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Cross-posted at Politics and Other Random Topics

Before starting this little rant, I'd like to say that as a progressive Democrat, I would've preferred that Lt. Gov. Bill Halter win his primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (and, in fact, it was my prediction that Lincoln would lose the run-off). Having said that, the progressives who really think that Halter was going to be able to defeat Republican congressman John Boozman need a reality check, and should reflect a little on what happened here before getting so bummed out by the events of the Arkansas race.

This is Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas:

The GOP establishment tries to nominate electable candidates, and  gets sabotaged by the teabaggers. We're trying to nominate electable  candidates, and we get sabotaged by the Democratic Party establishment.  We won in Pennsylvania, lost in Arkansas. You can't win them all. But  make no mistake -- we made the politically smart move.

Unfortunately, the smart political move lost. So say hello to  Sen. John Boozman, the next senator from the great state of Arkansas.  It's the political reality. No need to sugarcoat it.

How much do you think the Chamber of Commerce and its  corporatist allies will spend on behalf of Blanche Lincoln through the  fall? Zero. Suddenly, you're going to see Lincoln quite friendless

Those evil "out of state" unions and progressive groups sure won't  lift a finger to help her. The only question is how much the DSCC wastes  on the losing effort.

I've long since quit being impressed by moral victories. In  this case, we forced Blanche to dramatically improve the financial  reform bill, and it may be too late to strip out her derivatives reform  language. And we delivered the kind of pain that no other incumbent  wants to suffer. So congressional Democrats have two options -- they can  either shape up and be spared primary pain (I'd be happy focusing  solely on Joe Lieberman in 2012), or they can be Blanched

It's much easier to keep your job if you don't have to fight for it  twice in a single year.

Kos seems to be arguing a few things here; one that the Democratic establishment (really, the White House) was being stupid by supporting Lincoln, that Bill Halter would've been able to win while Lincoln would not, and that this primary challenge will make conservative Democrats in congress somewhat more progressive.

The first thing, that the Democratic establishment should have thrown Lincoln out the door for Halter ignores one simple truth: political parties, at their core, are incumbent protection rackets, period. This is not an ironclad rule that can never be broken, but those circumstances usually involve some pretty bad scandals (for example, the Republican Governor's Association (the RGA) actively endorsed Brian Sandoval against incumbent Governor Jim Gibbons, mostly because of how scandal plagued he was). The Democrats had no business supporting incumbent Congressman Bill Jefferson in Louisiana's second district, and they should have been criticized heavily for it, as Jefferson was accused of and later convicted of bribery, but that was simply not the case for Lincoln. Political parties protect incumbents for good reason, they are the power-base of the party, without incumbent members in government, the party has no power (just look at the Green Party, the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party, and many others) and if the party isn't going to go to the mat for its incumbents, then its incumbents will stop supporting the party, period. This isn't limited to the Democrats either, the Republicans support their incumbents as well, and Kos is, frankly, delusional if he thinks that any political party should abandon incumbents who aren't scandal-tainted (but for the record, it was pretty stupid of the White House aid to shoot his/her mouth off about the labor unions, though I suspect that he/she wasn't authorized by the White House to talk either).

On the second argument, electability, I'd find that view a lot more convincing if Bill Halter were either winning or were within range of John Boozman in polling, but the fact is, Boozman is beating Halter by double-digits too and there's no prize for only losing by 15 instead of losing by 20. To be clear, yes, I believe that Halter was more electable than Lincoln, but to pretend that Halter's chances of victory were really that much better than Lincoln's doesn't do progressives well in the credibility department.

On the final point, well, frankly, I know that Kos means well, but there's a case to be made that Lincoln's derivatives language isn't really that good an idea. Just because something sounds good on paper and looks like it's putting the screws to the banks and everything which is evil, doesn't mean that it actually is or that this has somehow created better policy. Frankly, it's even arguable that this was good politics for just the general election, as everyone hates the banks and appearing to be tough on them just looks good.  In addition there was a point made by a regular commenter on Swing State Project who goes by DCCyclone which I'd like to bring to light:

And, frankly, to a substantial extent it bothers me, because the  singling out of Lincoln for demonization shows a big lack of  perspective.  Lincoln is from a most conservative state and the  strongest anti-Obama state of any Democratic Senator up for reelection  this year.

I suppose this is about making an example out of her for the sake  of doing so, and winning in politics does, ultimately, require  demonizing the opponent.  That's just a fact of political life, I accept  that.

But if Halter wins tonight and goes on to lose by 20 to Boozman, I  don't think the left benefits.  ConservaDems don't feel pressured to be  more responsive to the left, instead they just feel more tightly  squeezed with a narrower needle to thread to win.  The only way the left  wins politically out of this is for Halter to win not  only tonight but to pull off the massive upset and win in November.  If that  happens, then the intense emotional energy will have been fully  vindicated, and I'll be proven a fucking moron.  But it's hard to see a  "Senator Halter" getting sworn in in January.

DCCyclone's point is a good one, what if Halter had won the primary? Maybe there would have been a polling bounce for him, but I doubt he'd even get a lead in that situation (or even close to it) and he'd probably return to where he was, 10-15 points behind Boozman which is almost certainly what the final result would have been. If that would have happened (hypothetically), it could easily by Democratic operatives to argue "see, this is what happens when you primary incumbents, you lose seats, you're no better than the Club for Growth!" (not to say that their point would be all that good, but it'd be pretty easy to make it, and suddenly the progressive groups who supported the primary look stupid for being successful). And that's really the main point, a loss for the progressives who backed Halter was probably inevitable no matter what, whether it would've been now or in November is sort of beside the point.

Originally posted to NMLib on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 07:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Halter would have made it a closer race, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NMLib, allep10, m00finsan, Ezekial 23 20

    but I agreee that he likely would have lost in the end. I visit Arkansas often and have a lot of friends in the state. Arkanasas seems to be trending in the same direction as the rest of the South...GOP.

    The loudest cries for war come from those who have never seen one.

    by MadGeorgiaDem on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 07:06:31 PM PDT

  •  I hope Blanche Lincoln keeps her seat (4+ / 0-)

    but she's going to have to win it on her own it appears. I think the progressives went as far as they could with Bill Halter. It was a great campaign.

    But from here on out, I'm concentrating on my own state. I'm worried about the House and will do all I can to keep Dem seats here.

    Good luck Senator Lincoln. I am pro-labor but the thought of her seat going to a Republican is eating at me.

    So isn't the idea of losing the House.

    •  Lincoln has a good chance of winning now. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      clyde

      The win, even if done by voter suppression, gives her what I would call a culture war legitimacy among white voters in that state.  Let me explain, but we need to be brutally honest about Clinton first as a way of explaining.

      Clinton appealed to many white males with welfare reform that was built on the truly racist memes of Reagan by showing he was not "pro-African American" (there is more apt 2-word description where the first word begins with N and second word begins with L--I think you can figure it out).  This is a very Southern thing by the way.  Clinton had to show that he was not a true race traitor.  Doesn't mean he had to turn KKK, etc, but he could not be preceived as one.

      So in come thee REAL lovers of African Americans--you know the Yankee liberals and unions to square off with Blanche.  And you could hear that echo in Clinton's speeches about the "other" coming in like Northern carpetbaggers and having their uncouth ways with darling Blanche.

      And Lincoln beats "them".  Now, among race inflamed voters in this southern state, she becomes okay and someone okay to vote for.  She has established her Southern creds.

      Sorry to Clinton supporters, but that's the way it is.

  •  No no no no no. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    clyde, MrWebster, lams712, m00finsan

    Arkansas has a tremendously popular Democratic Governor.

    Arkansas has a Democratic Lieutenant Governor (Bill Halter).

    Every statewide position is held by a Democrat.

    Both senators (including Blanche) are Democrats.

    3/4 Congressional seats are held by Democrats.

    Both houses of the state legislature are absurdly heavily Democratic.

    Arkansas is one of just 2 or 3 states where an outright majority of voters are registered Democrats.

    If a Democrat cannot win this election in the end, it is not that a Democrat can't win there, it is their own goddamn fault.

    "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

    by James Allen on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 07:09:29 PM PDT

    •  Federal office and state office are different (3+ / 0-)

      They have different implications, and Halter was still behind Boozman by a lot (double digits).

      And who the hell cares about the registered voters number anyways? Kentucky has Democrats as being the majority of registered voters, that didn't help Lunsford in 2008, did it?

      •  You couldn't be more wrong. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MrWebster, lams712

        Lunsford got 47% of the vote.  Against the leader of the senate Republicans.

        Democratic Governor Beshear was elected with 56%.

        Jim Bunning never got mroe than 51% in Kentucky.

        And yes, federal and state offices are so different that while Democrats control all levers of state power in Arkansas, they only have 5 out of the 6 members of the states federal congressional delegation.

        Big difference.

        No, you're wrong.  It may be the case in Alabama, where Democrats only have a couple congressional seats and no senate seats, but control the state leg, but its not the case in Arkansas.  Or West Virginia.  Or North Carolina.

        "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

        by James Allen on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 07:20:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Democratic party... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MadGeorgiaDem

          is still stronger in West Virginia than it is in Arkansas (and there's a much stronger labor union presence there, hence why Lincoln and Pryor opposed EFCA while Byrd and Rockefeller supported it).

          Jim Bunning is bat-shit crazy, of course he never does much better than 51%, but guess what? Democrats haven't been able to beat him despite his clear mental instability.

          The fact that the Democrats hold so many Arkansas seats right now won't last, and Arkansas will be quick to join the rest of the South, and if you think it isn't, you're deluding yourself.

  •  I just never fell for Bill Halter. (5+ / 0-)

    It's not like Bill Halter and Blanche Lincoln are that different on the issues.  Bill Halter opposes cap-and-trade, and wouldn't even commit to voting for EFCA.  If Bill Halter had prevailed over Blanche Lincoln, we're basically talking about replacing someone who votes the caucus position 60 percent of the time with someone who votes the caucus position 70 percent of the time.  I'd much rather spend my resources on someone like Patty Murray or Barbara Boxer, who vote the caucus position 90-95 percent of the time.

    I found a moonrock in my nose. - Ralph Wiggum

    by jim bow on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 07:19:51 PM PDT

    •  Well, I get the feeling.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Virginia mom, DCJackass

      that while Halter may not have voted FOR some things, that he would've been substantially less likely to oppose cloture.  That's a really big deal.  I'd support Lincoln if she promised never ever ever to vote against cloture in a Democrat controlled Senate.

      •  To me ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BrowniesAreGood

        ... that difference still isn't big enough that it's worth spending enormous amounts of time and money when we could spend such resources on someone like Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, etc., who actually vote the caucus position 90-95 percent of the time.

        I found a moonrock in my nose. - Ralph Wiggum

        by jim bow on Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 07:27:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Some truth, but missing something. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Virginia mom

    There's a difference between tea baggers and progressives asking for better Democrats.  Tea baggers insist on NO legislation and BROKEN government.  We weren't asking for Lincoln and Halter to be the most liberal in the world...  We were asking for Lincoln not to stand in the way of legislation and sabotage her own constituents.  There's a world of difference there.

  •  These kind of diaries give me pause... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrWebster

    This is like saying we shouldn't go against Max Baucus because he's an incumbent and has a D next to his name...it's nonsense...it takes the consequences out of elections...diaries like this always give me the impression a staffer is writing in support of their boss...

    What good is Lincoln if she's not going to go with party...if she didn't win, it's a good thing by and large no loss...then you can put the machine behind Halter and do the best you can...yes he's somewhat of a unknown...but you know what Lincoln is and it's not a Democrat...

    If Halter wins seeing how Lincoln was taken out, if the effort was successful... he's more mindful to toe the party line if he wants to be re-elected...

    Who do you expect to get better Democrats with that line of thinking...if they are no good try to get them tossed out on their asses every time a opportunity presents itself...

    •  I'm not saying that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MadGeorgiaDem

      I'm simply trying to give perspective, and also pointing out that political parties always defend their incumbents. It doesn't mean that primary challenges aren't appropriate at times, it's just to note that political parties defend their incumbents for a good reason and we shouldn't expect them to do otherwise.

      And I'm also pointing out that Halter would've almost certainly lost the general election too, which is why the intensity of some progressives with this race is a bit ridiculous.

      •  That wasn't protecting an incumbent... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BadgerBlue

        that was a deliberate throat slitting of Progressive progression by Bill Clinton...it really was...and I say that being a fan of Bill's....

        Here's why....just look at the end results of that election it was close and it was winnable by Halter...the point spread at the end hardly indicated a landslide win on Lincolns part...had Bill Clinton a local hero not called the Union terrorist...Halter may have won...

        Had he won...it would have injected a whole new energy not only in Arkansas but within the party, whether Halter won the general or not...made Dem's more responsive to Progressive issues...he killed any chance of that...why..?

        •  Bill Clinton is a creature of the.. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MadGeorgiaDem

          Arkansas establishment as well as the Washington establishment, I didn't expect him to do anything other than endorse Lincoln (not that I liked it, but that's really a different story).

          If Halter had won the primary, there might have been some cheering... until he lost the general, which would've turned the whole thing into an excuse to, frankly, piss on the unions and progressives who backed Halter (they'd be unfair in doing so, but it would be a big credibility drain).

          Unless you can put up a candidate who wins in the general election, the political influence you wield is going to be severely limited. Putting so much hope and enthusiasm into Halter's campaign when the chances were still extremely high that he was going to lose the general election isn't doing good for the progressive cause, it makes it easier to demonize it (and, as a progressive, I'd like to see us put that energy into more productive ventures).

  •  The results in Arkansas will play for Lincoln (0+ / 0-)

    In that very conservative state.  Arkansas IS WallMart and Tyson and not Wall Street.  What is not good politics for her is to be against a Public Option of a Medicare Buy In.  That is senseless but for being Anti Obama.

    Senators represent STATES and the corporations that own them.  Arkansas is populated enough to require the campaign funding support of actual working persons, but it is "on the cusp".  Montana and Wyoming are, of course, for sale at all times to whoever has a load of money.

    So Blanch is playing to the locals by being pro Tyson and WallMart, anti Wall Street and anti Obama.  It proly won't work, but that has to be the plan.

    If Boozman gets caught with an underage gay then Blanch could "edge him out".   Or maybe he will create a "chicken suit" for himself.

    "I know no safe depository for the ultimate power of society but the people themselves" -- Jefferson

    by TheTrucker on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 08:42:31 PM PDT

  •  Well stated brudda (0+ / 0-)

    Protecting incumbents has it's time and place and this was NOT the time or the place after Lincoln paraded around boasting about how she helped kill the public option and EFCA.  Union leaders have a constituency that's angry as hell at weasels such as Lincoln and they risk getting thrown out of their posts if they DON"T get behind Halter and make a show of it in the process.  Whether Halter went on to win or lose against Boozman isn't the real issue because it's clear that working families already lost with Lincoln.  And when activists think they have already lost, they quit giving time and money to the Democratic Party establishment apparatus that worked overtime to throw this thing for Lincoln.

    I saw Kos's post-mortem on how not all is completely lost.  I wish I could believe it entirely, but right now I'm really skeptical.  Many of the Obama volunteers I met during '08 really wanted to believe that he would work to free the party from the Clinton DLC cronies that have saddled us with the corporate trash such as Lincoln and Lieberman.  I know for a fact that nearly all of them will NOT waste their time and money after watching Clinton take disgusting cheap shots at the Progressive movement and the candidate they worked tirelessly to support.  To them, the worst message of all was sent-That the Clintons still run the party and Obama either failed to take control or never cared enough about the working people that helped get him to where he is now to begin with.

    It takes a ton of sacrifice in blood and treasure to counter the unchecked flow  of corporate money and attack ads aimed at killing true Progressives in an off-year election.  After watching the beltway establishment chase away Dean and the successful 50-state strategy, many activists felt betrayed.  Last night sealed the deal for me.  I haven't given any money to the DSCC this cycle after having contributed MANY THOUSANDS of dollars in the previous two.  After reading on Kos last week that J. B. Poersch's wife is on Lincoln's campaign staff, that really pissed me off.  The events of last week( Clinton crapping on working people trying to save Lincoln and dozens of voting stations disappearing in a Halter stronghold at the 11th hour) made hitting the "UNSUSCRIBE" link on Poersch's latest solicitation today a no-brainer.  Just the thought that that asshole is going to waste even a dime of donations on Lincoln's lost cause is absolutely disgusting.

    Hey J.B., how much money are you guys at DSCC paying Ken Blackwell in consulting fees on how to disenfranchise voters and make polling places and voting booths vanish overnite?  Scumbag!  

  •  As an Arkie, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadGeorgiaDem, NMLib

    Frankly, I agree with your opinions.  Blanche won for two reasons... She ran very strong in East Arkansas, where the farmers are.  Chair of the Senate Ag Committee was a big selling point.  Second, this 'anti-incumbent voter anger' is bullshit.  If Arkies were so 'pissed off', why was the primary turnout statewide about 29%?  It should be even lower for the runoff.  In my county in NW AR, the turnout was about 17% for the runoff.  Most people just don't give a shit. I would be interested in what voter turnout has been across the spectrum.

    Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining!

    by Arkieboy on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 09:26:59 PM PDT

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