consultants that reinforce the need to raise copious amounts of cash . In a leaked Memorandum of Understanding ( MOU ) between the DCCC and its candidates , the party organization insists on overseeing budgets and campaign finance plans . The MOU also requires candidates to reserve “ at least 75 percent of funds raised for paid communications .”
This enriches a certain type of Democratic consultant . It also precludes candidates from embracing the ground-based , movement-aligned strategies that could help increase voter turnout and win races previously thought unwinnable . It prevents the development of lower-cost alternatives to the kinds of campaigns that force politicians to spend hours every day raising money .
Perhaps not coincidentally , the party ’ s leaders have taken rhetorical postures and adopted policy positions that conflict with voters ’ more progressive instincts . Hoyer supported the Iraq war and was deeply critical of the Iran nuclear treaty , a major greatest foreign policy achievement for the Obama Administration . Domestically , he is a fellow advocate for austerity who once insisted that benefit cuts to Social Security and Medicare should remain “ on the table ” in negotiations with Republicans .
Pelosi , while progressive-leaning on many issues , has been a strong proponent of “ pay as you go ” ( or “ paygo ”) rules that would require Congress to find funds for all new initiatives , either from taxes or cuts to existing programs . While Pelosi describes the idea as “ common sense ,” it is an economically unnecessary measure that makes it more difficult to enact progressive programs .
Pelosi recently eulogized billionaire Peter G . Peterson , a leading voice for austerity economics and Social Security cuts , and for the deficit-fixated policies that have hamstrung progressives for decades . The desire to remember a friend is , of course , understandable . But Pelosi went further , saying of Peterson :
His prophetic voice on the importance of fiscal sustainability brought together generations of policy makers no matter their political background to find common ground and effect solutions … His legacy will endure in many ways but especially for his work at the Peterson Foundation which will continue to America ’ s fiscal and economic challenges now under the leadership of his son , Michael .
Words like these send a discouraging message to the progressive voters that comprise the bulk of the Democratic base . They suggest that the Democrats will remain the party of “ austerity lite ,” favoring budget cuts over bold programs to rebuild the economy along Rooseveltian and Western European lines .
Damned If They Do
On one level , at least , it ’ s possible to feel some sympathy for their position ( except , perhaps , for the hypocrisy .) Democratic leaders feel they need big money to win races , a belief that has been borne out by experience . That belief has been reinforced by studies like this one , from political scientists Thomas Ferguson , Paul Jorgenson , and Jie Chen , on the dominant role money plays in electoral outcomes .
But the Democrats have a problem the Republicans don ’ t . The pursuit of big money drives establishment Democrats to adopt positions — and to nurture a political culture — that prevents them from winning their natural constituencies .
Republicans can run on a pro-corporate , pro-wealth agenda without much difficulty . But Democrats need to win white , black , brown , and young Americans who are lower-income and working-class , and must drum up enough enthusiasm to bring them to the polls on a regular basis . That ’ s hard to do with an agenda that is , in effect , a “ kinder , gentler ” variation on the Republicans ’ view of government as a hamstrung , and sometimes nefarious , external force in American life .
It ’ s true that Democrats have a good chance of winning back the House year . But then what ? Are they going to govern as they have governed in the past – by offering only limited possibilities in the present and low expectations for the future ? If they do , they will lose again once voter disaffection sets in .
The Way Out
Fortunately , there ’ s a way out . As Thomas Ferguson told us in a recent , in-depth interview , the Sanders campaign showed Democrats how they can win without big-money donors . That campaign became a financial powerhouse by receiving millions of small-dollar contributions from a broad base of supporters .
It won ’ t be easy . The dynamics of congressional fundraising are very different than those of presidential races . An alternative model for activist , driven small-dollar congressional campaigns has yet to be perfected . But it can be done , and groups like Our Revolution are working on it .
Moreover , Democrats have no choice . They can ’ t win and hold power with the policies and political practices of the past .
Laura Moser got a boost when the DCCC attacked her . The party establishment ’ s reputation is so poor these days that one candidate was delighted when the DCCC endorsed … his opponent !
When the party machinery becomes a liability among its own voters , it is time for the party to change .