The Freshmen: What About Sharice Davids?

And, so far... a waste of a House seat. Better than Kevin Yoder, though

Kansas' 3rd district (Wyandotte and Johnson counties and some of more rural Miami County) flipped red to blue in 2018. Basically, the district is Kansas City and it's suburbs, a swing district that Obama lost narrowly twice but that Hillary won, also narrowly (one point), in 2016. The district is 72.8% white, 11.6% Latino, 8.6% African-American and 4.2% Asian. The area is prosperous-- and it has the 83rd highest medium income of the 435 congressional districts. The PVI is R+4. Blue Dog Democrat Dennis Moore had served as congressman from 1999 until 2011. Moore, suffering with Alzheimer's disease, retired in 2010 and the Democrats ran his wife. She lost to a Democrat-turned-Republican, Kevin Yoder in the 2010 Republican wave election. The DCCC then insisted on trying to replicate Moore by running Blue Dogs and losing each time.

Democrats sensed Yoder was weak in 2018 and there was a fierce 6-person winner-take-all primary. Davids ran as a moderate identity politics candidate and her closest rival was Brent Welder, a progressive Berniecrat. She eked out a narrow 23,379 (27.3%) to 21,190 (33.8%) win. Welder and the rest of the Democrats rallied around Davids for the general and she kicked Yoder's ass:

Sharice Davids is a native American, a lesbian, a mixed martial arts fighter and an attorney. When she got to Washington she joined the right-of-center, Wall Street owned-and-operated New Dems and quickly ran up a solid "F" voting record, tied with 5 other Democrats as the 212th "most progressive" in the House, according to ProgressivePunch. Not a promising start.

Over the weekend, the Kansas City Star ran a piece on her first 100 days by Bryan Lowry about how the establishment loves her for being a nice quiet backbencher who doesn't make any waves the way AOC, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib do. "[W]hile her personal biography is barrier-breaking," wrote Lowry, "Davids’ approach to her first 100 days in office has been exceedingly traditional, marked by deference to leadership and studious attention to the details of legislating. As other members of her freshman class, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have made big headlines with proposals like the Green New Deal, Davids has quietly been laying the groundwork for a longer game." And, predictably, all the worst assholes in Congress just love her.

“I would put her toward the top of the freshman class in terms of doing things the right way,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“She’s not a showoff,” Bustos said. “She’s an athlete and if you’ve known any high-level athletes, they’re disciplined, they’re methodical… nailing all the fundamentals.”

“You have to build relationships and learn what are the things that are of interest to other members of Congress, what are the things that folks have been taking a lead on for a really long time,” Davids said. “And what are things [where] there’s space for me to contribute to the conversation that’s been going on or to ask questions to spark a new conversation.”

This approach has helped her build clout with party leaders, who see her as rising star. Davids will be one of two freshman Democrats speaking at the Center for American Progress’ ideas conference in Washington next month, a sign of her growing status.

“I like people who are team players. Sharice is a team player. I like people who are first going to listen before they speak up at the microphone,” Bustos said.

Bustos has been engaged in a public dispute with Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives, about the DCCC’s efforts to protect incumbent Democrats against primary challenges.

[Emanuel] Cleaver noted that Ocasio-Cortez, who he referred to has “the congresswoman from New York,” came to Kansas last year to campaign on behalf of Davids’ primary opponent Brent Welder. Cleaver complained that Davids, a centrist from the Midwest, hasn’t gotten as much attention as some of her more progressive, coastal peers.

“Congresswoman Davids may be the most brilliant and thoughtful member of the freshman class who nobody has noticed. And a lot of that is if you’re from the East Coast or the West Coast… the media just automatically fawns over you,” Cleaver said.

“If you’re in flyover territory people tend to overlook, but I can guarantee you-- because I hear it at home-- the people at home aren’t overlooking her.”

...Cleaver said Davids takes the same meticulous approach when deciding how to vote on legislation, regardless of the bill’s importance.

“Sharice Davids may be the only person that reads every sentence of every bill, of every amendment… I mean, everything,” said Cleaver, who joked that he sometimes tells her that she doesn’t have to do that because Democrats are in the majority.

After her careful parsing of bills, Davids has still aligned closely with Democratic leadership in her votes, a fact that has been noticed by her supporters and critics alike.

“She for the first 100 days here has been incredibly loyal to Nancy Pelosi and her leadership, voting in lockstep. She’s not creating headaches. She’s shown no independence,” said Bob Salera, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is targeting Davids’ district in 2020.

Davids also faces pressure from a vocal minority on the left that want to see her back progressive policy goals, such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

During the campaign, Davids was open to supporting a single-payer health care system as a long-term objective, but emphasized more incremental legislation as realistic policy. At her recent town hall in Olathe, a few attendees booed when Davids said she wasn’t ready to commit to supporting Medicare for All, because she had not finished vetting it. This week, she told The Star that she will not support the Medicare for All bill in its current form because it would phase out employer-based insurance.

“That’s a pretty big sticking issue. I’ve talked to a lot of people who are not only satisfied with their employer plan, but are actually very pleased with it,” Davids said.

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“And those folks aren’t saying I’m opposed to us figuring out a way to get universal access to affordable, quality health care for folks, but they are saying I don’t want to lose the insurance I have now. So that’s a sticking point on there.”

Matt Erickson, a 32-year-old Prairie Village resident, was among those who booed Davids’ answer in Olathe. Learning that Davids has officially come out against Medicare for all was even more disappointing, he said.

“Arguments like ‘people are tied to employee sponsored health insurance,’ I don’t find convincing,” said Erickson, who volunteered for Welder during the 2018 primary.

“People like their employer provided insurance because the alternative is they don’t have insurance at all,” he said. “In Medicare for all, the alternative is never having to change insurance plans again, no premiums, no deductibles, and no financial barriers to healthcare. You don’t lose your insurance if you leave your job or you get laid off.”

But Davids’ centrist approach may serve well in her suburban district, where Republicans outnumber Democrats. She’s instead focused on more incremental steps, such as advocating for her home state to expand Medicaid.

Davids is so weak and worthless-- and so determined to appeal to Republicans and be seen as willing to spit in the eye of progressives-- that she's one of only 30 House Democrats who hasn't co-sponsored Bobby Scott's livable minimum wage bill, H.R. 582, to which 205 Democrats have signed on. So far there is no primary challenger, nor is there a Republican challenger-- just an identity politics incumbent who is already proving herself to be about as bad as any Democrat can be... before switching parties. Perfect for Cheri Bustos.

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