0 for 2: Professional Left Gets Spanked by Democratic Base

arguingmenFor all the Republican primary woes, a very strong current of positive news is coming out of the Democratic primaries this year - the Democratic Congressional primaries, specifically. Whenever ideological warriors on the Left flank of politics aim to beat down common sense pragmatism, our base is sending a message: we want good results, not just "good fights." Early this month, in Ohio, the least valuable Democrat in Congress, Dennis Kucinich, went down in flames in his Democratic primary. True to style, he chose to exit the stage as his usual bitter self. And last Tuesday, in Illinois' 10th Congressional District, the Professional Left's wonder kid, Ilya Sheyman, lost by a near double digit margin to progressive businessman Brad Schneider. To listen to the Internet's Lefty keyboard warriors, Sheyman's loss was a big tragedy for the progressives, and well, it's all the polling's fault.

Sheyman is the former Mobilization Director for MoveOn.org, and organizing manager at TrueMajority.org. Big names on the "netroot" Left - the PCCC (I find it amazing that people keep associating with them despite their open racism), MoveOn (duh) and Democracy for America all got behind Sheyman for a big push. If there is a personification of "netroots," - aka the keyboard warriors - Sheyman is it. The computer commandos attacked Schneider as a "Republican", based on the fact that over the past two decades, he'd donated to four Republicans, totaling less than 10% of his political donations. Local Democratic leaders condemned the tactics of these groups for reprehensible half-truths about a fellow Democrat.

When election night rolled around, Sheyman lost. Big. He lost big despite the support of these groups, and despite outspending his chief opponent hugely.

The Professional Left is in damage control mode from this devastating loss, and their media devotees are working hard at writing a narrative shifting blame away from the keyboard commandos. Ryan Grim and Amanda Terkel of the Professional Left's go-to paper, the Huffington Post, describes the IL-10 race as an unfortunate mix of low turnouts, a backfiring negative campaign, and an imperfect candidate.

Turnout was low! - meaning, of course, one of two things: (a) Sheyman never had the votes he claimed he had, or (b) his campaign, along with these national groups, failed stunningly to get their vote out. Terkel and Grim go on to claim that in this situation, most people who voted always vote in Democratic primaries, and that means the establishment had an advantage. Really? I thought the people who always voted in the primaries were ... you know, the party's base. Are they accusing the base of favoring establishment candidates?

Grim and Terkel are forced to admit that the desperate tearing down of Sheyman's chief opponent Brad Schneider by his national "Netroot" groups backfired, turning people off to him and motivating local Democratic leaders to endorse his opponent. They also contend that Sheyman was an "imperfect messenger" for the progressive cause.

Actually, it had nothing to do with the messenger. It had everything to do with the message. The message that the Sheyman campaign and its Professional Left backers sent was one of a smaller Democratic tent, a narrower ideological agenda and an intolerant insistence on purity. The "netroots" have dangerously mistaken belief: that their version of cookie cutter progressives is all you need, and everyone better damn well kowtow to your ideological warfare agenda, or else. And that's how they campaign themselves. They have a stirring disregard for context and an animalistic rather than adversarial approach towards even Democrats they see as not seeking enough ideological warfare (remind you of someone else they assailed?). Anyone who dares to disagree with them on the liberal side is a traitor, a corporatist, and even a shill. Anyone not pure enough is the devil incarnate. It is that message that the Democratic base rejected in IL-10, as it did before in Ohio.

The IL-10 race was really a profile of the "Netroots" going all-in, tearing up their Democratic opponent, and... failing completely and utterly. It's perhaps the race that shows the biggest difference between the Republican base and the (actual) Democratic base: the Democratic base is looking for people who will stand up for what they believe in, and one of the things we believe in is the fierce urgency of governing effectively. Just as the Republican base is in the business of moving their candidates to the unrecognizable fringe, the Democratic base is rejecting ideological warfare in favor of pragmatism and solutions.

That's what the Democratic party stands for. That's what the Democratic base stands for. We stand for pragmatic governance with progressive goals. We stand for moving forward with what progress can be made, and always sticking around for more. We do not have a cow every time one of our own says something nice about someone in the opposing party. We believe that ideological warfare is harmful, and that to move our country forward, we must govern - and that governing entails compromises. We do not think that compromise is a dirty word. We are too smart to fall into a Tea Party trap of our own.