Two new Democratic groups are gearing up to make life a living hell for Republicans as they assume the House majority, and the bizarro implosion of GOP Rep.-elect George Santos of New York has provided their first opening.
On Thursday, Courage for America and Unrig Our Economy teamed up to put the screws to House Republicans as they try to ignore the growing scandal that threatens their fragile five-seat majority.
Courage for America—formed last month as it became clear Republicans would reclaim the lower chamber majority—helped organize a rally outside the Nassau County Courthouse where local Democrats called for a full congressional investigation of Santos.
“We call upon Congress and demand Congress conduct a House ethics investigation into George Santos,” declared Robert Zimmerman, the Democrat who lost to Santos by 8 points last month.
House ethics investigations are inherently weak, and Republican District Attorney Anne Donnelly has already launched a criminal probe into Santos.
But the call for an ethics investigation that Republicans will likely never launch and promises to be inconsequential even if it were is the first step in an effort to reclaim the congressional district next cycle. Santos lied to voters, hoodwinked the community, and Republicans will almost certainly give him a pass because they so desperately need his vote. This is exactly the type of political opening the Courage for America initiative was designed to capitalize on.
Simultaneous to the rally, Unrig Our Economy, another progressive group launched earlier this year, announced a six-figure ad campaign demanding that Congress investigate Santos. The group's press release says the campaign includes launching display ads on Newsday's website, targeted digital ads in the 3rd congressional district and District of Columbia, and a mobile billboard that made its debut at the Thursday rally.
“Working people deserve representatives who will fight for their needs and who will be honest with them, not one that fabricates his life story to deceive them into sending him to Congress,” said Sarah Baron, Senior Campaign Director for Unrig Our Economy, adding that Santos "must answer for his outrageous lies."
As we have noted in multiple stories, Santos is a total train wreck of a predicament for House Republicans. But his spectacular meltdown is also just a preview of a dynamic that promises to dog Republicans all cycle.
These Democratic groups, which are more like campaigns than actual organizations, suggest progressive activists and donors are positioned to pounce on every new Santos-style disaster that comes at House Republicans.
Here's how The New York Times framed Courage for America in a piece last month:
Under the umbrella of an initiative called Courage for America, progressive activists plan to establish a war room, begin media campaigns, hold events in targeted congressional districts and conduct other activities to emphasize what they see as the harms of Republican policies and counter the G.O.P.’s efforts to hamstring and tarnish the Biden administration with a barrage of investigations.
“What Courage for America aims to do is really make sure the MAGA agenda doesn’t get passed without strenuous opposition,” said Naveed Shah, a spokesman and senior adviser for the group, which expects to have a seven-figure budget funded by donors who can remain anonymous.
“A big part of this work is making sure that regular people see what is happening and don’t have the wool pulled over their eyes,” added Mr. Shah, an Army veteran who is also the political director for Common Defense, an organization of progressive veterans.
Making sure that regular people see the GOP’s misdeeds and are continually reminded of their depraved agenda and malfeasance is key to positioning House Democrats for a comeback next year. Beltway-based journalists may get bamboozled by congressional Republicans, but local agitation and the attendant coverage is the perfect way to keep House Republicans top of mind for voters in key districts.
Last month, the promise of groups such as Courage for America and Unrig the Economy seemed more theoretical and aspirational. But the Santos meltdown is giving us a glimpse of exactly how much trouble these groups can actually stir up for Republicans over the next couple years. It promises to be a target-rich environment.