WASHINGTON — The House Democratic campaign arm is nearing open warfare with the party’s rising liberal wing as political operatives close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi try to shut down primary challenges before what is likely to be a hard-fought campaign next year to preserve the party’s shaky majority.
Progressive Democrats were infuriated last month when Representative Cheri Bustos of Illinois, the chairwoman of the campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, moved to protect centrist incumbents by formally breaking committee business ties with political consultants and pollsters who go to work for primary challengers.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, who owes her seat to a successful primary challenge, went so far as to encourage her 3.8 million Twitter followers to “pause” their donations to the campaign committee in protest. She also started a fund-raising push on her official Twitter account for Representatives Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Katie Hill of California and Mike Levin of California. That initiative, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter, raised $30,000 in roughly two hours. She also helped raise money for Representatives Katie Porter of California and Lauren Underwood of Illinois.
The open hostilities are just the latest in the rising tensions between an experienced party establishment focusing on what is possible in the short run and a group of young liberals chafing at such restraint. House Democrats have divided over single-payer “Medicare for all” versus incremental legislation to bolster the Affordable Care Act and over Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal versus less ambitious climate change policies. Liberal Democrats and more moderate newcomers from Republican-leaning districts have fought over Republican procedural motions.
And divisions on health care, climate change, military spending and tax policy convinced the House Budget Committee chairman, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, last week to give up on drafting a budget that would have laid down a broad legislative agenda for the new Democrat-controlled House.
Now that tension has migrated to the mechanics of the 2020 campaign.
Ms. Bustos’s rule prohibits Democratic consultants and vendors working for a primary challenger to an incumbent from receiving work from the committee. It comes as ardent liberal organizations like Justice Democrats, emboldened by a pair of high-profile wins in 2018 — Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez — are aggressively gearing up to challenge centrist or old-line Democrats with liberal candidates.
In the latest swipe in a fight that has erupted into open hostilities, a coalition of progressive groups on Friday introduced an online database of go-to vendors for insurgent candidates emblazoned with the heading, “Despite the D.C.C.C.’s bullying, we’re still going to work on primaries.”
One group, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Friday that it was exploring a challenge against Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, because he has not committed to holding hearings on the single-payer health care system known as “Medicare for all.” At the helm of that panel, Mr. Neal has been on the front lines of conducting oversight on President Trump’s finances, and last week requested six years of his personal tax returns.
“We reject the D.C.C.C.’s attempt to hoard power, which will only serve to keep that talent pool — and Congress itself — disproportionately white and male,” María Urbina, the national political director for Indivisible, a progressive grass-roots group, said of the campaign committee. “Incumbents who engage fully with their constituents shouldn’t fear primaries and shouldn’t rely on the national institutions like the D.C.C.C. to suppress challenges before voters ever have a say.”
Presidential aspirants test waters on health care, environmental policy; ‘bring on the tension’
Looming over the intraparty debate is the question of how best to beat Mr. Trump. Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, an ally of Mr. Biden and several governors considering entering the race, said “the only way that Trump can win is if the nominee is too far to the left.” Asked his definition of “too far left,” Mr. Markell said it is “the giving-everything-away-for-free lane.”
The contest already is being framed by ideas to the left of those that Hillary Clinton campaigned on in 2016. The biggest names of the party’s opposition to Mr. Trump—Ms. Warren, Ms. Harris, Mr. Sanders and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York—all support a single-payer health care system, free college at public universities and the Green New Deal.
Mr. Biden and Ms. Klobuchar represent a continuation of the politics that elected Mr. Obama. Both have spoken of the need to either restore the former president’s policies dismantled by Mr. Trump or build upon them.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Mr. O’Rourke are staking out space between the party’s two poles.
Ten of the 16 announced candidates have endorsed Mr. Sanders’s Medicare for All proposal, and six back his proposal for free public university tuition. Six co-sponsored legislation to provide federal paid family leave, and eight support the Green New Deal.
Some Democrats are endorsing multiple solutions without ruling out any. Several candidates who support Medicare for All also are calling for incremental health-care improvements. Ms. Warren also has called for a public option to buy into Medicare, and for simply improving the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Booker, who has said he would work with Republicans when possible, has proposed a “baby bond” program in which the government would create savings accounts which would provide $1,000 at birth, and up to $2,000 annually, to every child in the U.S.
.. Enough hard feelings remain from that fight that one of the biggest applause lines for Mr. Booker on a recent swing through the state was his pledge not to attack fellow Democrats.
.. “The Democratic platform already leans progressive. Our candidate doesn’t necessarily have to blow that horn,” said Marjie Foster, the Decatur County Democratic chairwoman. “We need to allow the American people to catch up with the progressive mind-set. If we try to push too hard, we will lose those who are slowly working their way left.”
.. “The litmus test is we need a candidate who can build a coalition to win,” said Mr. Scholten, who is considering a Senate bid in 2020. “If Klobuchar can do it with her message, that’s great. If Bernie can do it with his message, that’s great too. I think it could be someone from either side.”
Stick around Washington long enough and you will learn a simple rule: Success also brings risk. Danger comes calling when the winning side in a political fight either overreaches in its hour of triumph or fails to turn newly won political capital into something useful.
This is the risk for Democrats right now. There is no doubt they won—convincingly—in their showdown with President Trump over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall along the southern border. They stared down the president during a monthlong partial government shutdown, and in the end they got exactly what they were demanding: a temporary reopening of the government without providing any money for the wall.First, they now have spent the opening period of their new control of the House of Representatives focused not on their priorities—health care in particular—but instead on Mr. Trump’s top priority, immigration.
Second, the shutdown prevented the new Democratic House leadership, and all those new House members elected last November, from starting off by demonstrating they can govern effectively.
.. A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that positive feelings about the Democratic party fell to 35% this month from 39% in December. That means the share of Americans who have positive feelings about Democrats is essentially no different from the 34% who have positive
The Democratic electorate has shifted sharply to the left, taking many politicians along with it — willingly and unwillingly.
The most active wing of the Democratic Party — the roughly 20 percent of the party’s electorate that votes in primaries and wields disproportionate influence over which issues get prioritized — has moved decisively to the left. With all the attention that is being paid to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and other new progressive voices in Congress, this may not seem like news, but we are only just beginning to realize the full significance of this shift.
The Primaries Project at the Brookings Institution conducted extensive polling of 7,198 Democratic voters in the 2018 primaries and found that 60.4 percent described themselves as liberal, including 26.4 percent who said they were “very liberal.”
In its most recent analysis, Gallup found that from 1994 to 2018, the percentage of all Democrats who call themselves liberal more than doubled from 25 percent to 51 percent.
One key Democratic target, Sawhill observes, is the “well-educated, suburban women, many of them Republican, who voted for Democrats in the midterms.” Once Trump is gone, she continued, “they could easily return to their natural home in the Republican Party.”
“Over the longer-term,” Sawhill continued,
as millennials and minorities become an ever-larger proportion of the party, it will have a natural constituency that supports a new and bolder agenda, but the concentration of those voters in urban areas that are underrepresented in our electoral system will be a continuing drag on the party’s prospects.
The extensive support among prospective Democratic presidential candidates for Medicare for All, government-guaranteed jobs and a higher minimum wage reflects the widespread desire in the electorate for greater protection from the vicissitudes of market capitalism — in response to “increasingly incomplete risk protection in an era of dramatic social change,”
Take liberalized attitudes on immigration as an example. From 2008 to 2018, the percentage of Democrats who said the government should create “a way for immigrants already here illegally to become citizens if the meet certain requirements” grew from 29 to 51 percent, while the share who said “there should be better border security and stronger enforcement of immigration laws” fell from 21 to 5 percent.
Similarly, the percentage of Democrats who agreed with the statement that “racial discrimination is the main reason many blacks can’t get ahead these days” rose from 28 to 64 percent from 2010 to 2017.
While progressives have gained ground in long-held Democratic areas, more centrist candidates have won the more competitive districts. This second development will limit how far to the left the party can go. The more the party expands into the suburbs, the more dependent it will be on those relatively centrist votes — and that dependence will become a constraint on the policies that Democrats are able to agree on.
.. In addition, while acknowledging the rise of the progressive wing, Starr pointed out that a separate December 2018 Gallup survey found that 54 percent of Democratic voters would prefer their party to become “more moderate,” while 41 percent said they would like the party to become “more liberal.”
movement is across the board on policy, ideological identification, and values, but remains furthest left on specific policy. The public movement seems to be strongest on race and gender issues as well as any proposal tied to Trump.
Somerville had moved from downscale to upscale, not to the level of Brattle Street in Cambridge or Boston’s Beacon Hill, but still many steps up the ladder.
“Ocasio-Cortez did best in areas such as Astoria/Steinway and Sunnyside, which happen to be more white than other parts of the district,” a point he elaborated upon in a story quoting him posted on The Intercept:
You can also see that most of her votes, the strongest vote support, came from areas like Astoria in Queens and Sunnyside in Queens and parts of Jackson Heights that, number one, were not predominantly Hispanic, so they’re a more mixed population, and are areas where — this is kind of a term of art — are in the process of being gentrified, where newer people are moving in,
“Ocasio-Cortez’s best precincts,” Freedlander wrote, were
highly educated, whiter and richer than the district as a whole. In those neighborhoods, Ocasio-Cortez clobbered Crowley by 70 percent or more.
Conversely, Crowley did best in “the working-class African-American enclave of LeFrak City, where he got more than 60 percent of the vote.” In fact, Crowley
pulled some of his best numbers in Ocasio-Cortez’s heavily Latino and African-American neighborhood of Parkchester, in the Bronx — beating her by more than 25 points on her home turf.
Jerry Skurnik, a New York political consultant, describes gentrifying communities outside Manhattan as experiencing an influx of “people who really want to live in Greenwich Village but can’t afford to.”
This younger, well-educated constituency — predominately but not exclusively white — is hostile to cautious establishment Democrats, especially to older white men, and they are determined to engineer an intraparty cultural and ideological insurgency.
The emergence in force in 2018 of these insurgent Democrats grows in part out of the Sanders presidential campaign. Sanders mobilized millions of voters, many of whom did not want the Democrats to nominate a candidate with deep ties to party regulars and to the major donor community.