Saturday, January 27, 2018
Candidates who who signed up to battle Donald Trump must get past the Democratic party first In his farewell address, President Barack Obama had some practical advice for those frustrated by his successor. "If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself," Obama implored. Yet across the country, the DCCC, its allied groups, or leaders within the Democratic Party are working hard against some of these new candidates for Congress, publicly backing their more established opponents, according to interviews with more than 50 candidates, party operatives, and members of Congress. Winning the support of Washington heavyweights, including the DCCC -- implicit or explicit -- is critical for endorsements back home and a boost to fundraising. In general, it can give a candidate a tremendous advantage over opponents in a Democratic primary.
In district after district, the national party is throwing its weight behind candidates who are out of step with the national mood. The DCCC -- known as "the D-trip" in Washington -- has officially named 18 candidates as part of its "Red to Blue" program. (A D-trip spokesperson cautioned that a red-to-blue designation is not an official endorsement, but functions that way in practice. Program designees get exclusive financial and strategy resources from the party.) In many of those districts, there is at least one progressive challenger the party is working to elbow aside, some more viable than others. Outside of those 18
Prioritizing fundraising, as Democratic Party officials do, has a feedback effect that creates lawmakers who are further and further removed from the people they are elected to represent. In 2013, the DCCC offered a startling presentation for incoming lawmakers, telling them they would be expected to immediately begin four hours of "call time" every day they were in Washington. That's time spent dialing for dollars from high-end donors.
Spending that much time on the phone with the same class of people can unconsciously influence thinking. There is, former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va. said in a 2013 interview, "an enormous anti-populist element, particularly for Dems, who are most likely to be hearing from people who can write at least a $500 check. They may be liberal, quite liberal, in fact, but are also more likely to consider the deficit a bigger crisis than the lack of jobs."
Perriello was elected in the 2008 Obama wave and washed back out in the tea party one that followed. The time spent fundraising, he said in 2013, "helps to explain why many from very safe Dem districts who might otherwise be pushing the conversation to the left, or at least willing to be the first to take tough votes, do not because they get their leadership positions by raising from the same donors noted above."
How Much Money Can You Raise?
The way to win party support is to pass the phone test.
In order to establish whether a person is worthy of official backing, DCCC operatives will "rolodex" a candidate, according to a source familiar with the procedure. On the most basic level, it involves candidates being asked to pull out their smartphones, scroll through their contacts lists, and add up the amount of money their contacts could raise or contribute to their campaigns. If the candidates' contacts aren't good for at least $250,000, or in some cases much more, they fail the test, and party support goes elsewhere.
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