In a break from recent tradition, the Democrats are planning to widely expand the number of districts they plan to contest in the 2018 midterm elections. But, in a sign that not every tried-and-true Democratic instinct is being thrown out, they’re planning on dumpster diving for help doing it, with Politico reporting that three House Democrats involved in mapping out the party’s strategy to win in 2018 are going to make a pilgrimage to Chicago to seek out the advice of none other than Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Those Democrats are seeking out Emanuel because of the part he played in winning back the House majority for Democrats in 2006, when he was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“In 2006, there was a similar landscape, where Republican-controlled majorities in the House and Senate refused to do anything to hold George W. Bush accountable,” New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, one of the people going to see Emanuel, told Politico.
Emanuel is known as a ruthless campaigner and a money-over-everything Democratic fundraising superstar who’s extremely cozy with Republicans and the ultra-rich.
He’s also now known as the mayor who fought tooth and nail to suppress the horrifying dashcam video of a Chicago cop shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times as he walked away. Emanuel was facing an uphill re-election battle in late 2014, which would eventually result in a runoff, and the mayor refused to release the tape for more than 400 days after McDonald’s death. His approval ratings sank to record lows with Chicago voters.
It was also revealed during his mayoralty that the Chicago Police Department had been running an off-the-books interrogation facility where thousands of people had been virtually disappeared out of thin air.
In other words, he’s the perfect person for our times, right?
During a podcast appearance last week, Emanuel laid out the contours of his vision for the Democrats’ future:
The future, in a presidential election, a statewide election, or a congressional, is in the suburbs, where more moderate voters exist...I purposely recruited candidates who reflected the temperament, tenor and culture of their district. I didn’t try to elect somebody that fit my image. I tried to help elect somebody that fit the image and the profile of the district.
The idea of catering to the suburbs calls to mind a dreadfully smug remark New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who was Emanuel’s fundraising counterpart in the Senate back in 2006, made the summer before the election that “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
You need only glance at the horror show of the day’s headlines to know how well that turned out. The 2016 election was a stark rejection of that thesis, and the country is a much different place now than it was in 2006.
What’s more, the right-leaning Democrats Emanuel ushered in were key factors in the weakening of a slew of Democratic priorities after Barack Obama’s election, from health care to the stimulus to climate change. Then they all got defeated anyway.
Here’s a bold idea for 2018: rather than calling on Emanuel to help reheat the messaging and campaign strategies he co-opted from Republicans in the first place, they could try, I don’t know, championing policies that Americans actually like.