It’s a battle for the soul of the Democratic Party — are you ready to rumble?!
Scott Arceneaux needs to brush up on his platitudes, because clearly, to “disagree without being disagreeable” doesn’t mean what he thinks it means. In a statement circulated to political media, Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Arceneaux said he was “disappointed” with another statement put out by the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida President, Susan Smith, expressing dismay that President Obama and Vice President Biden waded into Florida’s Democratic Senatorial Primary by endorsing lifelong Republican Patrick Murphy over the progressive leader, Alan Grayson.
Showing a measure of desperation on the part of establishment politicians, the POTUS endorsement came just a day after PPP polling revealed Grayson leads Murphy by double digits—his largest yet.
Susan Smith’s statement on the endorsement reads in part, “As much as it breaks my heart to see President Obama attempt to put his thumb on the scale for Patrick Murphy, it’s even more worrisome that the president seems to have done so with bad information. Patrick Murphy has said he wants to look at cuts to Social Security, and he supported the so-called Bowles-Simpson plan that would have cut benefits for the vast majority of Social Security recipients.”
Regarding Arceneaux’s rote recitation of platitudes, Smith is doing the opposite of being disagreeable here—she’s giving the President the benefit of the doubt. In his statement Arceneaux said, “We are a big tent party with diverse views and should be able to disagree without being disagreeable.” It’s far worse to assume Obama endorsed Patrick Murphy knowing the details of his record in all its horrifying glory. In Murphy’s record you’ll find no moral center, and precious little in the way of values that any mainstream Democrat could or should find agreeable (h/t Howie Klein, read more here):
- Patrick Murphy was one of only 22 Democrats voting for a resolution condemning President Obama’s rescue of Beau Bergdahl from the Taliban.
- Every single time Boehner brought it up, Murphy voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline.
- When Alan Grayson offered a resolution challenging the constitutionality of the GOP plan to strip the President of decision-making authority for Keystone XL pipeline, Murphy was one of only 19 Democrats voted with the GOP against the resolution.
- And, Patrick Murphy was one of only 7 Democrats who voted to establish the Benghazi Committee against Hillary Clinton.
There’s much more in this vein, but the bottom line is Patrick Murphy established a record of voting against the President and Hillary Clinton, while Alan Grayson has a record of supporting them. So why is Patrick Murphy being feted by those he seemingly spurns in his voting record?
Is it because he’s a favorite of Wall Street as evidenced by banker campaign contributions totaling $872,350 so far this cycle—the most financial services money pledged to a non-incumbent? And if so, what does that say about The Establishment.
Say what you will about Bernie Sanders, but his campaign has made folks keenly aware of the corrupt campaign finance system that’s controlled by billionaires and special interests, such as Wall Street banks. It used to be a suspicion, but now we can clearly see that ‘government by, and for, the people’ is perishing before our eyes. Spectacles such as the POTUS putting his thumb on the scales for a Wall Street lackey—knowing full-well the extent of Murphy’s record, as Arceneaux complains—only serve to sharpen that perception.
The timing of the POTUS endorsement could also suggest payback for Grayson’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders in the Presidential Primary against Hillary Clinton. Grayson put his Presidential Superdelegate vote, along with his endorsement, up for grabs in an online poll. He let his constituents decide who he should give endorse, and they overwhelmingly chose Sanders.
That Alan Grayson would endorse Bernie Sanders should surprise no one. As a matter of fact, what did surprise folks was Grayson’s participation in the Florida Leadership Council, which appeared to be a de facto endorsement of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The FLC was launched by the Hillary for America PAC with the mission to “build a grassroots-driven volunteer team that will help Hillary.” It’s hard to say you don’t endorse Hillary while serving in that organization.
The appearance of endorsing Clinton over Sanders damaged Grayson’s standing with progressives across the state who wondered if he was caving in to pressure from establishment bullies. For his part, Grayson tried to parse the difference between being on the Leadership Council, and actually endorsing the candidate. Politically, he said, there should be room to cultivate a working relationship with Clinton. Fair enough, but the average voter paying attention to the FLC dust-up, saw Grayson campaigning to be a courageous progressive Senator, while seeming to abandon the only true progressive candidate for President in our lifetime. It was a clash of values that had to be addressed.
Grayson’s political brand is built on independence and a certain stiff-necked fortitude that many spineless creatures in the Democratic Party find discomfiting. Cephalopods that have never encountered a backbone might not appreciate that vertebrae enable you stand up straight on principle when peers pressure you to sell out. When these vampire squid first encounter vertebrates they will attack. Watch out for the beak!
Strategically, Grayson needed to mend the endorsement rift with his base and restore his brand. It was a smart move, and you have to ask, “Did the President of the United Of America just endorse a lifelong Republican for the Senate as political payback, in part, because Grayson publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton”?
All of this boils down to the central power struggle happening within the Democratic party.
The Establishment is engaged in a concerted effort to snuff out progressivism at the highest levels of the party. In 2008, Hillary characterized Obama as an un-pragmatic, pipe-dreaming, magical thinker—the same language she uses to dismiss Sanders. She also sought to diminish Obama by passing around the Muslim tunic photo, and characterized him as “the black candidate” who wasn’t to be taken seriously. Now she’s using President Obama as a political shield, to burnish her identity politics bona fides over Sanders, who was a leader in the civil rights movement while she was supporting the segregationist Barry Goldwater, a favorite of the KKK in the South.
If we’re to be honest about the attacks taking place within the party right now, we’d have no choice but to conclude that there’s a real campaign being waged against progressives, especially of the social justice stripe, who threaten special interests. In doing so, the party is embarking on a strategy that’s neither pragmatic nor values-driven.
Party bosses know their special interest donors judge them by their ability to quash critiques on bankers and other special interests. But this critique comes from voters who still haven’t recovered from losing their jobs, homes and retirements in the Great Recession, caused by the greed of these donors.
It’s beginning to read like a Greek tragedy. On one side there’s Democratic voters who can actually elect people to office. On the other, there are piles of special interest checks that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, now that the game is widely recognized as rigged. The short-term interest of a party boss, like Arceneaux, is to ignore the voice of the chorus. Keep those checks rolling in. Keep issuing platitudes that make no sense. Keep losing races. There can be no doubt that the story ends in sorrow and political bloodshed.
Brook Hines is a writer, photographer, activist and former alt-weekly publisher, as well as an award-winning advertising creative with more than 20 years’ experience crafting strategy for clients ranging from healthcare companies to state museums. She’s Associate Producer for Progressive News Network (tune this Sunday at 7 pm or download the podcast anytime), and the Communications Chair for the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. All opinions offered here are her own, delivered from the perspective of social theory, cultural criticism. Political and media analysis through a Progressive lens. Read all of Brook’s articles here. Check out brookhines.com. Take your vitamins.