist money is simply a MEANS to an end and that end is: KEEP YOUR JOB.
Let's take another example: Olympia Snowe, R-ME. Yes, she needs to be an historical blip in the Senate. As "reasonable" as she can be on some issues, she's causing real problems for us now and we need to be RID of her. I believe she's opening the door for that RIGHT NOW with a position on Health Reform that is so out of line with her constituents'. Her seat could be vulnerable to a reasonable Democratic challenger (maybe not as far left as Schumer but Ms. Snowe is definitely to the right of her state. She's only still there because no one will challenge her as an incumbent). We can be fairly sure the RSCC would be reluctant to invest in her either because she is sort of a pariah in the party or because they consider her seat safe and her position immutable. At best a challenge supported by the PSCC could oust her for someone more reliable. At "worst", the RSCC would be forced to spend money to defend the seat. With all these advantages we have in ME, ask yourself: who in Maine has the ability to credibly challenge her? And do you think the DSCC will court anyone from Maine to do it or even put money into that race should someone emerge on his/her own? Of course, the answers are: "nobody" and "hell no". What a shame. The PSCC could be courting strong Democrats from ME and give them the support and backing they need to run a credible race against her, if we decided it was a good shot.
Imagine for a moment what other Senators or Congressmen we could be courting RIGHT NOW if we had a working fund and active support ready to go for the right candidates? Is there a State Senator in Nevada who dreams of running but thinks he'd never be able to compete with Reid? What about rising stars in your state who may be shying away from running because they don't have organizational support and the funding they feel they need to go for it, especially against an incumbent?
Being organized enough to create the infrastructure to recruit, advance and support credible primary opponents is what we lack right now. It's the last piece of the puzzle in the progressive movement.
The right has or will soon be able to copy the innovations Democrats pioneered over the last several years: the use of the internet, the use of online fundraising, Obama's strategies and grassroots efforts....It's time to stay one step (or two) ahead of the game and make sure we have a way to oust or challenge unacceptable Democrats. Big tents are nice but we've got lots of critical work to do in this country and time is of the essence.
I think regardless of how this health care issue comes out, we need to be thinking about the next moves we are going to make as progressives and how we can push the party in the direction it should be going and how to get more progressive candidates into office. Kos says "more and better Democrats". We've mastered MORE and have come to the general conclusion that now it's time to focus on BETTER. But HOW? No organized plan has been suggested. Until now. I believe it's time to stop throwing tantrums and holding our breath and issuing threats into the woods and actually DO SOMETHING that will move us in the direction of the results we seek. We know what works to get results (credible challenges to seats). It's time to get organized to make sure we can deliver consistently. We've seen Specter in the face of a credible challenge and we've seen what happens when people like Joe "Your Lie" Wilson and Michele "Don't Mind Me I'm BatShit Crazy" Bachman end up on the wrong side of progressive attention. Why not organize and institutionalize it?
With teams of volunteers with the skills, talents and energy of just the people I've come to know and love on this board, I believe we could actually do it. There are folks from all walks of life on this board (and beyond) with all ranges of interests talents and abilities. Some folks here love polling and statistics. Others love media and branding. Others have experience in fundraising. Others have great ability to strategize. Together, in teams, we could pull this off and actually get something done.