Last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee introduced what can only be described as a Trump-like loyalty pledge designed to destroy the professional career of any political operative who dare cross them. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is no-doubt the spark that spurred the creation of this new policy, effectively declared war on them after they announced it. Per the National Journal a month ago:
The campaign arm on Friday sent out a list of hiring standards to more than 100 political firms, including one provision that made clear it will neither contract with nor recommend to House candidates any political vendors that work to oust sitting members of Congress. That offers key protection to the caucus’s moderate members in battleground seats, where House control will be won or lost.
It is intended to help stymie attempts by insurgent progressive groups who plan to primary incumbents deemed insufficiently liberal on key issues, but also to shield members of the party’s ascendant liberal wing who represent safe Democratic territory and could face intraparty challenges of their own.
The new protocol, intentionally debuted early in the off-year before most campaign hiring begins, presents a stark financial deterrent to the country’s top firms that provide essential services ranging from polling to TV advertising to strategy. It could cripple would-be primary opponents’ ability to entice top talent to join their staff. The DCCC independent-expenditure arm doles out millions in contracts to consultants and drives more revenue toward them by connecting campaigns with vetted operatives.
One of the first real test cases of the effectiveness of the DCCC’s loyalty pledge is taking place in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional district. The incumbent Democrat, Dan Lipinski, is the favored DCCC candidate, and he beat Marie Newman by only about 1,600 votes in the last election cycle (a 2% victory margin). He has been IL-03’s representative since 2005, replacing his father who served since 1993. Lipinski is the manifestation of everything we at Paste politics have been writing about the bankrupt “liberalism” of the Democratic Party over the last 40 years. Lipinski is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, embodied by the fact that he is a member of the 1990s relic, Blue Dog Coalition, opposed gay marriage, and he is the co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. Illinois’ 3rd district has never voted for a Republican president in the last 70 years, and every presidential election this century has delivered the Democrats a double-digit victory. The GOP is so non-competitive in IL-03 that in 2018, an outright Holocaust denier won the GOP primary, and Lipinski was endorsed by Ted freaking Cruz.
Representative Dan Lipinski is simply not representative of his district.
So enter Marie Newman in the Democratic Primary (again). Per the intent of the new DCCC rules, all of her staffers should be exiled to one of Jupiter’s moons, and she should be left penniless and without any help for the gargantuan effort it takes to primary an incumbent in our “democracy.” How’s that going for the DCCC right now?
Democrat Marie Newman, in a second primary bid to oust Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., is being endorsed by six leading progressive organizations, with the groups jumping in the race months earlier than they did for her in 2018.
The Monday joint endorsement of Newman from EMILY’s List, MoveOn, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America sends a strong signal to progressives in the 3rd Congressional District.
The DCCC’s loyalty pledge is clearly a big reason why these major progressive groups have begun this fight against them so early, as Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America told the Sun-Times that “I think people are aware that now is not a time to actually place incumbency above the core values of the party.”
Theoretically, politics is about a war of ideas. We all enter the political arena, armed with nothing but ideology and supporting evidence, and after a lengthy battle, coalitions form and the best ideas emerge.
In reality, American politics works much more like the DCCC’s Trumpian loyalty pledge (which is why the notion that Trump is an outlier—instead of the logical conclusion of American politics—is so wrongheaded). For America’s Real Rulers, this exercise isn’t about representing the people. If it were, Dan Lipinski’s votes would look much more representative of his district—instead, he votes like he resides in a pro-Trump district. The powers that be turned politics into aristocracy—as best exemplified by the fact that technocratic neoliberalism believes that the best way to solve all problems is to stick a handful of smart (Ivy League) folks in a room. That has driven us to a world defined by the worst economic inequality seen in a century and a looming climate catastrophe that is guaranteed to bring about the literal apocalypse unless we dramatically reverse course on our current path decades ago.
If the DCCC thinks that its more conservative candidates’ policy has been good, then they should say so and defend their votes. Instead, they’re trying to shut down debate altogether, asserting that a staunchly liberal district needs a centrist who consistently and conveniently votes in line with the major donors of our nation’s capital. In what seems to be an exercise in psychological projection, the DCCC bet that self-interest would trump integrity on the left, and with any hope, major progressive groups not backing down in Illinois’ 3rd district is just the start of democracy blowing this Trumpian loyalty pledge up in the DCCC’s faces.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.