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Commented: Should the Democratic Party offer financial support to Democrats who vote against health-care reform?

And if it does, should members of the Democratic base continue to financially support the Democratic Party? I haven't thought about this much, but Phillycomment laid out the position well in Friday's "Reconciliation" (the new name for tab dump) thread:

I was looking today at the list of Democrats who voted "no" on health-care the first time around. What struck me was how many of them were heavily supported by the DCCC in 2008. Shouldn't that kind of financial backing, a considerable part of which comes from center-left national Democratic party supporters, not go to members who simply do not support the Democrats on any of the big stuff? I mean, if you added up all the money from the DCCC given to some of the folks on that list, it's definitely in the couple of millions. I don't think these guys should be getting national Democratic Party funding if they are going to act like free agents all the time.

At some point, if you take the support of the base, you have to be accountable to the base.

This would be different, of course, if Democrats clearly had the votes for health-care reform bill and were just cutting some vulnerable members loose for political reasons.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 1, 2010; 7:59 AM ET
 
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Comments

Oh come on! The Democrats couldn't even bring themselves to punish Lieberman. One errant vote is awfully small compared to what he did.

Democrats get into politics primarily as a vehicle for exercising their sense of self righteousness. Effective legislation doesn't play a very large role in their self image.

Posted by: pj_camp | March 1, 2010 8:20 AM | Report abuse

I've already written the White House, the DNC, and local candidates that I will no longer financially support them because of the fact that Democratic holdouts such as the Blue Dogs have wreaked havoc with progressive policies and election fortunes.

President Obama should be calling out every Dem by name who obstructs his goals. The fact he doesn't means he is a failed leader.

Reid and Pelosi shoud be fired for not calling out by names Democratic obstructionists. Further, they should hold votes whenever possible so we know exactly which Democrats are holdouts.

We need to cleanse the party of these imposters, and I suggest we start with the incompetent and duplicitous Obama.

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 1, 2010 8:27 AM | Report abuse

A natural consequence of HCR failure will be a backlash against the DCCC by the base, and a backlash by the base against those Democrats who vote no. On the other hand, those who vote yes will continue to have the support of the base - instead of giving to the DCCC, the giving will probably shift to individual candidates.

Posted by: tnoord | March 1, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I gave very generously to Democrats in the last cycle. I will give to Democrats in this cycle, too. But they will be the Democrats I choose.

I'll make some mistakes. Some of the Democrats I contribute to will disappoint me. But I can accept that. At least the power will still be mine. When I give to the DCCC and DSCC, I hand my power to insiders who use it in their own interest, not mine, and forward my hard-earned money to politicians I detest.

I used to do it. After the Democratic Congress's appalling performance this past 14 months, not anymore.

[I've been around long enough to know that politicians will often disappoint me. But I confess that I did not expect a Democratic Congress with majorities this large would disappoint me non-stop, 24x7x365.]

[Oh, and pj_camp, re: "Democrats get into politics primarily as a vehicle for exercising their sense of self righteousness." Not the many Democrats I've met at the local level, which is, after all, where most people get involved in politics. Do "Republicans get into politics primarily as a vehicle for exercising their sense of greed, viciousness, xenophobia, and small-mindedness"? Like being caricatured? I didn't think so.]

Posted by: bcamarda2 | March 1, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

One thing I have not seen you mention is the effect that redistricting may have on partisanship. If redistricting leads to more politically homogenous districts, then does it not follow that representatives have less of an impetus to compromise?

This gets to your question above. The reason the D-trip funds candidates that did not support HCR is because they are the candidates that are in a fight.

Posted by: tlibert | March 1, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Attention all elected Democrats....

Stop "saying" what you are going to do, and actually do it for a change.

All I've been seeing in the headlines this last week is that you are going to use reconciliation to pass health care.

Well, get off your butts and hold the vote.

Frankly, I don't believe a word any of you say. After all, we saw what happened to the financial reform, credit card interest rate limit reform, the CEO bonus reform, the HCR, the cap-and-trade bill, GITMO, Iraq, Afghanistan, infrastructure jobs, and so on. You're all talk and no action, and what action you have taken has been watered down or painted as something other than what it actually is.

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 1, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I agree with tnoord. Each day I scratch my head, wondering why the current crop of Beltway Dems has spent the past year pursuing a "kick the base in the teeth" strategy. The essence of Rahmism? One thing's for sure: the party has a colossal problem with its base; and if HCR fails there will be an unprecedented comeuppance: money drying up, primary challenges to the likes of Stupak and Lincoln and Skelton, tens of millions of voters staying home in November.

Comprehensive healthcare reform is as close to the heart of the Democratic base as the repeal of Roe v. Wade is to the heart of the Republican base. Washington Democrats ignore this fact at their peril.

Posted by: scarlota | March 1, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

DCCC pitch from the day after the HCR summit:

"We must beat back the Republican lies and finally give America quality, affordable health care.

Contribute $5, $10 or more in the next 48 Hours so we can blow past our $100,000 grassroots goal and show the American people that Democrats are ready to fight to the finish on health care reform."

Yes, HCR failure will cause a backlash against DCCC (and primaries against blue dogs).

Posted by: ragbatz | March 1, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

You need to look at Nate Silver's analysis for how valuable a Democratic senator or congressperson is. Getting any liberal votes from a state/district that is R+8 is much more valuable than getting liberal votes from a state/district that is D+8.

That is, if the only real choice is a conservative Democrat or a Republican for a given seat you have to take some frustrating votes. In a D+8 district there is a much more likely possibility of getting a true progressive in that seat, so we can expect/demand progressive votes.

Posted by: gwyoder | March 1, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

"The reason the D-trip funds candidates that did not support HCR is because they are the candidates that are in a fight."

What's the point in funding them if all they do is vote like Republicans? Better not to send money to the DCCC or DNC or anyone until we rid the party of imposters.

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 1, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

It's true that the DCCC has put a lot of money behind a lot of moderates — because that's what it took/takes to win a majority. The DCCC exists for the purpose of getting Democrats elected to the House. If you give money to the DCCC, you should expect the money to be spent on that one function. If you only want to support Democrats of a particular ideology, the Democratic Party is not where you should put your money.

Second, health care is not the only vote that counts. What about someone who votes against health care but voted for cap and trade as well as the stimulus? There are myriad votes every year on which Democratic leadership needs party unity: appropriations, defeating motions to recommit and other procedural votes, supporting the rules that allow for consideration of an underlying bill, etc. It's not just the big stuff, though obviously the big stuff is, well, bigger. Still, from the parties' perspective, anyone who votes the party line at least 51 percent of the time is probably worth supporting. Not because they're not frustrating, but because the alternative is worse. That certainly doesn't mean you're obligated to be happy with the way that moderates vote, only that it shouldn't come as a surprise in terms of candidates funded by official party organizations.

Posted by: NobodySpecial3 | March 1, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Special,

The HCR vote was the only vote that counted this past year. Because holdout Dems prolonged and sabotaged HCR, and because Obama pinned his entire political fortune to HCR without actually providing leadership, votes such as cap-trade and other issues are now in jeopardy too.

Dems should have been united the first year in order to prove they are different and to solve major issues (HCR, jobs, cap-trade). They should have had all these things done months ago. Obama should have bullied hold-out Dems and held their feet to the fire publicly.

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 1, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Conservative Dem to face tough primary

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/01/bill-halter-arkansas-senate_n_480375.html

Yippee!! Hope Lincoln loses.

Posted by: Lomillialor | March 1, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Pay to play...it's the Chicago way. The only way to solve the health care issue is to start with costs, period. The Republicans and some bright Democrats have this right.

Posted by: jobro2 | March 1, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Please, Democratic party, don't put any money into the races of the Democratic healthcare heritics. Please, please. That means more Republicans winning in the fall. Can you say circular firing squad. I guess a lot of folks in the Democratic party forgot how they got the majority in Congress in the first place. A lot of Democrats won seats in traditionally Republican and conservative territory. Pleas punish them and say bye bye majority.

Posted by: RobT1 | March 1, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The Democratic Party has never been the party to walk in lock-step. The Republicans have always done a far superior job of enforcing party discipline.

Is this a bad thing? Sometimes yes and sometimes no, or, in other words, it depends on the situation.

What the DCCC does should be determined on a case by case basis. There are districts currently held by Democrats that won't be for long without serious help from outside sources (the DCCC for instance.) If there is a realistic chance for the Dems to keep a seat if help is given then help should be given.

Why should the DCCC help out Congresscritters that vote against Democratic interests? 1) Because Congretional calculus aportions seats on committees based upon the proportional party makeup of Congress 2) It is unlikely that should a seat go from Dem to Rep that Democratic interests will fair better than they would with Dem in office.

Now, should small donors continue to give money directly to these Congresscritters? No, I sure as heck won't. But I didn't in the first place.

I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat. Will Rogers, 1935

Posted by: nisleib | March 1, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Not one penny. :)

Posted by: bgmma50 | March 1, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

"This would be different, of course, if Democrats clearly had the votes for health-care reform bill and were just cutting some vulnerable members loose for political reasons."

No; if the party had a history of discipline, members wouldn't dare oppose "the big issues" in the first place.

Posted by: Chris_ | March 1, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I really sympathize with the frustration that many Dems feel regarding the last 14 months. However, I do not understand the logic that running all of the moderate Dems out of the party will lead to a liberal majority. Presumably moderate Dems are elected from districts with moderate voters. If the districts were solidly liberal then would they not elect more liberal candidates in the primary? Yes this is not always the case but does anyone really believe that AR and LA are going to elect liberal Senators?

So to everyone that says we need to run the DINOs (a term I despise since it's a ripoff of RHINOs) out of the party, I ask why do you want to be in the minority so badly?

Posted by: tlibert | March 1, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

its amazing to me that its like this because Ms. Nancy seems to rule with an iron fist. Who knows. Maybe they're really in districts that were anti-bush from their 8 years. It'll be interesting to see how many flip back in 2010.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 1, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

If these so called democrats want to be republicans then don't back them in any way and let them get voted out. If a republican gets voted in then nothing is really lost.

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | March 1, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Individuals Democrats who won't vote for the health care bill must not receive any election support, financial or otherwise, from the Democratic party. And if they do, the party must not receive any financial support from the Democratic base.

The differential strategy -- give money to those Democrats who supported health care and no money to those who did not -- may seem somewhat defensible for the base, but it's not really effective because it puts too little pressure on the leadership to cut off internal funding for opponents of health care. Also, there is a problem with the absence of good lists. To really know who is supporting health care and who's not, we'll need to see another up-down vote in the House to give House Democrats a chance to lock themselves into their final positions on the bill. If (and this is a complete hypothetical) Pelosi did something crazy and refused to bring the bill to a vote, the only strategy that's left to the base would again be to withold all contributions (and votes) from the Democrats party as a whole.

Also, an up-down vote in the House is the only way to guarantee that voters know in November which House Democrats were ultimately the problem cases. Once health care has passed, it will be great fun before the elections to see "conservative" Democrats join hapless Republicans in fumbling to explain to their constituents exactly why they needed to gang up with the insurance industry and try to defeat one of the greatest and most popular pieces of legislation in the history of the United States.

Posted by: opinionpieces | March 1, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

**********
I really sympathize with the frustration that many Dems feel regarding the last 14 months. However, I do not understand the logic that running all of the moderate Dems out of the party will lead to a liberal majority.
**********

tilbert, I'll give you my 2 cents -- I got a mailing from the DSCC yesterday asking for money, and decided to throw it out because of this very factor. I don't want to end up contributing to the DSCC and have them give the money to Baucus, for example. I'm really unhappy with Baucus!

So I'd argue that this isn't just a discussion about getting rid of conservative democrats. It's more importantly a discussion about developing the party, which requires the involvement of party members.

What use is a majority, after all, if Dems don't pass health care? This is (in my opinion) one of *the* defining issues of the Democratic party. Doing something about it is important if you want to call yourself a Democrat.

Posted by: rpy1 | March 1, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Some above have commented on one of the unintended consequences of having the DNC/DCCC/DSCC not provide campaign support dollars to those who don't support the party line: the election of Repubs who are even more hostile to progressive reform.

There's another major consequence: The candidates will turn to other sources of funding - principally lobbyists, corporations and wealthy individuals - and these folks aren't reform friendly either.

My conclusion is that there isn't a single criterion for financial support of Dem. candidates. I'd withhold support of all kinds from the most egregious cases of ignoring the party platform. Blanche Lincoln, I'm looking at you. And Ben Nelson too. But note that one will likely get reelected (Nelson), and one will likely be defeated (Lincoln). Giving cash to Nelson is a waste of money. Withholding cash from Lincoln is wisdom, with perhaps some impact on the behavior of other renegades.

One criteria for judging the good guys from the bad: not just how they vote, but the speechifying support they give to the opposition party position. They don't HAVE to rub in their disloyalty (or service to big money interests). Let's face it, Mary Landrieu is the candidate of Big Oil, and anyone from Lousiana is likely to be the same corner, to some degree.

Most people won't go to the considerable effort to find and direct their contributions to 'worthy' Dems, so the bundlers like the DCCC do have a role to play. I don't send DCCC money, but overall they play a mostly useful role in getting Dems elected/reelected. But the process stinks, and public campaign financing looks better and better as the years go by.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | March 1, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

@jobro2: "The only way to solve the health care issue is to start with costs, period. The Republicans and some bright Democrats have this right."

What do you think the current bill does? It's messy and inefficient thanks to our sausage factory of a Congress, but it does a hell of a lot more than anything Republicans have suggested. Tort reform is a laughable joke in the same vein as McCain's focus on eliminating earmarks. They're ideas that poll well with the GOP base and do nothing substantive to reduce costs (just ask the CBO). Selling insurance across state lines is a transparent gift to the insurance industry that will reduce costs by reducing coverage and quality.

Until Republicans start putting up substantive ideas rather than half-hearted CYA proposals, they'll continue to find their "ideas" abandoned along the roadside where they belong. STOP PLAYING POLITICS

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 1, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm generally willing to give vulnerable Dems some slack on tough votes. On the other hand, when it becomes clear that there's going to be one really truly major vote on the party's platform in a given session, I expect them to vote with the platform. I'm willing to forgive my Rep. (Adler from NJ) for his vote against HCR the first time around because it was by no means certain that HCR would pass, and certainly not in the form of the original House bill. Now, on the other hand, he's going to have to decide whether to vote for the more conservative Senate bill and the rider, which will determine whether HCR becomes law or not. At this point he either votes with the party or I don't vote for him in November. I won't vote for a Republican, but I'll write in someone else.

I've already written to both NJ Senators as well as Rep. Adler to tell them that my next vote is contingent on their position on HCR.

Posted by: MosBen | March 1, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

No, unless they want to become more like the Republican party and punish non orthodxy of the majority within the party

Posted by: chet_brewer | March 1, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

People tend to overlook that there is a huge tradeoff if the base continues to support the Democratic party as a whole even if they can't rally enough votes for health care. The tradeoff is the loss of party discipline, which for the base means a near-complete loss of power over the direction of the party. To pledge to withhold contributions and votes from the party as a whole (and anyone affiliated with it) is the *only* effective way to put pressure on the leadership to enforce party discipline. The more we demonstrate our willingness to punish the Democratic brand as a whole, the more we'll see Democrats voting for Democratic causes.

Also, as many people have pointed out, there is absolutely no need to have a Democratic majority if they won't pass something as basic as health care reform. It would be just as good to have a Republican majority (actually a Republican majority would be preferable to a Democratic majority that does not pass health care, since with a Republican majority there is better chance that we can generate meaningful opposition to their policies).

Posted by: opinionpieces | March 1, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

For the past few years, whenever I get a call from any Democratic party fundraisers, I tell them I'll give when the Democratic party grows a spine.

Looks like I won't be writing any check any time soon.

Posted by: solsticebelle | March 1, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Candidates who accept funds from the Democratic Party should support the party platform.
We should not support those who take our money and then vote with the other party.

Posted by: billybugs | March 1, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

chet, but there's a balance between purging the party to get to purity and allowing anyone with a chance of winning to hitch their star to your wagon...man, was that a terrible and mixed metaphor. Anyway, any big tent party is going to have to tolerate some disagreement from its members, but there also have to be some limits. Obviously, the vote for Speaker of the House is a big one, but I think it's fair to say that parties can expect certain crucial votes from their members in exchange for continuing to fund their election campaigns. But you've got to find the right balance. It's fine to toss the Zell Miller's, but you're going to have to put up with a Bob Casey here and there.

It's also a completely different story if voters are going to hold politicians accountable for votes that they consider to be on key issues.

Posted by: MosBen | March 1, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Whether you are in a shop buying something or in restaurant, you exchange money with a thing you want.
So the same to a contribution made to the Party. People expect to get what they want in return!

Posted by: fridamulindayahoocouk | March 1, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Here is how this is going to work:
First, I take it for granted that there are more than 217 House Dems who WANT HCR to pass. They are Dems for a reason and I think the Speaker has clearly indicated that this number exists.
Second, some of them are afraid of losing their seat if they vote for it, which is also a problem for the leadership, which would like to keep all the seats it can.
Third, the leadership will convince some that voting for it if it succeeds is better than being against it if it fails.
Fourth, anyone else willing to vote yes will be promised the party's support for a comeback in 2012 if they lose in 2010. 2012 should be a much more favorable year for us.
Fifth, those who vote no will not have the promise of support for a comeback in 2012.
Sixth, there will be some who are on standby, ready to vote yes if they must, but hopeful of voting no. These will also get the party's support in 2012 if they lose in 2010 and they will, and should, get the party's support in 2010.

Posted by: gregspolitics | March 1, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

frida, that's not unreasonable, but people need to take a bigger view from time to time. I may *want* a true progressive representing my district, but if the alternative to a lukewarm Dem is a Republican I may decide that taking the least bad option is worth it. On the other hand, there may be signature issues that I think every member of my party has to vote for, or at least on procedural votes.

The bottom line is that if anyone other than you yourself are representing your district you're probably going to have to grant some them some leeway.

Posted by: MosBen | March 1, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Hell no. I am sick and tired of these so called Democrats. We need to grow some balls, and get somethings done. Everyone of them should know that if they do not support the Majority of Progressive agenda, they are on their own, and they can count on their Rep. Pukes to finance their elections.

Posted by: moto3 | March 1, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

The Dems service a "big tent" and that makes it difficult to pull funding for "NO" votes. The Republicans would not hesitate but that is why I voted Democratic. With that said, maybe the Democratic leadership could drop a few "hints" about their expected support. They can decide later who did and didn't support the party.

Posted by: pgmichigan | March 1, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I have written many times to the DNC stating that my contributions should go only to those who support comprehensive health reform. I was glad that MOVEON.ORG will only support DEMS in favor of comprehensive health reform. I feel that the DNC should follow suit. It should be the DNC's mission to galvanize the base and unite the Democrative Senators and Congressmen and women. Pass the Public Option for us, your supporters; not the insurance lobby!
Now is the time for the DNC to show a united front. If they fail to pass the public option through reconciliation progresssives will walk in 2010.
The Republicans have NO intention on allowing health care to pass. Their only intention is to see President Obama fail. DeMint summarized the REPUB mission in one sentence: "Let Health Care Reform be Obama's Waterloo."

Posted by: mosaique | March 1, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Democrats who vote no on Heathcare reform won't need financial support from the Democratic Party. They will have plenty of support from the insurance companies.

Posted by: MaggiePi | March 1, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Bcanard:

I'm not a Republican. I voted for Obama and I'll do so again. I'm 50 and I haven't ever voted for a Republican. You should perhaps know what you're talking about before you make caricatures.

I think Republicans are evil, but they do know what they want and they don't hesitate to work every lever of power to accomplish it.

Democrats, on the other hand, are clearly stupid. Nelson, Lieberman, Lincoln and Landrieu would have been crucified were they Republicans. As Democrats, they got to run the show. The rest of the caucus was irrelevant. Democrats value the ability to posture over the ability to accomplish something.

How many weeks of handwringing have we heard over the health care bill? The House could pass it tomorrow if they wanted to. They clearly don't want to. Somebody needs their ego stroked first.

They've had the biggest majority since I was a child and they only thing they have accomplished is petty wrangling and free money for Goldman Sachs. I wash my hands of that party.

No, I'm not a Republican. I'm a disgusted Democrat. At the end of the day, evil and stupid both lead to the same place and it isn't a place I want to go.

Posted by: pj_camp | March 1, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Bcarnarda2:

And another thing.

I've spent the bulk of my life working to put these clowns in power and this is how they've spent that effort. I think I've earned the right to call them stupid and self righteous.

As I said, I'm no kind of Republican and never will be. I'm a disgusted Democrat. But the fact that you would simply assume otherwise sort of proves my point, doesn't it?

Posted by: pj_camp | March 1, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Nate Silver from 538.com has had a number of posts on this topic. The best a representative can do for Democrats is be more liberal than their district. Even if a Democratic rep isn't voting for all the Democratic priorities, if the rep is voting for them more often than whoever would be in the seat when the rep lost, then the rep is a net benefit to the party, and should probably get funding.

Check out this post:
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/12/2009s-most-valuable-democrat-is.html

Posted by: zosima | March 1, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Also:
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2010/02/bayh-like-other-moderates-was-valuable.html

Posted by: zosima | March 1, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Democrats should only support someone who is going to support sensible and reasonable policies that are going to help this nation. Electing Democrats who vote republican is not my idea of a good thing. We need to really work to make sure we elect true blue Democrats who want to help people and not help corporations keep getting the upper hand.

Posted by: equalon | March 2, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

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