Primaries Expose Bitter Fight in Democratic Party
Down with Tyranny blogger Howie Klein says corporate Democrats fight to undermine and defeat progressive candidates in spite of Sanders’ proven success in working class districts
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay, in Baltimore.
The primaries are a time in the Democratic Party when the civil war in the Democratic party breaks out into the open. Much more in public view. The fight some people position, from the progressive Sander-esque wing of the party, as a fight within, a fight within the party against the oligarchy within the party. Using the words of Bernie Sanders, the oligarchy that rules America. And that can get bitter and as intense as any fight against the oligarchy. Of course, in the election in the Democratic Party there’s enormous pressure on progressives not to split the vote, not to weaken the fight against the Republicans and Trump. And in the primary that was just held on Tuesday there was a lot of that kind of messaging, particularly, particularly in California, that has this unique structure of the top two candidates going forward. And there was some fear the top two both the Republicans in some races.
At any rate, just how did the progressives do in this primary, not just in California, but other parts of the country? And what does this mean for this struggle inside the party going forward to the 2020 presidential elections?
Now joining us from Los Angeles, California to discuss all of this is Howie Klein. Howie is an adjunct professor at McGill University in Montreal. He serves on the board of People for the American Way, and blogs under the nom de guerre Down With Tyranny. Thanks very much for joining us again, Howie.
HOWIE KLEIN: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.
PAUL JAY: So give us a bit of a big picture. How did, how did the progressive candidates do? Maybe we’ll start in California. There was particular pressure on progressives that were supposedly not as electable as some of the more centrist candidates backed by the party establishment. And given that weird structure of the California elections they were, many of them were even asked to withdraw. So how did that all work out?
HOWIE KLEIN: Well, Paul, let me start by saying that you have been brain drilled by the, by the mainstream media. So let’s start by correcting something immediately, which is that the, the more progressive candidates are less electable. That isn’t true.
PAUL JAY: Oh, I didn’t say that. I said corporate Democrats said that. That ain’t me saying that.
HOWIE KLEIN: Exactly. Well, that’s exactly right. Corporate Democrats are saying that. It is totally not true. And let me go back a couple of weeks, before we get to California, where-. Let’s go to Omaha, Nebraska. I mean, that you know, you don’t think of that as a, necessarily a liberal bastion, but yet the Blue Dog corporate Democrat, just an awful candidate, the Democratic Party, the DCCC, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, triple C is what I’ll refer to them from now on in our talk, they to go Brad Ashford, who is a Blue Dog, a very, very conservative Democrat, and not, not a good candidate. And this is a district that Bernie won.
So why would he be more electable? He was a congressman. And the people in that district threw him out. He was a terrible- he was a terrible congressman, they recognized it, and they defeated him. But yes, the DCCC wanted him to be candidate. And the people of the district said no, and they elected a progressive, a Bernie type, or let’s say Berniecrat, named Kara Eastman. And you know, that’s the way it should be. So here you have the corporate Democrats, or the DCCC, or the establishment, or anything you want to call them, claiming that their horrible Blue Dog would be the would be the better candidate. It wasn’t true. Now what happens after the the primary, now the DCCC is refusing to recognize her as a legitimate candidate, and they haven’t put her on their red to blue list. So they’re not helping her. And they’re going to do their best to make her lose. That’s what the DCCC does. Can I use dirty words on this thing? Or you want me to keep it clean.
PAUL JAY: You can use any, any words in the English language.
HOWIE KLEIN: OK. Fuck them. They are, they are literally trying to make progressives lose after, after the, after the primaries, after they win primaries. So I just used one example, but there are several.
Now let’s jump to California. So you had a, a mixed, a mixed batch of races here. And by the way, very few people know this, and they should, but there are at least a dozen races that haven’t been decided yet, that are too close to call. Now, in California we have these open or jungle primaries, where it doesn’t matter what party you’re with. Everybody runs together in the primary, and the two top vote getters then go on to November. So in every race, the top person has been chosen, but not the number two.
So you know, like I was just looking at one a couple of minutes ago, where it could even be three. Any of three people who wind up in the number two spot. There is just, there are over 100000 votes to count in these, in these districts, and in some cases only 80 votes separating the number two and number three candidate. So it is very, very close.
But let’s look, for example, at my favorite race. It was the race in Orange County. It was very highly touted. So there was, there was no chance it was ever going to be two Republicans, because there is a Republican incumbent named Mimi Walters. She’s a complete, total, utter Trump lackey. She is a puppet of the establishment. She never does anything other than what the establishment wants. She is worthless. Just worthless. Hillary won this district. It was close. It’s never been in Democratic hands since the Depression in the 1930s. But Hillary did win it. And there was, the Democrats, the DCCC, the Democrat establishment didn’t have anybody running, you know, in a serious campaign. So now there will be. So there were two top candidates. There were many, many candidates running, but there were two at the very top. One of them is a dreadful New Dem. So New Dems are the Wall Street-owned conservative wing of the Democratic Party. So the, this guy named Dave Min was the New Dem.
So to be a New Dem or a Blue Dog, I should just say this, to use those words, it doesn’t mean, it’s not an adjective. It’s an actual organization. You have to apply for membership. You go to meetings, you help elect officers. It’s a real organization. And in order to get their endorsement you have to apply for their endorsement, and fill out a, a sheet that that answers their questions, so they can be sure that you are going to vote with them. And these are the people that always vote with the Republicans, especially on economic issues. This is a Wall Street-oriented organization, the New Dems.
So what, what happened was Dave Min did the thing that is the worst possible thing that a Democrat can do in a primary. He went all the way negative on the more progressive candidate. Just said the worst things about her. Democratic voters, unlike Republican voters, Democratic voters don’t like when Democrats attack other Democrats. They want Democrats to save their fire to attack Republicans. But Dave Min attacked Katie Porter so Katie Porter is a progressive. She’s a, she went to Harvard, and her professor at Harvard was Elizabeth Warren. And when Elizabeth Warren was looking for someone to cowrite a book with her, she chose the best student in her class. And that was Katie Porter. So Elizabeth Warren is a big fan of Katie’s. Katie has dedicated her life to vote, to, aside from her family, has dedicated her professional life to going and trying to help work on issues around consumer protection. That’s her beat, is consumer protection. She also worked for Kamala Harris, when Kamala Harris was the attorney general. And both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris endorsed her.
In Elizabeth Warren’s case it was more than an endorsement. She helped her raise money. She would send out letters several times a week urging people to vote for her. But meanwhile, this guy Dave Min used to work for a much more conservative Democrat in Congress: Chuck Schumer. And he worked for Chuck Schumer on the Wall Street beat, making it possible for Chuck Schumer to become the single most rewarded person in the history of Congress by Wall Street.
Now let me just- since I just said that, let me just make make it clear. People who run for president get more money than senators. You know, you can take out people like Hillary Clinton, who was a senator, and not count that. But someone who didn’t run for president, Chuck Schumer has taken more money from Wall Street than anyone in history. Last time I looked it was something like $26 million. And Min worked in his office on the Wall Street beat. So making it more easy for Chuck Schumer to take what I call bribes, they call donations or contributions. In any case, Katie, the progressive, beat Min, the less progressive, or the more conservative candidate.
PAUL JAY: Let me just add something to the Schumer point, that a lot of that money that Schumer got, he used to fund other Senate campaigns, which enabled him to become such a leading voice in the Senate. It was through Schumer Wall Street got to influence all kinds of Senate campaigns, not just Schumer’s.
HOWIE KLEIN: Exactly right. And remember, until last Senate cycle, Schumer was the chairman of the DSCC. So I’ve been talking about the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DCCC. Their Senate brothers and sisters are the DSCC, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Schumer was the chairman of that. And while he was the chairman of that, he did the same thing. He would pick these very conservative candidates. Wall Street-oriented. And when they didn’t win, he would get [inaudible] the progressive.
PAUL JAY: Howie, let me ask you a question. I interviewed Thomas Frank, the author of “Whatever Happened to Kansas?” And his, a couple of other books. And he made the point that he thought corporate Democrats, they don’t just have policy disagreements with the left, progressive section of the party. He said they hate the left of the party. And some of what you’re describing, trying to actually sabotage the elections and campaigns of some of the progressive candidates, what is that going to mean heading into, well, 2018 and then 2020, in terms of the progressive voters having any enthusiasm for coming out and getting involved or actually voting in the next elections? Obviously hatred for Trump is going to drive a lot. But there’s a point at which the progressive section of the party doesn’t feel like this is their party.
HOWIE KLEIN: The theory is that it would, it would hurt the enthusiasm of progressives if that’s what happens. The reality, and I’ve been-. For example, I read a poll today which I think is a good one from the, from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal. Good poll. And what it showed is that the single most important issue for Democrats, and by an overwhelming amount, is that, is that they will vote for someone who they feel will put a check on Trump. That is what is motivating both Democrats and independents.
So on issues, yes, healthcare is the number one issue. Jobs and employment is the number two issue. So those, those are very important to them. [What’s overriding] everything else is who will put a, who will put a check on Trump. So that, I feel, is going to motivate people to go to the polls. What happened in 2006, the last big blue wave that-. What happened is that Rahm Emanuel was the head of the DCCC. He did everything he can, he could do, to disadvantage progressives. So you know, all over the country he would be backing these terrible conservative Wall Street candidates, and some of them were anti-gay, some of them were anti-choice, and they were all pro Wall Street. And some of them were pro-NRA. It was just a terrible lot of candidates. But he knew, he’s a smart guy. He knew that what would happen is people, there was a wave building, and people would just go and vote for his atrocious candidates.
So first of all, in the primaries, some of his bad candidates lost, and the progressives won. He then would, he then cut ties with them and just gave up on those districts. However, many of those candidates won anyway. And some of them are still in Congress, like Jerry McNerney, for example, or Carol Shea Porter, another example of candidates that Rahm would help after they won against his terrible candidates in the primary. They’re still in Congress. But you know what happened to every single one of Rahm’s candidates, every one of them? Not one, not one, it doesn’t fit in with what I’m telling you. Not one of them is still in Congress, because the next time there was a primary, that’s when-. I’m sorry, the next time there was a midterm, the Repub the Democrats the progressive Democrats said I’m not voting for this guy you voted with Republicans all the time in Congress. He’s terrible. I got sold a bill of goods and they were defeated. That was in 2010. That was the next primary after 20 06. And people say, oh, look how badly the Democrats did. No. What happened is all of the candidates that Rahm snuck into Congress in this big wave, they were all defeated the next time Democrats could defeat them.
So now, that doesn’t mean that Democrats voted for Republicans. It just means they stayed home. They didn’t go vote. So I am looking-. So the same thing, again. People who are going to vote in 2018 anyway, and then 2020 is a presidential year, so they’ll vote again, 2022 will be a complete catastrophe for the Democratic Party. That’s, you know, easy to see, history repeating itself, because these imbeciles at the DCCC never learn. In fact, they so didn’t learn that the first thing that Ben Ray Lujan, the new chairman, the first thing he did was ask Rahm to be his consiglieri and give him advice. So he’s just following the same terrible pattern that Rahm did that was a disaster for the Democrats. And when I brought this up to members of the DCCC, some of the big shots, they just shrug their shoulders and say, yeah, you’re right. But if we have four years we can get a lot accomplished.
PAUL JAY: Now, in your blog, if I have it correct, correctly, you have a source that suggested that there could be a Sanders-Warren ticket. And it seems to me a Sanders-Warren ticket could win the primary. Would the powers that be in the Democratic Party allow such a thing? In other words, the kind of shenanigans that we found out through the hack of the DNC servers and the emails that came out, and the kind of support they gave to Hillary against Sanders, it seems to me would even be far more threatening to them to have a Sanders-Warren ticket. So first of all, how serious is that source? And how do you see this unfolding? Because that would be a very serious threat to the people that are controlling the party.
HOWIE KLEIN: So, first of all, the source is very very serious. It’s someone who, who knows pretty well. They’ve never steered me wrong before, and I’ve questioned them closely to see if this is real. And she says yes, it’s real. And I believe it now things can change. So maybe maybe maybe it won’t. But as of right now that’s what I’m counting on is is a burp and boring ticket and then the establishment you know the Wall Street end of the Democratic Party or you might want to call it the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. They will have some someone who will who will represent that end of the party in the primary. Whether it’s Joe Biden the the the bankruptcy king of the Senate or Cuomo the governor of New York or you know some you know identity politics candidate like Gillibrand though they’ll have some conservative Democrat running against Bernie and Elizabeth Warren.
I don’t know who it’s going to be. And you know I don’t think they can get away with doing again what they did to Bernie. They’re changing some of the rules. You know, I was looking at Michigan, for example, like Bernie beat Hillary Clinton. And he beat, he beat her pretty substantially, walked away with more electoral votes than he got, and that can’t, that won’t happen again. And this, you know, what I just told you was about one state, because I was writing about it today. But this was true in lots of states, where Bernie got more votes than Hillary, but Hillary got more electoral votes. I mean, that isn’t fair. And when you, when you look at it you realize that Bernie on primary day didn’t just beat Hillary in county after county after county, he beat Trump. He got more votes than Trump did. There’s no question in my mind that if Bernie had been the candidate, he would have won.
PAUL JAY: All right, thanks very much for joining us, Howie. I hope we can do this again soon.
HOWIE KLEIN: Great. I look forward to it. Take care.
PAUL JAY: All right. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.