Thursday, June 16, 2005

Beyond Conventional Wisdom

Academics provide research that typically never sees the light of day. The Report on the 2004 Congressional Races is unique in comparison. Eight unsuccessful Congressional challengers met soon after the election. They discussed their experiences. They wanted answers. They now have those answers.

The report is one of first-hand knowledge of the political campaign machine rather than the passive observational research. Most online rhetoric currently providing feedback loses focus on the empirical data proving the salient issue of the DCCPAC report: The DCCC is not actively recruiting. Recruiting & supporting Democrat challengers is its mandate. Consequently, if the DCCC refuses to recruit, the in-state Party “leaders” have no reason to expend resources to identify potential Congressional challengers. In parts of Central & So. IL, the Congressional races have even less importance. Of the nine challengers in the 2004 Election Cycle, the DCCC “targeted” one. One received 44 percent of the vote (& the DCCC is ignoring her this year). The rest received an average one-third of the vote.

For the 2002 Election Cycle, Rep. Lapinski & Speaker Hastert agreed to a deal. That ensured David Phelps losing, Rep. Shimkus winning, & Central & So. IL successfully providing a majority of votes to the GOP. Then-Gov. Ryan also allowed state employees to work on the campaign to re-elect Rep. Shimkus. To reciprocate, the IL district director for Rep. Shimkus worked on Gov. Ryan’s campaign in violation of the Hatch Act.-Obviously, David Phelps moved on with his life after this shattering experience. The loss effectively ended his future political career on The Hill & possibly throughout the state. When he was in Congress, he erroneously voted for allowing the president the power to declare war whenever he chose. I would hope that it was a decision his constituents wanted. After meeting him in his Harrisburg office, I felt he was a far better man for the CD & deserved more consideration from the Party than his “sacrificial lamb” status.

Gerrymandering is not limited to the Democrat Party. The GOP is constantly engaged in the practice. It backfires, too. Now both IL senators are Democrats after the 2004 Election Cycle that made the IL GOP a national laughing stock.

Rep. Shimkus schmoozes exceptionally well with all GOP-related groups & functions. If West Point had not accepted him as a plebe, he would have made a fine Lutheran minister – his alternative profession of choice. Currently, his legislative accomplishments include personal acknowledgements of his constituents in the Congressional Record & small pork funding for those near & dear to him. On the major issues, he’s a good soldier either providing a strictly GOP Roll Call vote or simply missing in action.

Personal injury lawyers are behind the failures of the Democrats in most of the IL 19th CD. Some live in the state. Some chose coastal residences. Their control remains regardless of geography.-To quote an online comment: “There is no commitment by the DCCC or DNC to establish a minor league where the best candidates can be targeted to run as challengers or when open seats emerge . . . Rep. Emanuel has been quoted as saying that there will be a $300K threshold for the DCCC to aide candidates. This is not a commitment to winning. The DCCC should be among the first PACs to give money to a legitimate candidate, rather than one of the last.” Instead, the organization spends millions of contributed dollars throughout the country to target & sacrifice.

This person reminds us that last year Christine Cegelis “ran an extremely strong campaign, and lost to Rep. Hyde by only 12 pts. despite receiving no money from the DCCC or PACs, and being outspent by over 4-1. In fact she only received a total of $1,300 from three Democratic clubs. She didn't even receive money from the Illinois Dem. Party.” (The statement provides justification for referring to the “leadership” in a figurative manner – there is none.)

The facts are a national issue. Mark Brown, the Democrat challenger from OH-15, ran against the GOP incumbent with less than $5,000. He received 40 percent of the vote. While a lot of money for a campaign helps, the voters still have the last word. Yet, hearing a political party deflect culpability because a majority voted for these people is unacceptable & does not excuse them – especially the way contentious campaigns manipulate advertising & influence language framing.

The country now has a high school wrestling coach as Speaker of the House. It can only happen to a close associate of Rep. DeLay. Rep. Hastert needed to deliver IL to the GOP. He succeeded. We are a “colony of TX”, & the DCCC allowed it to happen through their inactivity.

With one exception, gerrymandering has certainly worked in favor of the GOP incumbents & has practically ended all Democrat representation south of Springfield. Without Democrats to represent congressional districts, the in-state office challengers have no hope of unseating their GOP incumbents.

Collateral damage for the greater good is one thing. For the DCCC to refuse to recruit Party challengers, that is blatant betrayal. They betray the voters. They betray the best interests of the public trust as a whole. As many pundits have said ad nauseam, this is politics.

The DCCC sacrificed IL, FL, & OH in 2004 & proved that that we have succeeded in nothing except selling our quality of life, our valuable democracy, our very souls. Ignoring the issue, not discussing it, simply getting on with life perpetuates the cycle. So many registered Democrat voters are tired of this. The diehards will continue voting “undecided”. As for others, the Party has already lost them.

Consequently, the Democrat Party is in the Minority because it has put itself there. As citizens & voters of this country, we deserve better. We have every right to hold our elected officials accountable. We should demand it every two years with every congressional election.

The answers will not come easily. The Party is massively diverse – an attribute certainly. The downside is that this same diversity brings an assortment of opinions. We absolutely need to confront this problem aggressively. Thomas Jefferson said, “Enlighten the people generally, & tyranny & oppressions of the body & mind will vanish like evil spirits as the dawn of day.” Therefore, we need to elevate political discourse beyond conventional wisdom. Ultimately, all voters become better informed to cast a ballot, & GOP voters who are Democrats in their souls will cast a Democrat ballot once again.


At 17 June, 2005 08:11, Anonymous Highlander said...

Is this Blog going to rehash Bagwell's gripe with the DCCC evey other day? Maybe it's time to move on.


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