After two crushing progressive defeats in Democratic primaries in Ohio and West Virginia, ‘centrist’ Democrats have renewed their attacks on left-wing challengers as unelectable. But lost in the debate is the huge role money plays in making these ‘Democratic’ contests quite undemocratic.
Showdown in Ohio
Take the gubernatorial race between the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray, and former Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich ran a bold, leftist campaign against a more ‘moderate‘ effort from Cordray.
The results: Cordray over Kucinich by a 40-point margin. A clear and fair win for establishment Democratic politics, right?
Among Cordray’s contributors were members of the lending industry he once regulated. Kucinich, meanwhile, refused to take corporate cash.
Another critical issue in tomorrow's election? Corporate influence. Tara and I have pledged to refuse money from corporate PACs – along with the NRA, fossil fuel and charter school industries.
Voters have asked our opponents, repeatedly, to make the same pledge. They've refused.
— Dennis Kucinich (@Dennis_Kucinich) May 7, 2018
Battle in West Virginia
In the West Virginia race for senate, Justice Democrats-backed Paula Jean Swearengin took on incumbent Senator Joe Manchin.
Manchin defeated Swearengin by nearly 40 points.
Again, in the crucial money race, Manchin trounced first-time candidate Swearengin. He raised nearly $6m and spent $2.38m to win the race. Swearengin raised just less than $180,000 and spent barely more than $125,000 on the race.
Centrist Dems learn the wrong lesson
Of course, centrist Democrats ignore these massive differences in fundraising and look only at the huge wins for their preferred candidates.
Among the biggest proponents of this ‘moderates are the stronger candidates’ argument was Neera Tanden from the ‘Center for American Progress‘:
Dems and Reps are different: In reaction to a reasonable Obama, GOP went far right in their primaries. In reaction to an insane Trump, Dems are going with the candidates they believe best able to defeat GOP. #practicalprogressives
— Neera Tanden 🌊 (@neeratanden) May 9, 2018
Tanden is known for her support of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. The ‘practical progressive’ label couldn’t be any clearer, echoing Clinton’s ‘progressive who likes to get things done’ quote from the primary.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 28, 2016
Instead of moving left with the grassroots base, establishment Dems want to stick with the status quo ‘reasonableness’ of Obama and Clinton.
Follow the money
Are voters really picking the best candidate? Or are they simply picking the candidate with the most money to spend on a ground game and advertising?
It’s impossible to know how close the races in Ohio and West Virginia would have been if Swearengin and Kucinich had had the kind of money their opponents raised. But one thing is clear: any challenger who wins on a shoestring budget against a campaign flush with cash is bucking the trend.
– If you want to see more people choosing the best candidate over the best-funded candidate, then you can support the anti-corruption groups I mentioned in my last article on money in politics. These groups include Move to Amend, Represent.US, and Wolf-PAC.
Featured image from Political Revolution TV via Wikimedia Commons