Following Progressive Caucus letter, Patrick Murphy issues new statement on Social Security while FDP official has mini-meltdown


By Brook Hines

One of the things I love about politics around here is that every so often people just ‘let it fly’ in a way that’s so breathtaking you have to step back and appreciate its narsty grandeur. Take the threat to decertify the Democratic Progressive Caucus and strip a member of DNC status, issued by a member of the Campaigns Committee of the Florida Democratic Party. El Narsto Grande.

The dustup started Monday when the DPCF held a press call to raise concerns about former Republican turned Democrat Patrick Murphy who beat Republican nutjob Allen West in one of the most expensive Congressional races of 2012. This fundraising ability impressed party leaders who hand-picked him for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat, but his previously stated positions on Social Security, and ties to Wall Street, had many rank-and-file Democratic voters concerned.

The press call elicited a surprisingly intemperate response from a party official that has politicos rubbernecking. In an email that went out to more than 300 Florida state Democratic officials, Celeste Bush, Vice-Chair of the FDP’s Campaign Committee wrote:

“These ‘so called’ leaders have just slapped the face of the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democrat National Committee. They have assumed authority for party actions that was not theirs to command. A lot of work, money, and effort has gone into the decision that Patrick Murphy had made with the help of the true leaders of our Party…The experiment with having a ‘Democratic’ Progressive Caucus has obviously failed. They have assumed power they do not have.”
It all sounded like something a Bond villain might hiss through bionic teeth. In a later quote to the press Bush added, “I’ve tried to keep progressives at an arm’s length locally. They try to take over DECs (county Democratic Executive Committees). It’s just like the tea party. [sic]”It sounded like ending “the experiment with having a ‘Democratic’ Progressive Caucus,” had been on Bush’s agenda for a while. And suggested she didn’t know how political pressure and accountability works.

In a letter yesterday, the Progressive Caucus asked Mr. Murphy to clarify his position on Social Security. After days of sticking to “I’m proud to support comprehensive immigration reform, I haven’t changed my position on marriage equality, on a woman’s right to choose, raising the minimum wage…[t]hese are all things that I support, along with getting our fiscal house in order,” his campaign issued a new statement Wednesday: “Patrick has been a champion for seniors since the day he took office…Under no circumstances would he ever cut or means-test Social Security benefits or force seniors to pay more, raise the eligibility age, or privatize these important programs.”

If this were the deal from the beginning, why not just say so in the first place? Why issue statements that focus on cultural/social issues, and reiterate the traditional conservative dog-whistle for cutting social programs, “getting our fiscal house in order”?

Maybe Murphy’s inability to pivot elegantly on this issues stems from his founding and co-chairing a Republican-dominated “bipartisan” group called United Solutions Caucus. With 22 Republicans and 11 Democrats (aside from Murphy), their top-line goal was to structurally change Social Security through the Grand Bargain. At the time, ideas for “structural change” floating around the Grand Bargain included raising the age for eligibility, privatization schemes, and means-testing.

I’m glad Rep. Murphy has found religion on Social Security. But it certainly appears that without the leadership of the Progressive Caucus this candidate would be riding into a statewide Senate battle without any political cover on this issue.

Given his history of vagueness on Social Security, Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt Murphy to join 58 other House members and sign on to legislation seeking to expand Social Security and add his name the Grayson-Takano Letter Against Benefit Cuts. The pledge states “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.” Just put a ring on it, so to speak.
In her email, Bush paints the whole exchange as a conservative Democrat vs progressive Democrat spat, but that was never at issue. What’s at issue is the trend in Florida politics to form policy decisions based on fundraising calculations and Wall Street preferences — Charlie Crist being just the most recent example of this losing strategy. Given it turned out that Mr. Murphy was apparently willing to address and promise to accommodate the concerns of the Progressive Caucus, it looks like Bush’s impulsive ‘off with their heads’ reaction created a pointless, if entertaining kerfuffle. But a simple, civilized discussion could have reached the same end and benefitted the entire party.The question now is will Wall Street still love Murphy in the morning? On February 23, Goldman Sachs wrote a generous check to his primary campaign, signaling “there’s more where that came from” to anyone thinking about challenging him in primary (FEC report here).

Should he jump into the race, Alan Grayson’s fundraising folks aren’t cowed by Goldman Sachs. With the largest small donor base of anyone in Congress, Grayson doesn’t have to pander to Wall Street for an allowance.

Hopefully Rep. Grayson would “have the authority” to ask about economic policy matters during a primary without clearing it with Celeste Bush. In the meantime it will be interesting to see if Patrick Murphy continues to collect checks from Wall Street interests. But I’m sure all the “work, money, and effort…made with the help of the true leaders of our Party” will convince them he’s still a good investment.


  1. Please let us all know who THE TRUE LEADERS of the Democratic party might be in the eyes of this de-certification screed.
    Bush might run St.Lucie but her threats to democratic processes are very demoralizing.

    The Progressive Caucus has every right to ask questions and good for them.
    Is Celeste Bush against democracy? Her letter is depressing in her apparent effort to control discourse. Thank you for sharing her letter.
    3 cheers for the Florida Progressive Caucus.


  2. I hope people who agree with our work to get the Democratic Party back to its bedrock principles will join the caucus.


  3. InsiderMyself · · Reply

    Hooray for Susan Smith! We need primaries and accountability for anyone seeking office in these ‘Paul Ryan’ times.

    The Florida Democratic Party has been operating like this since 2006, for sure.


  4. Art Dent · · Reply

    All of this just confirms to me how we DO need a Progressive Caucus. Apparently the difference between a mainstream Dem candidate framing Social Security with all the buzzwords used to justify cuts and privatization and promising to protect benefits as all Democrats should — is someone speaking up.

    That venomous call for de-certification is just shocking. A Tea Party comparison, no less? What exactly is the parallel between people dressing up in tri-cornered hats and subscribing to mythology about the President’s birth certificate, and Democrats opposing Wall Street’s never-ending drive to destroy the most successful social programs in our history? Preserving Social Security and Medicare are now wild fringe issues?

    I can only assume the huge sensitivity from a few — or at least one — on this topic comes from recognition of how outrageous mouthing Wall Street deceptions about “getting our fiscal house in order” really is. No campaign funding is worth gutting programs that keep six million Americans out of poverty, and I for one will be supporting the Dems following Elizabeth Warren’s lead in calling for expansion, not destruction, of our already modest social safety net.

    Well done, Progressive Caucus and Florida Squeeze. Thank you, for speaking for the “true membership” of the Democratic Party.


  5. Blue Dog Dem · · Reply

    Celeste is right. And by the way Kartik knows this but Brook may not- her DEC being moderate and open has flipped the county. Democrats always carry St Lucie and never did in the past.


    1. Blue Dog…St Lucie has been trending Dem because of the number of new residents from the north and Palm Beach County that have moved to PSL. Celeste has run the DEC in the four terms (now 15 years) she’s been in power and benefited from this trend. She’s done well no doubt, but has had the wind at her back so to speak.

      But she has done more than many DEC leaders in Democratic counties so for that she does deserve credit.


    2. Adam Douglas · · Reply

      Fair enough — as to St. Lucie — but I don’t see how success in Allen “Crazy Eyes” West’s former stomping grounds translates statewide. Skating on the ragged rightward edge is not a winning formula for a Democratic Senate candidate. Certainly hasn’t worked for the Governor’s seat.


      1. Michael · ·

        Murphy has proven himself capable of running good campaigns in spite of GOP advantages and is able to back up his words with actual accomplishments.


  6. Be back to watch the outcome of all this , I need to run buy a yard stick, so I can keep an arms length away from Celeste Bush…Thanks for heads up Kartik. Thumbs up Progressive Caucus and Florida Squeeze


  7. The future · · Reply

    Nailed it Brook! Celeste Bush is nothing but a troll!


  8. Michael · · Reply

    This is the same woman who recently had her article debunked in PolitiFact earlier. Don’t presume you speak for all of us when you speak of Wall Street Democrats. If all the Progressive Democrat Caucus and your ilk do is attack without acknowledging the flaws of your own candidate and sending a good positive message, then forget about earning my vote.


    1. Paul Steubens · · Reply

      Oh, wow, Politi-farce. Famous for rating Marco Rubio’s claim that a majority of Americans are conservative. When Rachel Maddow others pointed out that the number is more like 40% they backed all the way down from “true” to “half true.”

      What’s next, a counterargument from Bill O’Reilly?


      1. Michael · ·

        Lesson number one. Resorting to name-calling means you lose the argument.


  9. Terrie Rizzo · · Reply

    Can everyone please stop the name calling. If you are going to do so, at least have the courage to use your real name and not hide behind a pseudonym.


  10. Terrie Rizzo · · Reply

    (Continued) I am referring not just to this article, but to all articles.


  11. Yeah, big snafu on your part, Celeste. One of the reasons I’m a Democrat is because of the supposed “broad tent” and respect for a wide variety of world views. We don’t heel-toe it to the beat of vertically integrated structures. We welcome new ideas and perspectives, and feel they are necessary for solving complex real world problems. If your idea — in this case Murphy running — is the best idea, then it can stand the test of a primary. The idea will only be stronger for it.


  12. John Debus · · Reply

    WOW, no wonder people don’t come out to vote.. The choices; Republican or this bull crap.. I think I will be changing party to Green, Independent, or something more respectable. I thought they were head back to there roots, working people, not toward Wall Street (there goes the union vote). Tea Party????


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