Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Steve Israel is Stepping Down from the DCCC. Who Will Replace Him? Who Should?

After the election last week, when Democrats lost over a dozen seats, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi decided to offer Steve Israel a third term at the helm of the DCCC. Politics, as we well know, is one place where failure is consistently rewarded. Thankfully, he turned down the offer.

In 2012, as chair of the DCCC, Steve Israel was only able to net 8 seats even though Obama won re-election by 4%. Some of that was a function of Republican gerrymandering and a tendency for Democrats to aggregate in cities, where many "wasted" votes accumulate in deep blue districts. Democrats did, for instance, win a plurality of votes cast (48.8% to 47.6%). However, Democrats did run 2.3% and almost 6.3 million votes behind the president. One cannot blame failure on the design of districts: targeting and candidate selection matter a lot, too. I would recommend checking out Howie Klein of Blue America's Down With Tyranny blog for examples of bad targeting and bad candidates. They are numerous.

The electorate in 2016, a presidential year, will likely be far more favorable to Democrats than that from this year. But coasting on demographics is not a strategy. Democrats need to be able to pick good candidates and present a coherent, progressive policy vision---someone and something to vote for.

According to Politico, Jim Himes (CT-04), Jared Polis (CO-02), and Donna Edwards (MD-04) are three of the top contenders for the position.

One thing that Democrats need to do is to counter the (not entirely unjustified) perception that they are just as bought by Big Business as the Republicans. According to a Hart Research poll on Election Night, 80% of voters said that politicians from both parties "do too much to support Wall Street financial interests and not enough to help average Americans."

If Democrats want to confirm that perception, then they should put Jim Himes (D-Stamford) in charge of the DCCC.

When I first saw Himes's name, I immediately remembered that time last year when he was a lead co-sponsor of a bill written directly by Citigroup to gut regulation of derivatives.

The New York Times interviewed Himes when reporting on the bill:
The legislation, Mr. Himes said in an interview, poses no financial risk to the country. And while he is the second-largest recipient among House Democrats of financial sector donations, that is not what is compelling his vote, he said.
"It hardly determines, thank goodness, how legislators think about these issues,” said Mr. Himes, a former Goldman Sachs executive.
That last line is perfection. 
Earlier that same week, he was one of 30 Democrats to join Republicans in voting to allow your 401(k) advisor to scam you.

If Nancy Pelosi wants to tell voters that Democrats are just as much of shills for Wall Street as Republicans are, then by all means, please do put Jim Himes in charge of the DCCC.

Jared Polis, while not quite as bad, is still pretty bad. Polis consistently ranks as one of the richest members of Congress. How did he make his money?
As an 18-year-old, he traveled to Russia and made money trading privatization vouchers — you know, the botched, scandal-ridden privatization which wrecked Russia's economy and led to the domination of the economy by ex-KGB oligarchs. Next stop: Silicon Valley!
In October 1999, right before the first dotcom crash, Polis, then known as Jared Polis Schutz, sold Bluemountain.com, his family's online greeting-cards website, to Excite@Home for $780 million, including $350 million in cash that Excite couldn't really spare. Excite sold it for $35 million in September 2001, and filed for bankruptcy a month later. People still talk about it as one of the most spectacular cashouts of the dotcom boom.
He later sold ProFlowers, an online florist, to John Malone's Liberty Media. (All told, he's started a dozen companies.)
You may remember Representative Polis from when he threw a book at Diane Ravitch and called her evil. 
Why such rude behavior? Maybe it's because he owns a couple of charter schools.

He's a Democratic "education reformer" par excellence.
As a member of the “New Democratic Coalition,” Polis has consistently pushed an agenda that is as anti-teacher, anti-union and anti-public education as any group of Democrats in the nation.
This past summer Polis was pushing language to amend the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Authorization Act (ESEA).  But rather than correct the worst elements of the bills, Polis was pushing the corporate education reformer’s agenda.
In one release, Congressman Jared Polis bragged, “We need an entrepreneurial approach to encourage high-quality, proven models of success in education.”
One of Polis’ proposed amendments would have required local schools to  “make progress towards the goal of cutting achievement gaps in half in 6 years or towards 100% proficiency, or face interventions including transformation, turnaround, restart and closure.”
Another Polis amendment would have provided, “more flexibility for charter schools to use Charter Schools Program grants” and require states and schools to “allow per-pupil revenue to be split across districts.”  [Rather self-serving coming from someone who is tapping into public funds for a charter school he himself set up].
Yet another amendment Polis co-sponsored would provide that “district and non-statewide charter authorizers as eligible entities, increase the authorization level to 330 million, and will increase the percentage of funds for expansion and replication to 20% of the overall funding.”  [Polis’ proposal being that in the face of scarce public funds, more and more taxpayer dollars should get diverted away from the public schools, and instead be used to subsidize schools like the ones he is involved in].
And where are these ideas coming from?
As the New Democrat Coalition began to prepare their amendments they proudly met with Michelle Rhee, founder of StudentsFirst, former Washington, D.C. Schools chief and confidant to non-other-than, Jeb Bush.
Another great person to show that Democrats care more about the rich than anyone else. Other names than Himes, Polis, and Edwards have been floated, but I'm solidly in support of Donna Edwards as chair of the DCCC. Edwards is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and actually votes like one.

Her career background contrasts sharply with that of Himes and Polis. She was the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and later worked for Public Citizen and the Center for a New Democracy. In 2006, Edwards primaried a seven-term Conservadem who had voted for the Iraq War and the repeal of the estate tax.

She has a solidly progressive voting record in the House, and it would be great to see an African-American woman chair the DCCC. MoveOn has a petition up now urging Pelosi to appoint Edwards.

I encourage you all to sign.


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