VPO on the Conventional Wisdom
VPO wrote one hell of a response in the comment section to my last entry. He attempts to weave together a number of different threads and explicitly present the conventional wisdom on why the DCCC is (and to some degree, why they ought to be) backing Filson over McNerney. He then raises a number of questions that problematizes this conventional wisdom.
I’m posting this here because it really nails some of these ideas down in a very clear and straightforward manner. Because of this, I want to make sure everyone sees it. I’m sure it will provide a benchmark of sorts for our future debates on the subject.
Please understand that following is somewhat de-contextualized, so read the comments to which he was responding if you have time. Also, when reading the following please keep in mind that VPO was not committing himself to sharing these lines of thought so much as articulating them for the sake of the debate. I am certainly not committed to the following reasoning either.
Ok, just to finish this line of thinking out, the theory the DCCC seems to be operating on is:
The DCCC evaluates what is needed in the District, selects a man with centrist views and a military background (and rejects McNerney). Though the DCCC would prefer a candidate with political experience (say, Mike Machado), they take who they can get at the time, and decide to "make him a star."
The grassroots on the other hand tend to be passionate people with strong beliefs that are generally leftists in the Dem party. So therefore, the grassroots candidate is often too far to the left. Yes, he can motivate the determined activists -- the progressives and liberal wing of the party -- in ways a centrist cannot, but that does not necessarily translate to an election win.
So in this view, the DCCC is being a bit smarter as far as the election as a whole by finding someone middle of the road and thus more "electable". The idea is that as long as their candidate can present a reasonable message and attract centrist voters, perhaps even some Repub moderates, they feel they could have a winner.
The implication of this view is that grassroot activists and leftist/progressive candidates are marginal and not exactly unimportant, but just people you don't want to give much say in things. A progressive candidate is "unelectable" and would not play well in Washington anyway. The left wing will get behind the Dem candidate anyway, since the only other choice is Pombo.
In summary, the District is right-leaning, so the Dem candidate needs to be that way also.
I don't know whether all that is true or not, but I am trying to parse the DCCC reasoning on this and see if it makes sense on the ground.
It is very interesting to hear from Jesse, who is a moderate Dem, but sees McNerney as too liberal and far left. That is a very telling statement, and I am very glad Jesse has added this to the discussion. I wonder what aspects of McNerney's platform are too liberal and far left even for a Dem, and what Filson/DCCC's views are on those same issues that make him more appealing?
Also, my discussion above uses a lot of labels, like left, progressive, centrist. What exactly do these mean? The political discussions tend to fall into easy to use categories, but it seems the issues are so complex these days, the categories hardly fit.
So Filson is being called (or calling himself) "centrist" -- what exactly does this mean? It seems in this race the biggest point of differentiation between "left" and "centrist" is the views on the Iraqi war. "Centrist" says maybe it was a mistake, but we need to see it through. Filson says he is not anti-war, but "anti-failure".
McNerney on the other hand is calling for timetable for a withdrawal (and Ensign is still examining the issue, it seems, but she has been critical of Bush and the war in her Stockton Record columns).
Perhaps that is the biggest difference, and one the DCCC, it seems, thinks is critical to attracting the "moderate" voters.
There must be other issues where McNerney/grassroots are perceived as too far left, but Filson/DCCC are seen as more palatable to the voters of the district. Would those be gay rights, abortion, environment, energy development, poverty, transportation, healthcare -- any of these?