Sunday, March 26, 2006

CA-11 and IL-06 Once More

Someone just alerted me that the Tracy Press had an article by Nick Juliano that covered the same topic I discussed the other day: namely, the similarities between IL-06 and CA-11. (Update: Wes from Pombo Watch also discussed these similarities in the Vote Pombo Out Yahoo Group). I bring this article up for two reasons. First, it shows that Say No to Pombo continues to bring up issues that are relevant and newsworthy, often before the local papers get to them (if they get to them at all). Second, the article contained some juicy quotes that merit attention, especially with respect to what they show about how the various sides frame the debate about the primary race.

I bring up the first point because I believe that it’s important to acknowledge those instances that demonstrate the fundamental credibility of this blogging endeavor. I like to think that my words and my ideas stand on their own merit. But sometimes some of the commenters are not content to address the substance of what I write, instead dismissing what I say as “ridiculous,” “naïve,” or what have you. Consequently, I want to take this moment to explicitly point to evidence that what I say is relevant to the race. I think that on this blog I give voice to a widespread, if often inchoate and unarticulated, perspective prevalent among the grassroots activists paying attention to this race. And I think this article both supports that notion.

That said, let’s move to the second point, which is much more interesting. First, look at the two quote Juliano got from McNerney supporters who discussed this race:

“I think they’re going about it the wrong way and picking the wrong people … I’m tired of the DCCC’s involvement,” said Gene Davenport, a labor union organizer in Stockton who supports McNerney.


Davenport said he and other activists in San Joaquin County were not contacted when national Democrats decided they wanted to target Pombo in this year’s election.

“A lot of the locals were quite resentful of the DCCC not consulting with them,” said Bill Casey, a former San Joaquin party leader. “The Democratic party needs to remember who Democrats are.”

Now I believe that a lot of the national Democratic Party leaders made their decision to back Filson in an information-poor environment. Certainly, I have seen no evidence that the DCCC or Rahm Emanuel ever discussed Filson or McNerney with any of the Democratic organizers on the ground in the district. And I have asked a lot of people about this. That has got to make you wonder.

I mean, I know that the DCCC might discuss the Pombo race with the members of Congress from the surrounding districts. And I do not think it’s inappropriate from Rahm Emanuel to talk about the Pombo race with Ellen Tauscher or Nancy Pelosi. But I think it’s the height of arrogance to discuss Pombo with Pelosi and Tauscher, for example, but not any of the Democrats who actually, you know, live in the district. And if Rahm Emanuel doesn’t understand what’s happening in his own backyard in IL-06, it kind of makes it seem more reasonable to believe that this is nothing more than hubris. I mean, forget actually following the dictate of the Gene Davenports or Bill Caseys of the district. Rahm Emanuel didn’t even pick up the phone and call them. Even a person with incredible political judgment still needs to make judgment based on the relevant facts if we are to say that their judgment is warranted. Otherwise it could well be a case of garbage-in-garbage-out.

Furthermore, had they actually talked with people in the district, they might have pulled apart the “moderate” label to distinguish social and economic moderates. For example, Steve Filson’s “moderate” views are supposed to be attractive to the district. We hear this a lot. But Rahm Emanuel might have learned something if he spoke to Gene Davenport who is a proud (socially conservative) Christian and a proud Democrat, a third-generation Stocktonian, a third-generation longshoreman, and a member of the San Joaquin County-Calaveras Central Labor Council. He is not alone in his socially moderate positions. The district passed Prop 73, which would have required parental notification for minors to have an abortion. But Davenport has told me that he supports McNerney because he believes Jerry McNerney will fight for the working poor, for people without healthcare, for the people who can’t afford campaign contributions. He does not have the same confidence in Filson. I mean, Rahm Emanuel can back whomever he wants. But what Gene Davenport could have told Rahm Emanuel might have been a piece of relevant information. At the very least, it could have allowed Emanuel to anticipate that Filson’s support, even among moderates, might not be as strong as one might imagine. But apparently he though he was wiser for the lack of information. Go figure.

Now let’s look at what Filson’s supporters had to say. (Interestingly enough, the only Filson supporters Juliano interviewed were Filson and his Campaign Manager. For someone with “growing grassroots support” you’d think they could have found one prominent grassroots Filson supporter be interviewed.) Anyhow, here’re the first two quotes I want to examine:

Filson has said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, encouraged him to run and introduced him to Democratic officials in Washington, but a Filson aide rejects the characterization that his candidacy was imposed on the district from above.

“Steve is the one who decided he wants to run … it’s not because someone picked him or told him it’s a good idea,” said Robert Kellar, Filson’s campaign manager.

Someone should tell Kellar that what he says needs to be consistent with his candidate. Yeah, so Tauscher “encouraged [Filson] to run” but yet “it’s not because someone…told [Filson] it’s a good idea.” Hmmm…Me thinks Kellar overplayed his hand. Furthermore, the flackitude quotient goes way up once we see the obvious straw argument Kellar made. Some say Filson’s candidacy was imposed on the district. Kellar responds by noting that Filson’s candidacy was not imposed on Filson himself. If we were stupid, that would make sense.

Anyhow, I actually give Filson credit for being honest even though his CM was trying to spin. Tauscher encouraged Filson to run and brought him to the DCCC and encouraged them to take a look a Filson and get behind him, which they did. This is what we’ve been saying since the beginning. What Filson did not say, or perhaps he did and Juliano didn’t report it (although I assume it’s the former), is that after the DCCC decided to back Filson, Filson came back into town and basically demanded that the race be cleared for him to run against Pombo. Forget Gene Davenport and Bill Casey, who weren’t consulted to begin with. They were informed that they had the pleasure of backing Steve Filson whether they liked it or not because (as someone said in all seriousness today) “the real Democrats” were backing him.

And for those who think I bring up the DCCC obsessively, this is why I keep discussing their involvement in the race. They are not the real Democrats. We are. They want to walk among us as gods. But lo they stumble and they bleed. And I suspect that under all of their magnificence, they have feet of clay.

Democracy derives all of its moral force from the simple tenet that each person is of incommensurable worth. We say that everyone is “created equal” so much that it becomes banal. But “equal” is not a statement of our limitation, it is a statement of the infinite depth and value of each and everyone one of us as a human being.

And Democracy stems from the realization that we cannot all do whatever we want to explore and instantiate our unique and limitless value in a world of finite time and resources. So each of us is given one vote. No one is given more, no one is given less.

I know that there will always be power plays and hierarchies. And some will be legitimate and some will be illegitimate. And I never expect that a lone blogger will have the power of a member of Congress. But they are no more real Democrats than the rest of us. And to the degree that they essentialize and think that they are the real Democrats and that we are only real Democrats to the degree that we do their bidding, they have mistaken and reversed the natural order of democracy. Real Democrats? I worry more about real democrats.

This brings us to the second set of quotes I want to look at from Kellar:

Kellar accused Filson’s critics of conspiring “to denigrate elected officials” who have endorsed his campaign.

“They fought in the trenches; they know what it’s like to run and represent a district,” Kellar said, arguing their support shows Filson has the best chance of winning.

Now as a genuine critic of these elected officials, I can simply aver that the conspiracy, if it exists, has done a really crappy job at doing outreach. Otherwise I’d be one of their biggest supporters. But more to the point, is it really “denigrating” to ask whether folks who don’t live in the district know better than folks who live inside the district? Honestly.

Actually we’re in luck, Kellar answered this question for us. You see, the elected officials “fought in the trenches” (and what, the grassroots sip mai-tais on the lanai?) and the electeds “know what it’s like to run and represent a district.” Wow, they know to represent a district! What about THE district? They know anything about CA-11? Nope. But they know loads about CA-10, CA-08, and IL-05. Great, because as I was eating lunch today in Stockton I was overwhelmed by how similar it was to Chicago, San Francisco, and Lamorinda. I mean, I could hardly get them straight. I was like, wait, is this Stockton or Chicago? Moraga? They’re so similar. It was eerie. Really.

I know that was snarky, but I have a hard time treating this seriously. Are we to genuflect to those in power? Is that all there is? Isn’t it enough that they have power? Do we also have to say that they are wise? They want to walk like all-knowing gods among us. And yet they stumble and they bleed. And beneath their cloaks of power, I still say they have feet of clay.


Anonymous nicholas said...

i am shocked, appalled and amazed by all this..

oh yeah, FIRST!!

8:06 AM, March 26, 2006  
Blogger VPO said...

Matt, many good points, I give you credit there for pointing out the underlying values we are fighting for.

One thing, I think the criticisms of Rahm Emmanuel might be a bit off base, and here is why. From what I heard, Tauscher presented Filson to Emmanuel for "consecration" as the candidate. But Emmanuel only gave him about 3 minutes, and went almost entirely on the fact that Tauscher was backing Filson. I mean, wouldn't you also assume that the local pol would know what she is doing? If she was coming on strong for Filson, what was Emmanuel supposed to do?

So you see, the issue is not Emmanuel, it is Tauscher butting in. And you would think her self-imagined title of "Power Player in the 11th District" would have been seriously tarnished by the devasting Elaine Shaw defeat in 2002. Why she decided once again to stick her nose in, and seemingly did not learn anything from 2002, is beyond me. Like you say, she could have, maybe, called some of these people -- Davenport or Casey. Or how about leaving her comfortable, multi-million dollar abode in Alamo and driving her Lexus through Stockton, at least once? She maybe would then get a clue that it is an entirely different place than her beloved East Bay.

So, consider that -- maybe Emmanuel is getting a lot of flack, when he simply rubber-stamped what Tauscher presented to him.

8:36 AM, March 26, 2006  
Anonymous jsw said...

So, consider that -- maybe Emmanuel is getting a lot of flack, when he simply rubber-stamped what Tauscher presented to him.

Well, that's semi-fair. Of course, one would think that the DCCC would have some people doing background work on the candidates that they work with, rather than relying on nominal insiders who don't live in the district. After all, just so we're clear, they've raised $45M just for the 05-06 election cycle. Surely that can pay for a staffer to makea few research calls.

10:02 AM, March 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you VERY UNFAIRLY failed to give proper credit to Wes Rolley and PomboWatch. He is the one who first analyzed the IL race in terms of its relevance to CD11. In a very real sense, you just extended his commentary - shame on you.

Me thinks your ego is showing...

11:04 AM, March 26, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...


You are correct that Wes noted parallels between the primary in IL-06 and CA-11 in the VPO Yahoo Group before I noted them on this blog. However, those parallels are pretty apparent and have been discussed by people for a long time before the primary happened.

What I feel like I added was a serious look at a) how a Filson win might affect the grassroots and b) what the results in IL-06 might tell us about how much deference we ought to give to the political judgement of the DCCC and other parts of the Democratic Party establishment. The article touches on both topics, and it is those topics much more than the brute similarity between IL-06 and CA-11 that I thought reinforced what I have been discussing on Say No to Pombo.

Wes's piece is valuable in its own right, and he too often brings newsworthy information to the fore. But what he wrote does not offer any sort of overarching analytical framework to understand the relevance of the results in IL-06 for those of us looking at CA-11. He noted the parallels and leaves us with the thought that Duckworth won, but that Duckworth is a stronger candidate than Filson. I certainly agree with all of his contentions, but he does not extend his analysis anywhere new. Nothing Wes said had any predicative value for the CA-11 race, and nothing he said problematized the race.
In other words, Wes never told us why the parallels he noted matter to those of us focusing on CA-11.

So I reject your assertion that my analysis was derivative.

Furthermore, the fact that Wes did not discuss the DCCC in any substantive way means that he did not touch on the issue that I have been criticized for focusing on: the grassroots vs. DCCC issue. I brought up the article and Say No to Pombo because, irrespective of Pombo Watch, Say No to Pombo gets criticized for being in one way or another excessively focused on things that don't matter. This article validates the DCCC vs grassroots frame that I have been discussing. It does not necessarily validate it as a correct frame, but it certainly validates it as a frame that is both useful for understanding the perspective of some of the key players in this race and therefore newsworthy.

All that said, I did not remember that he had written anything about this when I wrote this piece. I will update it to note that Wes discussed this topic before I did.

Lastly, what relevance could my ego possibly have to anything? I am going to defend this blog as a useful political endeavor. It's very easy for people to come by and criticize me. I think I have every right to point to examples of things that validate the work I am doing. Ego schmego as far as I care. I am going to be strong in the face of my anonymous critics. At least I have the courage of my convictions to post under my own name and publicly declare who I am. If I come across as arrogant on this blog I am much more concerned by how it will affect my real relationships with people I interact with offline than I am concerned with what some cowardly anonymous critic thinks about me.

Anyhow here is what Wes wrote in the Yahoo Group on March 22:

There was a very interesting primary in Illinois yesterday This was in the suburban Chicago 6th CD. It has some very close parallels to the Democratic Primary here I was watching the results as they came in last night.

One of the candidates is a close parallel to Jerry McNerney in that she (Christine Cegelis) ran against the long time incumbent, Henry Hyde last time She had no money and no support from the democratic party They were not going to waste their money in a district considered the most Republican of all in Illinois, and where Hyde was supposedly invincible However, by building a grassroots organization, she made the race surprisingly close, coming closer to beating Hyde than anyone ever had.

The second candidate is Tammy Duckworth. Duckworth has gotten a lot of national press She is a wounded Iraq war helicopter pilot who lost both legs and most of the use of one arm She was specifically recruited to run She has a lot of money and powerful Democratic support including Hillary Clinton, Sen. Obama and Rahm Emanuel.

The third candidate, Lindy Scott, unknown, no backing, untried, was characterized as a progressive evangelical He made a lot of the religious motivation for his candidacy and his oppostion to the Religious Right and their control of Republican agenda.

It was immediately clear during the night that Scott was way behind The other two were very close Each had the lead at times. I remember one time with a little over half the precincts reporting, when the margin was only 12 votes In the end, Duckworth won The complete results are:
Christine Cegelis DEM 10536 41.31%
Lindy Scott DEM 4206 16.49%
L. Tammy Duckworth DEM 10743 42.12%

I will say that Duckworth is a much stronger candidate than Filson. Her personal story itself is one of triumph over the greatest of adversity Her opposition to the Iraq war comes from experience, not theory, and she had the backing of two of the most popular Democrats in the country in Hillary and Obama.

12:34 PM, March 26, 2006  
Anonymous edj said...

Hey anon -

No matter who said what first, Matt should be given credit for thoroughly analyzing the similarities between CA-11 and IL-06 -- in more depth than any other online or offline voice (to the best of my knowledge).

Simply put, the question of who said what first is irrelevant. In this case, it's just a strawman used by anon in a failed attempt to undermine Matt's credibility. Perhaps it might be more edifying to everyone if those who disagree with the SUBSTANCE of Matt's post actually attempt to address that SUBSTANCE.

Anyone who has been following campaign politics closely is aware that the DCCC is engaging in internecine warfare with its base across the country. For grassroots activists in the trenches, the comparisons between CA-11 and IL-06 are well-known and stretch back to 2005 (when Filson and Duckworth received the unofficial imprimatur of the DCCC over McNerney and Cegelis).

In fact, Jerry McNerney actually raised the comparison himself in a post on his blog in January (also cross-posted to Daily Kos and other blogs to the best of my knowledge). Here's what he said (click the link above for the full post):

In fact, I have another interpretation of what it means to be a Fighting Dem. The real fighters are those who stand and fight for Democratic principles. Who are not afraid to fight for what's right. Who don't take on Republican talking points and use them against other Democrats.

And we have candidates like this already running that the DCCC could have supported, or at least not actively worked against. 2004 Democratic congressional candidates like me and Christine Cegelis—who stood up and fought in districts the shortsighted folks at the DCCC thought were unwinnable—are the true Fighting Dems.

It's old territory. Now, with fresh data from the Cegelis/Duckworth/Scott election finalized and the IL-06 post-mortems in full bloom, Matt sought to help readers understand what it means to CA-11... which I'm guessing inspired Nick Juliano to write his article (any good reporter worth his credentials reads local blogs for story ideas; that's just one reason why local blogs are such a powerful new presence on the political scene). If Juliano wasn't inspired by Matt's post (or the Rolley e-mail), then perhaps it's just an indication that the battle lines have been drawn and the local media is taking notice.

To that end, Matt did another excellent job in this new post on CA-11/IL-06 in deconstructing the Juliano article to reveal some hidden truths about the race. I would encourage Nick, if he's reading this, to explore this issue further by interviewing grassroots leaders across the district in a more fully developed feature article. Perhaps then we might get an even clearer perspective on who is supporting who and why. And what it means to the future of the Democratic Party in CA-11.

2:05 AM, March 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prescient words indeed:

There is enormous institutional resistance to change in this country. You cannot expect people with great privileges taken at the expense of ordinary working people to surrender them lightly.

- Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, M.D., February 18, 2004

8:35 AM, March 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. 2% of a buck again -- great post and comments; I just have one concern:

Someone said in an earlier post on this blog that Stevan Thomas would be lucky to get even 10% of the primary vote, OK, let's get real conservative and give him only 5%.

1) Those 5% are going to come out of McNerney's basket, not Filson's

2) In a real close race, we could have a result of:
Filson........48% (Winner!)

...instead of:
McNerney......52% (Winner!)

3) This is why it's not real good practice to have more than a two way primary race, since there will usually be two political "camps of viewpoint", and adding a third person to that mix will generally mean two people splitting the same "camp of supporters" (which is exactly what happened in IL-06 -- if a mere 2/3 of Lindy Scott's votes had gone for Christine Cegelis, she would be the nominee today)...

4) If it indeed appears that Thomas (nice guy, speaks well, means well, I think) can't get any traction at all in fund raising and/or organizing in the next 30-60 days, one of you progressives might want to "have a chat with him about how he doesn't want to be the reason...." You can fill in the words.

Sometimes, three IS a crowd.

$.02 out.

5:58 PM, March 27, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

It's time we ask the question:

If indeed McNerney is such a good candidate, why didn't Tauscher or Miller or Pelosi or any other elected Democrat go to bat for him with the DCCC?

I don't pretend to have any inside information about this, though I am pretty sure the "conspiracy of Beltway elites to hold down the 'grassroots'" explanation isn't the reason.

8:17 PM, March 27, 2006  
Blogger Matt said...


Do you even read the posts before you comment upon them?

12:20 AM, March 28, 2006  
Anonymous Rick said...

Yes I did. And no, I don't think a second hand rumor of how Emanuel "consecrated" Filson should be accepted as fact.

In interests of clarity, let me rephrase the question:

Gerald McNerney was the Democratic nominee in 2004 who qualified for the General Election ballot as a write-in and amassed more than 100,000 votes in the General Election (though he did lose by 16% to Pombo). According to his "grassroots" backers, has substantial support and is a “genuine Democrat.” Given these credentials, why did McNerney fail to obtain the political support of local Congressional Democrats in 2006?

10:25 PM, March 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"mr. 2% of a buck" accused "rick" in a more recent thread of being filson campaign manager robert kellar. i'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but a cursory glance at "rick's" comments would seem to validate such a claim.

at best, it's probably just a coincidence. i mean, isn't filson spending all of his time raising money? why would his campaign manager slum it with the bloggers?

perhaps "rick" could enlighten us as to his day job?

11:13 PM, March 28, 2006  

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