The primary swindle Archives

October 11, 2005

Burn the biggest lice first

Organized labor must focus its fury if it wants to be feared.

Let's be specific: defeat the re election bids of, say, the weakest, most venal 5 of the CAFTA 15.


By fully funding "peace and jobs" independent runs in these five districts. Split the bastards' base. Run a charismatic martyr, maybe a long haired peace and foliage gal, or a minority bobcat, or a lunchpailer. Run them straight onto the ballot with all the money you've got and find celebrities to be their campaign managers. How hard can it be to find five Hollywood or sports ex-spotlight hounds willing to set up camp in these districts, for a few months of national attention?

Nothing constructive about this at all, of course -- that's the beauty of it. It should be seen as pure punishment: "Regardez, all you big-D whores out there... this may be your fate next time. Wise up or we're coming for ya."

Real political short run consequence on the downside: Zero. More beauty. This is not a spoiler op. The Dems, short of a second '29 in '06, won't retake control of the House anyway. A slightly nearer miss is no better then a mile, with all those yellow dogs on the big-D side of the looking glass anyway.

Major consideration here: don't fall for the age-old Gomper-room BS getting batted around these days by little Jimbo Hoffa, to wit, that organized labor ought to "reward Republican friends." Skiing down that crud slide is nothing but folly. No: we must focus our limited funds where it can have maximum effect, croaking a few of our fondest, nearest enemies.

In case anybody doesn't remember the CAFTA 15, here they are, with my picks for the initial carthago-delenda list in boldface:

Melissa Bean, Illinois (8th District):
Jim Cooper, Tennessee (5th District);
Norm Dicks, Washington (6th District);
Henry Cuellar, Texas (28th District);
Ruben Hinojosa, Texas (15th District);
William Jefferson, Louisiana (2nd District);
Jim Matheson, Utah (2nd District);
Gregory Meeks, New York (6th District);
Dennis Moore, Kansas (3rd District);
Jim Moran, Virginia (8th District);
Solomon Ortiz, Texas (27th District);
Ike Skelton, Missouri (4th District);
Vic Snyder, Arkansas (2nd District);
John Tanner, Tennessee (8th District);
   and... and.. and... egregious beyond the power of words to express:
Edolphus Towns, New York (10th District).

January 28, 2006

Hey, Cindy...

An open letter to Cindy Sheehan

January 28, 2006

Dear Cindy Sheehan --

Last year, you almost single-handedly revived the dead American anti-war movement -- a movement killed by its own fatal attraction to the Democratic Party and its lesser (but still plenty evil) warmakers like Kerry, and Clinton, and Pelosi. We all owe you a debt of gratitude.

I'm sure you have your own ideas about what to do next, but perhaps you'd be interested to know what one admirer, at least, would like to see you do.

I think you should set your sights on one of these Democratic war criminals and run against him or her. And I don't mean a primary challenge, or just a primary challenge; I mean run on a third-party line, in some state or district where anti-war forces are strong, as a frank and self-proclaimed spoiler.

What would be the point of this exercise?

It's pretty clear to a lot of us that the Democratic Party, at least in its present form, is part of the problem, not part of the solution. But counsel is divided about how that might and should change. Some of us think the Democratic Party is just hopeless and needs to be cleared out of the way. Others think it can be somehow claimed or "reclaimed" by "progressives" -- for lack of a better word.

I don't know which of these views is yours. Personally, I tend to the lost-cause view of the party. Perhaps you wouldn't quite go that far. But I would argue that either way, the conclusion is the same: there can be no quarter for War Democrats. One way or the other, that must become an untenable position.

If you think the Democratic Party can be salvaged as an anti-war party, then the first order of business is to squeeze out the War Democrats by any means necessary. If they can't be defeated in a primary challenge, then they have to be fragged from behind in the general election. (I am speaking metaphorically here, of course.)

Take Hillary Clinton (please!). She faces a couple of anti-war primary challengers, which is a fine thing, as far as it goes. But her war-chest from the Israel lobby, among other sources of lavish funding, is immense, and many Democrats, even many of those who oppose the war and deplore Hillary's support for it, will be so mesmerized by the mirage of "electability" and the sophomoric appeal of strategic voting that they will pull a lever for her even in the primary. If the primary challenges fail, what then? Do we sit back and say, oh well, better luck next time, and watch this monster's triumphal progress back into the Senate and on, quite possibly, to the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008?

There is an alternative. We could take the view that we must expel the malefactors, regardless of party label, starting with the easiest, most vulnerable ones -- which means, of course, the War Democrats. We could take a frankly and openly punitive approach to people like Hillary. We could teach them that unless they stand for what we stand for, we will take our votes elsewhere, come what may. They can tell us bloodcurdling tales about the Republican bogeyman until they are Blue in the face, but we can let them know we've seen through that: if they're going to tag along behind the Republicans on the life-and-death issues that matter most to us, what have we to fear from their defeat?

As a movement, we have to show that we have too much self-respect to grovel for crumbs. We will never be taken seriously until we show that there is a price that must be paid for our support -- and a price to be paid for betraying us. "If I can't sell it, gonna keep sittin' on it," runs the old song; "Never catch me givin' it away." We've been givin' it away to the Democrats for way too long.

Now let's get down to brass tacks for a minute. I've been talking about Hillary a lot, and since I live in New York, I can't tell you how much I would love to see you show up here, determined to battle the ogress on a third-party line in November. That would get her attention in a way that her primary challengers probably are not. So if you're disposed to do that, I would be the last person in the world to dissuade you.

But perhaps you're thinking, understandably, that Hillary would be a tough nut to crack. If so, two words: Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi is very vulnerable in her peace-loving San Francisco district, as my blogmate J.S. Paine has explained. If you were to go West, Cindy Sheehan, go West, and challenge Pelosi in the primary and then challenge her again in the general election, it's very likely you could could make an example out of her that would strike fear into the hearts of all her fellow War Democrats. In fact, it's not at all inconceivable that you could end up in her House seat! Think of the hell you could raise there.

This scenario has me in such a paroxysm of delight that I'm going to have to end this letter. I do hope you will consider the idea. Think how happy you would make me -- and many, many others.

Very respectfully yours,

Michael J. Smith

October 5, 2006

Shock the donkey

What makes the Democrats tick? Surely, you'll say, it's the obvious thing -- the thing that drives any political party: the desire to take power.

I don't think so. Oh, they'd love to wield power if it fell into their laps -- as they hope it will do next month, thanks to the almost incredible blundering of the other side. And if there were some risk-free way of gaining power -- some Big Red Button they could push -- of course they'd push it.

But these are daydreams. The real, workaday, nine-to-five job of any Democrat is to hold on to what he's got, and risk it as little as possible. And I think that once we really take this idea in, it has some pretty important implications.

The conventional poli-sci picture of parties as vote-maximizing enterprises is deeply rooted in our brains. Reportage on what passes for "politics" in this country concentrates on who's getting votes and how they're getting 'em. Politics seems to be as much about votes as basketball is about baskets.

The difference, of course, is that in basketball, if you lose, you lose. But in our Byzantine, oligarchic political system, the losing party doesn't really lose -- and in fact, even the losing candidates often enough don't really lose either. They may have to play second fiddle for a while, but they're still in the orchestra -- and still getting paid, one way or another. The losing party may have to content itself with a smaller share of the goodies, and less distinguished tables in their favorite restaurants, but they're still in the game. Losing candidates may have to drop back to a cushy civilian job provided by some corporate patron -- don't throw me in that briar patch, Brer Fox -- or, horrors, serve a term in a think tank. But they're still employed.

They'd rather be congressmen, or senators, of course -- and once they become congressmen, or senators, or governors, or state legislators, or mayors, they'll do almost anything to stay in office.

In other words, they're structurally risk-averse. They won't bet their jobs on a strategy that might help the party gain power. Party, schmarty -- as long as the party stands behind me, I could care less about a majority in the House. And since the party's General Will is little more than the arithmetic sum of these individual wills, then the party's drive for power is feeble at best. The party is its individual time-serving careerists writ large, a Leviathan aggregated from a myriad of nonentities, like Hobbes' famous allegory.

If the party were about taking power, you'd think they would figure out that what they're doing is not working -- that they're failures. But they don't see it in that light. Every incumbent occupies his seat because his strategy worked for him; every incumbent is in fact a success story, and you don't change a successful formula.

That's why the only way to make them change is to make the strategy stop working. As long as they get a pellet when they press the triangulation lever, they'll keep pressing it. If they get an electric shock instead, they'll stop. A donkey is at least as smart as a lab rat.

Which brings me to my point: defeat is the only electric shock that will get the donkey's attention. And I mean defeat in the general election, caused by a "spoiler" third party, which is the only effectual kind.

Primary defeats, like Lieberman's, while satisfying, are more difficult to accomplish. Typically there is only one "progressive" challenger, so it's a head-to-head race -- no three-way splits. And then, of course, the only people who come out for primaries are the party faithful. And usually, the challenger is not a millionaire like Ned Lamont.

Moreover, even when primary challenges are successful, they don't necessarily succeed, as in the Connecticut debacle, where in spite of his primary defeat, Lieberman appears to be on his way back to Washington.

But when a third party really makes a long-standing party strategy stop working, then something has got to give.

Consider the fate of New York state's Republican party:

The seeds of the Republicans' current malaise were sown under [governor Nelson] Rockefeller, observers say. With Tammany's demise, state politics shifted from issues of reform versus machine to a more ideological focus. Rockefeller's brand of liberal Republicanism, increasingly out of step with a national party turning more conservative, began drawing more criticism even in New York.

The tensions boiled over in 1970, when Republican U.S. Senator Charles Goodell, appointed by Rockefeller after the assassination of Democrat Robert F. Kennedy, was defeated by James Buckley, who ran on the third-party Conservative ticket....

Since 1974, a year after Rockefeller left Albany, no Republican has won statewide without the support of the tiny Conservative Party, whose power lies in its ability to split the conservative vote if Republicans nominate someone not to its liking.

Now why can't we do that?

As I've said before, I personally would prefer to see the Democratic Party vanish as an institution. But even if you're not willing to go quite that far -- if your goal is to turn the Democratic Party into a real, "progressive" party, rather than to destroy it -- then your immediate strategy has to be the same as mine. You've got to shock the donkey, not reward it for plodding on in its well-trodden path.

June 13, 2007

The spoilers of office

Seems by their claw marks here that both our fearless comrades J Alva "Alpha" Scruggs and Ground Xeno buy Josh Frank's spoiler wreck-all strategy:

Both parties in 2008, as my Green Party pal pointed out, must be challenged. And I don't think an all-out fifty state campaign is the best approach to holding them accountable. As a minority, we may not be able to beat the Republicans, but we sure as hell have the ability to put tangible pressure of the Democrats. And that's why we ought to focus our efforts on two states only: Ohio and Florida....

The 2008 election is for the Democrats to lose. Let's spoil it.

Me too. I say we hamstring those fuckin' donks -- make 'em hobble and trip over their hooves. Let's fuck 'em and fuck 'em good. Let's block off the hoofbeaten pathway to the trough of office. Let's bust up that smirky, head-nodding, hee-hawing, clopitty-clop "ain't this just grand" red-white-and-blue progress toward the great white palace off the Penn! Here's some slogan suggestions. Improvements welcome:
  • No more purple fingers for me!
  • Purple finger nyet!
  • Vote never again!
  • March on occupied Washington
  • Block the smurf voting stations!
  • No more November line dancing!
  • End the great American mockocracy!

May 13, 2009

They never learn

Durable pwog Norm "Bates" Solomon lets out a yahoo about the latest pwog run at my beloved Janey Harman. Once again, it seems likely that almost-equally gorgeous pwog studio politician Marcy Winograd, shown below, will take on the serpent-eyed she-champ of Cal congo district 36:

Here's Norm:

"What may be most significant about Winograd’s race to unseat Harman in 2010 is that it reflects -- and is likely to help nurture -- a growing maturity among progressives around the country who are tired of merely complaining about centrist Democrats in Congress.

Many progressives are getting a clear take-home message: Let’s stop griping about lousy members of Congress and start defeating them."

I kid you not, them's his words, brothers and sisters -- and odd words indeed, since Marcy here already did precisely this already in '06. She ran my immortal death's-head godess in the '06 dembot primary -- and took a savage beating too (62.5% to 37.5%).

The 36th is not that blue a district. Repugs garner votes here -- even won the seat five cycles back, when my Janey reached for higher fruits.

If you want to have a prayer of getting rid of Waterboard Jane, then a primary bypass and a straight run for the seat in November -- as SMBIVA always advocates -- is the only way. You could do it as, say, an "independent democrat" (size of "d" to be determined later).

That would at least show probable intent on dame Marcy's part to actually knock the Madame H machine off the hill.

But alas -- the pwog pond dare not flout the Big Tent party's rule book: thou shalt not challenge the party from its left unless you win the primary in a fair fight. Leave rogue general-election maneuvering to center-aisle club guys like Bridgeport's own right honorable meat muppet, Boltin' Joe Lieberfrau

July 15, 2009

Take that, Goliath

Sorry if this offends anybody: but really, how gay is that? I mean this in the most unprejudicial and literal way. Ancient Judea as imagined in the weight room of your friendly local YMCA. If this is what good Christian laddies are seeing in Sunday school, no wonder so many of 'em end up kicking over the traces -- God bless 'em.

* * * * *

Shown at left is the trademark caravel of The New Republic (or as Alex Cockburn once called it, The Bananas Republic). I don't think I ever noticed before that the rather top-heavy little ship is running before the wind, which is, all in all, a rather good emblem for the mag.

A recent piece at TNR's web site, by Jonathan Chait, started off on a promising note:

A few weeks ago, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced that she and other Senate Democrats harbored reservations about President Obama's plans to overhaul the health care system. This came atop previous comments to the effect that she didn't believe in sweeping reform ("I am a bit of an incrementalist"), that the cost of reform might be prohibitive....

The reaction from the left was swift and, by the standards of such things, furious. Which is to say, not very furious. Union president Gerald McEntee complained in a press release, "Senator Feinstein's comments today take the discussion of health care reform in the wrong direction." The wrong direction! Take that, Feinstein!

And if finding herself on the business end of a polite but disappointed press release didn't put the fear of God in California's senior Senator, the liberal group Health Care for America Now piled on with a petition stating, "[W]e need a senator who is championing, not naysaying, the need for reform. We're hoping Sen. Feinstein becomes a 'champion' for the people of California and stand [sic] up for President Obama's health reform."

Somehow this display of left-wing muscle failed to intimidate Feinstein....

Nice, huh? Unfortunately, it's all downhill from there. Chait inevitably ends up advocating our favorite exercise in futility, the dreaded Primary Challenge. After several paragraphs of teasing higher wonkery about Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley -- Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont are, alas, not mentioned -- we get to the money shot:
The sweet spot is a challenger strong enough to scare your popular centrist incumbent, but not quite strong enough to actually knock him off..... The Democrats would ideally have some challengers lined up who canThe sweet spot is a challenger strong enough to scare your popular centrist incumbent, but not quite strong enough to actually knock him off..... The Democrats would ideally have some challengers lined up who can frighten the likes of Evan Bayh and Mary Landrieu into taking some small risks for their party's agenda, without actually defeating them.
As I find myself asking so often -- where do you start? Does Chait really believe that Bayh and Landrieu are frustrating "their party's agenda"? Are they not in fact implementing their party's agenda -- much to the relief of Barack Obama and Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, who after the debacle can go to the Chaits of the world and roll their eyes expressively and say, hey, we tried, but those damn hicks Bayh and Landrieu stabbed us in the back.

Y'know, sixty seats isn't enough. We need 70. Or 80. Or 90.

You'll be getting a mailing soon from the DSCC. Please be generous.

November 30, 2010


Flash: Alex the Rouge backs a Feingold indy prez run in '12.

Ole Russ and Feathers. Hmm. Land sakes, I know him not. Fellow SMBIVAstanis, fill me in on this paragon of go-it-alone-ism. Is he the next Nader?

If he does run, and if he wants to make a real contribution, he should certainly run in Dem primaries without pledging he won't run as an indy in the general election, like his bookend opposite, the muppet from Bridgeport, pulled off in the Conn senator race back there a piece.

About The primary swindle

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Stop Me Before I Vote Again in the The primary swindle category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

The perils of Pelosi is the previous category.

The ratchet effect is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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