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.”
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.
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.