While Iraq was the national backdrop for the 2006 elections, individually many campaigns succeeded (or did better than they had any right to do) due to a desire to end corruption (e.g., the Ohio state elections). Yet Rahm Emanuel, head of the DCCC, and the Congressional Black Caucus ('CBC') just don't seem to get that. First, Rahm Emanuel.
In Mark Foley's old district (FL-16), David Lutrin, a progressive liberal, was poised to run against Mark Foley. He certainly wouldn't have been a favorite to win, but then again, many successful Democrats didn't look like winners in early 2005 either. Then it got weird (italics mine):
Early on in the process- in mid-2005- Dave contacted Democratic Party organizations throughout the district, as well as the state party and the DCCC in Washington. Everyone was enthusiastic and encouraging. Glen Rushing, the DCCC point person for the region, told Dave he was "just the type of candidate we're looking for." He offered to introduce him to Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, the DCCC-appointed mentor for Democratic candidates in the region, who following their first phone conversation offered to help him with his race. Rushing then promised to get him in touch with Florida DCCC chief, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Emanuel's lieutenant for the Southeast.
Then something happened, something very dark and secretive, something people are just uncovering now. DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel found out something that could- and did- change the dynamics of the race in FL-16 dramatically. Emanuel became aware that Mark Foley- well-known for years Inside-The-Beltway, albeit not among his church-going constituents, as a very active (and very hypocritical) homosexual- was molesting the underage male congressional pages, and that he had been for many years. Did Emanuel call the police? Did he even call the staffers who are charged by Congress with looking out for the welfare of the pages? Doesn't look that way. What it does look like is that he called a fast-and-loose Republican businessman he knew, someone, like Emanuel, with elastic values and an even more elastic code of personal ethics. He offered him a congressional seat and all he'd have to do was switch party registration and become a Democrat. That man is freshman Congressman Tim Mahoney.
Suddenly there was a new DCCC point person, John Vogel, and he had no idea who Dave was. Rushing called and suggested Dave talk to someone named... Tim Mahoney. Dave did. And Mahoney offered him an intricate bribe to drop out of the race and run against Republican Bill Young in FL-10 instead. Dave Lutrin never had a single conversation with Rahm Emanuel. But Emanuel's paw finger prints are all over this operation. It's the way he worked in district after district, everywhere in the country, seeking to find business-friendly, quasi-Republicans who would soft-peddle their opposition to the war in Iraq and never mention "impeachment." Many of us have experienced first hand Emanuel's tactics in CA-11, FL-13, and IL-06 to name a few. Scared of career-ending retribution, virtually no Democrats have been willing to go on the record about DCCC practices that are at variance with internal party rules.
When push comes to shove, or when he's forced to act on instinct, Tim Mahoney won't act like a Democrat, but a Republican. If you elect ex-Republicans as Democrats, they aren't going to magically change into Democrats. He's not going to be 'progressive' when it comes to something like healthcare. This wasn't a Heath Shuler situation, where the Democratic Party was trying to compete straight away in a conservative district: Emanuel knew Foley was finished.
Now let's deal with the CBC. Rep. William Jefferson, who represents New Orleans, LA was re-elected. He has a slight corruption problem: he is accused of taking a $100,000 dollar bribe from a businessman. $90,000 in cash was discovered in an FBI raid in his refrigerator. While I wouldn't expect the CBC to remove him from their caucus unless he were found guilty, did they have to give him a standing ovation? I can understand strained, polite applause, but a standing ovation? Did keynote speaker Michael Eric Dyson have to say, ""The haters... and negative nabobs...the people who spoke against him couldn't prevail against the people who spoke for him"?
If you think that maybe Jefferson is good for his constituents, he's not: during Katrina, he commandeered National Guard trucks and helicopters to remove his personal belongings while his constituents were dying. Jefferson is a corrupt hack--he voted for the estate tax repeal and for tax breaks for oil companies. What both these episodes show is just how little parts of the Democratic establishment actually care about Democratic voters. They don't know better: one only has to look at their losing strategies over the last two decades.
I've known for a long time that the party system in the United States is unfairly stacked against the people.
The system is all about money. As soon as you introduce that little fact, it breaks down and the voice of the little guy becomes that much harder to hear.
This only underlines the dilemma we're facing. Neither party has the motivation or ability to run on a reform campaign. They don't even pretend to offer an alternative to the entrenched corruption. If either party tried or if a third party arose, it would certainly place itself in the minority. If it was left leaning it would splinter the democratic base, ensuring republican rule or vice versa. It's far safer to just sleaze your way to whatever advantage you can. What a shame our society is so lacking in political concern that this sort of thing passes as normal.