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David Sirota Headshot

Right-Wing Spin In the House Democratic Caucus

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Never underestimate the willingness of some Democrats to regurgitate right-wing lies and undercut their own party's message. Even in the seemingly smallest settings, we see it all the time. Take the current race for Vice-Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. This is basically a powerless, but symbolic position, yet even in this venue, some Democrats are self-servingly spewing out GOP talking points, just to get themselves ahead.

Take one of the candidates, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), who is running against Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). For some personal history, I like Crowley personally (he's a nice guy), and I actually worked against Schakowsky in a Democratic primary in her first run for Congress. But the contrast today on the issues couldn't be more clear between the two of these Members of Congress. Schakowsky has consistently fought for the progressive agenda, while Crowley (who was once a promising Member of Congress) has become a sad example of a politician who has gone Washington in the worst sense.

According to the Associated Press, "Crowley suggested in an interview that Schakowsky may be too liberal to do the party any good where it really counts." Incredible. Here is a guy who represents a working-class district in New York City actually berating a good progressive for being progressive, and then saying - without a shred of proof - that being a good progressive doesn't "help" the party. Perhaps more disturbing is the unsaid commentary of it all: namely, Crowley's assumption that by doing that, he might actually get himself votes from fellow Democrats in Congress. The fact that that assumption even exists among any elected Democratic official tells us what kind of sad, pathetic struggle is really going on among Democrats in Congress.

On one side of the struggle are people like Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Minority whip who is doing everything he can to ridicule Democrats' anti-corruption message, split apart Democrats on core national security/economic messages, and undermine the House Democratic leadership. Hoyer is tight with people like Crowley, who you may remember is the guy who got himself newspaper headlines for coralling business lobbyists to help him round up Democratic votes for the Bankruptcy Bill. He's also the guy who voted for the Iraq War. And, he was one of only five Democrats to vote against protecting workers from pension rip-off schemes.

On the other side are Democrats like Sen. Russ Feingold, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D), Rep. Sherrod Brown (OH), and Schakowsky, people who have stood up for the progressive populist causes on the war and on economic issues.

What's perhaps most disgusting about this struggle is the attempt by those in the former camp saying they represent more "electable" or politically mainstream positions - even though polls consistently show the public is far more progressive in its outlook than the political Establishment wants us to believe. For instance, Crowley claims his record means "I can go to other parts of the country and turn red seats to blue. I don't think Jan can do that." Really? Is that right? Rounding up corporate lobbyists to pass a credit-card industry written bill resonates in red states? Allowing the president to send troops to war based on lies shows strength in conservative parts of America? Helping companies rip off workers' hard earned pensions resonates out here too? What a complete joke. Is it any wonder that polls show the public thinks many Democrats truly are out of touch with the American heartland?

This is the kind of nonsense that the Democratic Party has to forcefully put an end to - it is time for Democratic leaders to speak out when their own colleagues literally regurgitate Fox News-style B.S. for their own selfish purposes. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) set down a good marker in this direction today, when he rightly laced into Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) for being a White House apologist about the war. It's time for more leaders like Reid to speak up, and call out people like Hoyer, Crowley and others who are so self-absorbed they are willing to undercut their own party just to promote themselves.