Darrell Berkheimer: Kicking democracy out of the Democratic Party?
How many readers have noticed the latest move that takes democracy out of the Democratic Party?
Did you notice the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “blacklisting” of any party members who challenge an incumbent Democrat in the primary?
What is more undemocratic than that?
Does any incumbent deserve to keep the job if he or she fears facing a party challenger?
Isn’t a strong fear of losing in a primary a good indication that he or she has failed to do enough of what was expected by the voters?
And is it right for a party to suppress those who wish to challenge an incumbent?
Why do you think we’ve had too many old men in Congress for too long?
Isn’t it obvious that many of those old men — in both parties — have lost touch with what the majority of our citizens want and need?
Do you think it might have something to do with the two parties acting to prevent younger challengers from within the party?
But at least the Republican Party has not moved to “blacklist” primary challengers the way the Democratic Party leadership has.
We must acknowledge that there are a number of reasons why Congress members are not fully responsive to the concerns of all citizens — among them the need to court high-dollar contributors during our overly-long campaigns. But wouldn’t a contributing factor be the discouraging of competition in primaries?
The Democratic Party now refers to the challengers as “insurgents” — a less than flattering label for someone who thinks he or she might be able to do a better job for our citizens.
But the party has gone far beyond that label by warning professional election campaign consultants that if they work with a primary challenger, the party’s national committee will no longer spend money with those consultants.
As a result, some election gurus have refused to work with challengers.
A first-time candidate, a young college professor who lost in a 2018 primary, but who wants to try again, said, “I have been officially told by three vendors that they could not work with me.”
That part of the story is told in a June 2 article in The New York Times by Jennifer Steinhauer. The headline on that story says: “Insurgent Democrats, Many of Them Women, Worry a New Party Policy Will Block Them.”
Naturally, that policy also stirs considerable concern in younger, newly energized party members. And as a result, college Democrats have organized a boycott against contributing to the national congressional campaign committee, Steinhauer reported.
Her story included a comment from Hank Sparks, president of the Harvard College Democrats. “As young Democrats, we think this policy will silence our voices,” Sparks said.
His group attracted 75 chapters to join the boycott, largely symbolic since students are not big donors, Steinhauer added.
A case of “bullying”
Obviously, many incumbents welcome the policy, but Steinhauer reports “newer and more liberal members — especially those who have been shunned by the committee in their own races — are furious.”
It’s outright “bullying” by the national committee, one campaign worker told Steinhauer.
The one result of the policy that appears to be a good outcome is a group of relatively new vendors eager to work with the challengers.
“They are reflective of the candidates — younger, more creative and more efficient with their money,” remarked candidate Zina Spezakis, a clean technology investor. She is challenging New Jersey incumbent Bill Pascrell, who was first elected back in 1996.
More than 22 years in the job has given Pascrell plenty of time to provide the best of what he has to offer. It’s time for him to bow out and let someone younger, more energetic and with some new ideas move into the job.
As a codger myself, about to turn 78 in a few weeks, I see the need for new ideas and changes that both women and younger candidates have to offer as new members of Congress. To repeat one of Einstein’s frequently quoted statements: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
And our history notes that several of the founders who created our Constitution later lamented the fact that they did not include term limits. But concern about professional politicians serving unlimited terms did not become an issue until the 20th century — because rotation in office was a popular 19th century concept — when incumbents were expected to provide for new blood after two or three terms.
It’s time we return to that concept — at least in practice if not by law. The Democratic Party’s national committee should realize how undemocratic its blacklist policy is, and rescind it. Isn’t a policy like that an example of the party “shooting itself in the foot?”
And could squabbling, disgust and mistrust over a policy like that lead the party to once again “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?” Doesn’t it make more sense for the party to embrace the energy now coming from women, minorities and the young, which will provide more vitality to a stodgy old system?
Won’t that vitality lead to more voter turnout, rather than less? And which party stands to gain the most from increased voter turnout?
Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of six books available through Amazon. His latest, “Essays from The Golden Throne,” also is available at Book Seller in Grass Valley. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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