The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a new set of rules on Friday that aims to protect incumbent candidates across the country at the cost of also cracking down on any ideological progress or debate about the party’s direction.
The DCCC’s new “hiring standards,” which, per the National Journal, went out to more than 100 political firms that consult or work on campaigns around the country, say the organization will not contract with or recommend the services of any firm that chooses to work for an incumbent Democrat’s opponent. In other words, if a political firm challenges the status quo at all—like working with Ayanna Pressley or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the 2018 midterms, when they both defeated longtime incumbents—they face a DCCC blacklist.
The new protocol, intentionally debuted early in the off-year before most campaign hiring begins, presents a stark financial deterrent to the country’s top firms that provide essential services ranging from polling to TV advertising to strategy. It could cripple would-be primary opponents’ ability to entice top talent to join their staff. The DCCC independent-expenditure arm doles out millions in contracts to consultants and drives more revenue toward them by connecting campaigns with vetted operatives.
“The DCCC is often times the gatekeeper for consultants to get to candidates,” said Ian Russell, a campaign media strategist and former top official at the committee. “Unless you have a steady stream of income coming from another source, it would be very difficult to navigate the House world if you were shut out by the DCCC.”
The DCCC’s weak justification for these rules is to protect the Democrats’ hard-won majority in the House. But this doesn’t do that. Blocking the best political firms from working with progressive primary opponents doesn’t make fragile centrists in swing districts any safer from Republicans in the general election, but it certainly hinders those districts from putting up a stronger candidate if one comes along. It could also have the effect of helping protect all incumbents, not just the obstinate centrist ones who pander to the Republicans or the status quo.
Fortunately, this power grab isn’t going unnoticed. It’s a good sign when your middling Democrat protection plan doesn’t even pass a smell test by the Pod Save America doofuses:
This is a cynical, stupid idea that will only hurt the party going forward—and a perfect example of how the Democrats would rather back a middle of the road, near-Republican instead of new progressive voices like Pressley or Ocasio-Cortez. If we continue down this road, there’s a good chance 2020 could be 2014, or even 2010, all over again.