The DCCC Vision Of The Democratic Party: Socially Liberal/Fiscally Conservative

Florida New Dems Gwen Graham and Patrick Murphy-- pro-gay/pro-Choice/pro-corporate/pro-Wall Street

Last week, writing for Raw Story, Greta Christina, exposed the fallacy of social liberals/fiscal conservatives. The entire premise of the vile, contemptible New Dems is based on this bit of delusion. The New Dems are a Wall Street-funded operation whose members tend to be pro-Choice and fine with gay weddings but who want to kick poor people off Social Security and Medicare, allow for job-killing trade policies, and devastate the environment in the name of Big Business' love of "free enterprise." But, as Christina points out, "[y]ou can’t separate fiscal issues from social issues. They’re deeply intertwined. They affect each other. Economic issues often are social issues. And conservative fiscal policies do enormous social harm. That’s true even for the mildest, most generous version of 'fiscal conservatism'-- low taxes, small government, reduced regulation, a free market. These policies perpetuate human rights abuses. They make life harder for people who already have hard lives. Even if the people supporting these policies don’t intend this, the policies are racist, sexist, classist (obviously), ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and otherwise socially retrograde. In many ways, they do more harm than so-called 'social policies' that are supposedly separate from economic ones. Here are seven reasons that 'fiscally conservative, socially liberal' is nonsense.

1: Poverty, and the cycle of poverty. This is the big one. Poverty is a social issue. The cycle of poverty-- the ways that poverty itself makes it harder to get out of poverty, the ways that poverty can be a permanent trap lasting for generations-- is a social issue, and a human rights issue.

...[B]eing poor doesn’t just mean you’re likely to stay poor. It means that if you have children, they’re more likely to stay poor. It means you’re less able to give your children the things they need to flourish-- both in easily-measurable tangibles like good nutrition, and less-easily-measurable qualities like a sense of stability. The effect of poverty on children-- literally on their brains, on their ability to literally function-- is not subtle, and it lasts into adulthood. Poverty’s effect on adults is appalling enough. Its effect on children is an outrage.

And in case you hadn’t noticed, poverty-- including the cycle of poverty and the effect of poverty on children-- disproportionately affects African Americans, Hispanics, other people of color, women, trans people, disabled people, and other marginalized groups.

So what does this have to do with fiscal policy? Well, duh. Poverty is perpetuated or alleviated, worsened or improved, by fiscal policy. That’s not the only thing affecting poverty, but it’s one of the biggest things. To list just a few of the most obvious examples of very direct influence: Tax policy. Minimum wage. Funding of public schools and universities. Unionization rights. Banking and lending laws. Labor laws. Funding of public transportation. Public health care. Unemployment benefits. Disability benefits. Welfare policy. Public assistance that doesn’t penalize people for having savings. Child care. Having a functioning infrastructure, having economic policies that support labor, having a tax system that doesn’t steal from the poor to give to the rich, having a social safety net-- a real safety net, not one that just barely keeps people from starving to death but one that actually lets people get on their feet and function-- makes a difference. When these systems are working, and are working well, it’s easier for people to get out of poverty. When they’re not, it’s difficult to impossible. And I haven’t even gotten into the fiscal policy of so-called “free” trade, and all the ways it feeds poverty both in the U.S. and around the world.

Fiscal policy affects poverty. And in the United States, “fiscally conservative” means supporting fiscal policies that perpetuate poverty. “Fiscally conservative” means slashing support systems that help the poor, lowering taxes for the rich, cutting corners for big business, and screwing labor-- policies that both worsen poverty and make it even more of an inescapable trap.

2: Domestic violence, workplace harassment, and other abuse. See above, re: cycle of poverty. If someone is being beaten by their partner, harassed or assaulted at work, abused by their parents-- and if they’re poor, and if there’s fuck-all for a social safety net-- it’s a hell of a lot harder for them to leave. What’s more, the stress of poverty itself-- especially inescapable, entrapped poverty-- contributes to violence and abuse.

And you know who gets disproportionately targeted with domestic violence and workplace harassment? Women. Especially women of color. And LGBT folks-- especially trans women of color, and LGBT kids and teenagers. Do you care about racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist violence? Then quit undercutting the social safety net. A solid safety net-- a safety net that isn’t made of tissue paper, and that doesn’t require the people in it to constantly scramble just to stay there, much less to climb out-- isn’t going to magically eliminate this violence and harassment. But it sure makes it easier for people to escape it.

3: Disenfranchisement. There’s a cycle that in some ways is even uglier than the cycle of poverty-- because it blocks people from changing the policies that keep the cycle of poverty going. I’m talking about the cycle of disenfranchisement.

I’m talking about the myriad ways that the super-rich control the political process-- and in controlling the political process, both make themselves richer and give themselves even more control over the political process. Purging voter rolls. Cutting polling place hours. Cutting back on early voting-- especially in poor districts. Voter ID laws. Roadblocks to voter registration-- noticeably aimed at people likely to vote progressive. Questionable-at-best voter fraud detection software, which-- by some wild coincidence-- tends to flag names that are common among minorities. Eliminating Election Day registration. Restricting voter registration drives. Gerrymandering-- creating voting districts with the purpose of skewing elections in your favor.

Voter suppression is a real thing in the United States. And these policies are set in place by the super-rich-- or, to be more precise, by the government officials who are buddies with the super-rich and are beholden to them. These policies are not set in place to reduce voter fraud: voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S., to the point of being almost non-existent. The policies are set in place to make voting harder for people who would vote conservative plutocrats out of office. If you’re skeptical about whether this is actually that deliberate, whether these policies really are written by plutocratic villains cackling over how they took even more power from the already disempowered — remember Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai, who actually said, in words, “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

...4: Racist policing. There’s a whole lot going on with racist policing in the United States. Obviously. But a non-trivial chunk of it is fiscal policy. Ferguson shone a spotlight on this, but it isn’t just in Ferguson-- it’s all over the country. In cities and counties and towns across the United States, the government is funded, in large part, by tickets and fines for municipal violations-- and by the meta-system of interest, penalties, surcharges, and fees on those tickets and fines, which commonly turn into a never-ending debt amounting to many, many times the original fine itself.

This is, for all intents and purposes, a tax. It’s a tax on poor people. It’s a tax on poor people for being poor, for not having a hundred dollars in their bank account that they can drop at a moment’s notice on a traffic ticket. And it’s a tax that disproportionately targets black and brown people. When combined with the deeply ingrained culture of racism in many many many police forces-- a police culture that hammers black and brown people for the crime of existing-- it is a tax on black and brown people, purely for being black or brown. But Loki forbid we raise actual taxes. Remember the fiscal conservative mantra: “Low taxes good! High taxes bad!” High taxes are bad-- unless we don’t call them a tax. If we call it a penalty or a fine, that’s just peachy. And if it’s disproportionately levied by a racist police force on poor black people, who have little visibility or power and are being systematically disenfranchised-- that’s even better. What are they going to do about it? And who’s going to care? It’s not as if black lives matter. What’s more: You know some of the programs that have been proposed to reduce racist policing? Programs like automatic video monitoring of police encounters? An independent federal agency to investigate and discipline local policing, to supplement or replace ineffective, corrupt, or non-existent self-policing? Those take money. Money that comes from taxes. Money that makes government a little bit bigger. Fiscal conservatism-- the reflexive cry of “Lower taxes! Smaller government!”-- contributes to racist policing. Even if you, personally, oppose racist policing, supporting fiscal conservatism makes you part of the problem.

5: Drug policy and prison policy. Four words: The new Jim Crow. Drug war policies in the United States-- including sentencing policies, probation policies, which drugs are criminalized and how severely, laws banning felons convicted on drug charges from voting, and more-- have pretty much zero effect on reducing the harm that can be done by drug abuse. They don’t reduce drug use, they don’t reduce drug addiction, they don’t reduce overdoses, they don’t reduce accidents or violence that can be triggered by drug abuse. If anything, these policies make all of this worse.

But they do have one powerful effect: Current drug policies in the United States are very, very good at creating and perpetuating a permanent black and brown underclass. They are very good at creating a permanent class of underpaid, disenfranchised, disempowered servants, sentenced to do shit work at low wages for white people, for the rest of their lives.

This is not a bug. This is a feature.

You don’t have to be a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist to see how current U.S. drug policy benefits the super-rich and super-powerful. It is a perfect example of a “social issue” with powerful ripple effects into the economy. And that’s not even getting into the issue of how the wealthy might benefit from super-cheap prison labor, labor that borders so closely on slavery it’s hard to distinguish it. So people who are well-served by the current economy are strongly motivated to keep drug policy firmly in place.

Plus, two more words: Privatized prisons. Privatized prisons mean prisons run by people who have no interest in reducing the prison population-- people who actually benefit from a high crime rate, a high recidivism rate, severe sentencing policies, severe probation policies, and other treats that keep the prison population high. It’s as if we had privatized fire departments, who got paid more the more fires they put out-- and thus had every incentive, not to improve fire prevention techniques and policies and education, but to gut them.

Privatization of prisons is a conservative fiscal policy. It’s a policy based on the conservative ideal of low taxes, small government, and the supposedly miraculous power of the free market to make any system more efficient. And it’s a policy with a powerful social effect-- the effect of doing tremendous harm.

...6: Deregulation. This one is really straightforward. Deregulation of business is a conservative fiscal policy. And it has a devastating effect on marginalized people. Do I need to remind anyone of what happened when the banking and financial industries were deregulated?

Do I need to remind anyone of who was most hurt by those disasters? Overwhelmingly poor people, working-class people, and people of color.

But this isn’t just about banking and finance. Deregulation of environmental standards, workplace safety standards, utilities, transportation, media-- all of these have the entirely unsurprising effect of making things better for the people who own the businesses, and worse for the people who patronize them and work for them. Contrary to the fiscal conservative myth, an unregulated free market does not result in exceptional businesses fiercely competing for the best workers and lavishly serving the public. It results in monopoly. It results in businesses with the unofficial slogan, “We Don’t Care — We Don’t Have To.” It results in 500-pound gorillas, sleeping anywhere they want.

7: “Free” trade. This one is really straightforward. So-called “free” trade policies have a horrible effect on human rights, both in the United States and overseas. They let corporations hire labor in countries where labor laws-- laws about minimum wage, workplace safety, working hours, child labor-- are weak to nonexistent. They let corporations hire labor in countries where they can pay children as young as five years old less than a dollar a day, to work 12 or even 16 hours a day, in grossly unsafe workplaces and grueling working conditions that make Dickensian London look like a socialist Utopia.

And again-- this is not a bug. This is a feature. This is the whole damn point of “free” trade: by reducing labor costs to practically nothing, it provides cheap consumer products to American consumers, and it funnels huge profits to already obscenely rich corporations. It also decimates blue-collar employment in the United States-- and it feeds human rights abuses around the world. Thank you, fiscal conservatism!

And thank you New Dems and the DCCC and DSCC which both promote the toxic New Dem social liberal/fiscal conservative ideology as the direction Democrats need to move in. These are the dozen worst Democrats-- in terms of voting for the Republican agenda-- in the House:

Gwen Graham (New Dem-FL)
Brad Ashford (New Dem-NE)
Kyrsten Sinema (New Dem-AZ)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL)
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Ann Kirkpatrick (New Dem-AZ)
Pete Aguilar (New Dem-CA)

Although a couple of the worst reactionaries and Blue Dogs are socially conservative/fiscally conservative, almost everyone on the list tends towards relative social liberalism as well as the tragic fiscal conservatism that has them voting across the aisle with the Republicans so much-- in the case of the worst of them, like Gwen Graham, Brad Ashford and Kyrsten Sinema, more than two-thirds of the time.

The real tragedy is that the DCCC and the DSCC-- for all their mealy-mouthed protestations of "neutrality" in primaries-- continue recruiting fiscally conservative candidates, in the image of Blue Dog Steve Israel and New Dem Joe Crowley (both crooked Wall Street-backed politicians being high up in House Democratic Party leadership). The DCCC gets into trouble by recruiting these awful conservative candidates-- some actual opportunistic Republicans-- and either lose outright or win and then lose the seat soon after when Democratic voters realize they've been sold a bill of goods. Yesterday, reporting for Roll Call, Emily Cahn, wrote that the DCCC, still smarting from the disasters of their past recruitment "strategy," is reassessing-- or at least cultivating an image of reassessing the failed recruitment agenda.

"[T]his cycle," she writes, "the DCCC is holding off for the moment on playing in primaries, according to nearly a half-dozen Democratic operatives who had conversations with the committee’s leadership. It’s a lesson operatives say the committee learned after it 'rushed to judgment' in a few races, endorsing candidates who didn’t live up to the DCCC’s expectations."

“They’re being more methodical this cycle,” said one Democratic consultant who worked on competitive House contests last cycle-- who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about conversations with the DCCC. “They still want strong candidates … but I think last time it was more a push just to get people in so they had time to raise money, and less of a qualitative look at the full district and who else might be out there. And so they aren’t rushing to judgment.”

...Some Jumpstart candidates hailed as top recruits wound up being disappointments on the trail-- losing their races by wide margins, even in competitive seats.

Horrible New Dem-type candidates pushed by Steve Israel who led the Democrats into jaw-dropping defeats-- some in heavily blue districts-- included Jennifer Garrison (OH), Sean Eldridge (NY), Domenic Recchia (NY), Ann Callis (IL), Jerry Cannon (MI), Erin Billbray (NV), Andrew Romanoff (CO), Kevin Strouse (PA), Marjorie Margolies (PA), John Lewis (MT), Pam Byrnes (MI), James Lee Witt (AR), Emily Cain (ME), Bobby McKenzie (MI), Aaron Woolf (NY), Martha Robertson (NY), Suzanne Patrick (VA), Manan Trivedi (PA) and Nick Casey (WV).

Fiscally conservative Democratic incumbents who followed lame DCCC messaging and were defeated-- primarily by Democratic voters' decision to boycott the elections-- included Blue Dogs and New Dems like Ron Barber (AZ), Nick Rahall (WV), Pete Gallego (TX), Dan Maffei (NY), John Barrow (GA), Joe Garcia (FL), and Brad Schneider (IL). Several other putrid conservaDem incumbents managed to hold onto their seats by the skin of their teeth, like Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA), Scott Peters (New Dem-CA), Ami Bera (New Dem-CA), and Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY).

The committee’s endorsement of veteran Kevin Strouse did not deter scientist Shaughnessy Naughton from entering the primary to run against Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania. Strouse barely beat Naughton in the primary and went on to be a disappointing candidate in the general election, capturing just 38 percent against Fitzpatrick despite the district’s competitive bent. Naughton is running again in 2016 in this now-open seat, and faces a primary against state Rep. Steve Santarsiero.

Initial Jumpstart recruit Domenic M. Recchia Jr., now lamented as one of the weakest candidates of the cycle, lost to scandal-plagued Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y., by double-digits, despite vastly outpacing him in the fundraising race. Grimm resigned after pleading guilty to tax fraud.

Former Judge Ann Callis, another Jumpstart alumna, was uncomfortable in her role as a candidate despite a stellar résumé on paper. She struggled to connect with voters and lost to GOP Rep. Rodney Davis by a 17-point margin, despite the Illinois district’s even partisan split.

Looking toward 2016, Democratic operatives say the change in the DCCC’s recruitment strategy has a lot to do with the fundamental differences in the cycle... This cycle, with the party anticipating more favorable turnout boosted by likely presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrats say the DCCC has more time to let fields form before deciding whether to play in primaries.

“They might still jump in some races where it matters,” said a third Democratic operative who works on House races. “But assuming it’s going to be better year with presidential-level turnout, there’s no need to dabble as much.”

Endorsing in primary contests always comes with risks. If the other candidate ends up securing the nomination, they could cause troubles for the party in a general election. It could also anger grass-roots activists in the district, who help mobilize critical voters.

Knowing the risks, the National Republican Congressional Committee does not publicly back candidates in primaries-- even when more electable choices face rabble-rousing fringe candidates.

While the House committees appear to be taking a more hands-off approach to primary endorsements, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has so far endorsed candidates in five top Senate contests.

The DSCC is aggressively pushing very conservative "former" Republican Patrick Murphy against Alan Grayson in Florida. The DCCC is running their own batch of conservative shitheads, "former" Republicans like Monica Vernon in Iowa and Mike Derrick in New York, as well as mystery meat candidates like Shawn O'Connor in New Hampshire. Democratic primary voters want candidates who will stand up for progressive values and policies and do not care about the careerist game-playing among party bosses like Schumer, Israel, Hoyer and Crowley. Democratic primary voters want candidates with a New Deal perspective, not a New Dem perspective. If you are looking for candidates who are progressive both socially and economically... you can find challengers here and incumbents here.

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