For Nancy Pelosi, the way Democrats do business—which, particularly in the run-up to the 2018 midterms, has meant redoubling its efforts to hobble left wing challengers to establishment candidates—is A-OK with her.
Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference on Thursday that these thing are just “the realities of life” in politics. Her comments came after the Intercept published audio today of Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer urging a progressive candidate in Colorado to drop out of a hotly contested race.
During that meeting, Hoyer told Levi Tillemann—a green energy entrepreneur running in Colorado’s 6th District who supports policies popular with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party—in no uncertain terms that he should step aside now. The party, he said, had long ago decided to back Jason Crow, a veteran and more centrist candidate, in the primary.
Their secretly recorded exchange continued, via the Intercept:
“So your position is, a decision was made very early on before voters had a say, and that’s fine because the DCCC knows better than the voters of the 6th Congressional District, and we should line up behind that candidate,” asked Tillemann during the conversation.
“That’s certainly a consequence of our decision,” responded Hoyer.
“Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual, and very interesting,” said Hoyer. “But if you stay out of primaries, and somebody wins in the primary who can’t possibly win in the general.”
If you’re the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, it’s just “not very smart strategy” to sit back and let the voters decide who should be on the ballot. And, as both they and Tillemann know, this is an important race: as a blue-leaning district that elected a Republican to the House while going for Hillary Clinton in 2016, it’s a top target for the Dems to flip come November.
On Thursday, Pelosi said Hoyer had done nothing wrong. “In terms of candidates and campaigns, I don’t see anything inappropriate in what Mr. Hoyer was engaged in—a conversation about the realities of life in the race as to who can make the general election,” she said.
The DCCC has very publicly taken sides in many 2018 races, most notably releasing opposition research about candidate Laura Moser—a tactic usually reserved for fighting, you know, the other side—in an effort to prevent her from winning the party’s nomination in the race for Texas’ 7th District. (She managed to secure a spot in the May 22 runoff anyway.)
The DCCC has been committed for some time to the project of weeding out the “bad” (read: popular with voters, politically progressive) candidates from the bunch in favor of the more centrist, establishment, corporate types they think make voters’ hearts stir. Wrong! There is scant evidence to support the notion that the Democrats are very good at picking candidates at all; in a number of races, the party has actually chosen to back losers who fit their mold instead of backing anyone who might push the party toward the left. This is a travesty, and one that means they’ll only keep losing until they give the power back to voters.