The War Within The War
Someone posted a comment here a while back that said something about “wheels within wheels.” I was thinking a little bit about “wheels within wheels” yesterday. Sure, there is a war to be waged against Richard Pombo between June and November; nobody here questions that, just as nobody here questions that Pombo is a menace to the American way of life. And suggestions that Democrats would support Pombo over Filson, were he to win the primary, are frankly ludicrous. No one has lost sight of the ultimate war to be fought.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn't a war within the war. In one of his comments to my most recent post jbmendel made the following statement:
That said, I generally don't have a problem with the posts that give (Filson) a hard time, because even when people criticize/attack, everyone here can take a step back and remember that we're on the same side.
The same side? Well, no. Maybe in the final war, but definitely not in the initial battle. You see, that’s where the history of the 2004 race against Pombo comes into play. For those of you who weren’t involved in that race and don’t understand its relevance to where we find ourselves today, here’s a little history.
In 2002, Elaine Shaw, another Tauscher protégé, ran a well-financed race against Pombo, complete with DCCC support. She lost by nearly 20 points, and subsequently the DCCC officially abandoned CD-11.
In 2004, the Democratic Party was content to cede CD-11 to Pombo, preferring not to go to the trouble of recruiting a candidate and providing funding for a challenge to what they saw as an unbeatable incumbent. But a funny thing happened in 2004. Slumbering Democrats throughout the region suddenly started to shake off their stupor and refused to be ignored by the political insiders in Washington, DC. In CD-11, Jerry McNerney, realizing that there was no candidate opposing Pombo, mounted a last-minute write-in campaign to get on the ballot as the Democratic nominee. I know that the talk of grass-roots progressives has come to be somewhat of a cliché in this current race, but it is a simple fact that lots and lots of local activists, when confronted with the clear fact that the Democratic Party was not going to support its own candidate in CD-11, took matters into their own hands and mounted an essentially self-financed and totally volunteer Congressional campaign. With not one red cent from the Democratic Party. And with that, they got almost exactly the same percentage of the vote as Shaw, with more actual votes than any other candidate had ever received against Pombo. And let me stress again –- with not one scintilla of help from the Democratic Party.
Now, I have never hidden the fact that I was a McNerney supporter in 2004. As I’ve previously stated, I sure didn’t support Pombo; so that means, a prioi, that I supported McNerney. But I have also never maintained that McNerney was the greatest thing since sliced bread. As a candidate, he has many flaws: his presentation is wooden; he is often inarticulate. But he was willing to challenge Pombo and the Democratic Party establishment when no one else would, even going so far as to take out an additional mortgage on his house, because he believed that the people of CD-11 deserved a choice on their ballot when they went out to vote in November.
Ah, but what a difference a year makes. Suddenly, in 2005, when it became apparent that Pombo’s outrageous environmental stances and clear pattern of corruption had made him an attractive target in the 2006 election, the Democratic Party sat up and took notice of CD-11. But they just couldn’t let that upstart McNerney be their candidate; he was too much like that uncool kid who dared to crash the cool kids’ party.
And that’s the crux of it. It wasn’t that McNerney had lost in 2004; it was that he and his supporters had challenged the top-down hierarchy in Washington, DC. You see, they don’t want average citizens getting all uppity and taking politics into their own hands; you have to realize that at a certain level, the sole function of the parties, both Republican and Democratic, is to hold tightly to entrenched power.
So it was no accident that Steve Filson, supporter and protégé of Ellen Tauscher –- Blue Dog Democrat, member of the DLC, and diva of corporate cronyism –- was parachuted into CD-11 as the “favored” candidate of the DC establishment. And it’s no accident that incumbent Democrats from all over the Bay Area rushed in to prop him up with their endorsements as the PACs made their donations. It was a stick in the eye aimed at the progressive grass-roots. A message writ loud and clear: “Go home. We’re in charge here. This is OUR party.”
So, jbmendel, while I believe Democrats will join together for the war, regardless of the outcome of the primary, I think it’s clear that they are not on the same side in this battle; and, yes, some of them are pretty angry. Between now and then, they will be fighting like hell to take their party back from the Boss Tweed contingent in DC. Steve Filson appears to have chosen his side in this battle; I don’t think it’s an accident that he has cultivated party insiders and failed to engage with the grass-roots. Likewise, it’s hardly surprising that local activists view him with suspicion and dislike. And if you think they’re being mean to Filson by expecting him to be accountable for his behavior, his actions, and his (mis)representations, so be it. But everyday citizens have developed these quaint notions that integrity and fair play and a government that works for their interests is something worth fighting for. Maybe one day they’ll learn to step aside and let the “professionals” run the Democratic Party. But not just yet.