There’s new from the front in the civil war that we dare not call by its name.
It seems as though the Democratic Party’s campaign committees learned nothing from the tea party backlash against the Republican Party. They appear to be eagerly repeating the GOP’s mistakes.
Following Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) decision to leave office after a single term in the upper chamer of Congress, Democrats are gearing up for a competitive race for an open swing state U.S. Senate seat. For weeks, it appeared as though the party was prepared to back moderate Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) as their Sunshine State senatorial nominee. On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee made it official.
“Patrick Murphy is one of our party’s most promising rising stars, and his track record of fighting for Florida’s working families, seniors, and the environment make him the strongest candidate to win the Florida Senate race and flip this seat,” said DSCC Chair Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in a statement announcing the committee’s decision to back Murphy.
That has apparently not dissuaded the outspoken progressive Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) from challenging Murphy in a primary. On Monday, the firebrand liberal House member and his supporters issued a series of blistering condemnations of the DSCC.
“Florida Democratic voters choose our party nominee, not out-of-touch party bosses sipping cognac in a smoke-filled room in Washington, DC.,” Grayson tells the Tampa Bay Times in an email. “As I said before, I am probably going to run for the Senate.”
And here is Susan Smith, president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida:
“Progressives are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party in Florida and across the nation. We are the volunteers who stuff envelopes, knock on doors, and provide the grassroots energy that powers successful Democratic campaigns. The idea that a senator from Montana and Wall Street Democrats know better than rank-and-file Florida Democrats is both patronizing and unsurprising. Then again, no one knows better than Jon Tester that DSCC support doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Though Grayson is even a bit too extreme for many progressives, particularly those in a perfectly purple state like Florida, the DSCC risks alienating its base of liberal supporters by cementing the impression that it is unduly favorable toward “establishment” candidates.
The same dynamic is at play in the nascent primary race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). In the Old Line State, Democratic Party power brokers have expressed their support for former DCCC chairman and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), but progressive favorite Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) is hoping to thwart the ambitions of her party’s leaders. In March, Edwards announced that she would defy powerful Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and challenge Van Hollen in the primary.
In a variety of statements to the press, Edwards’ progressive supporters likened her views to those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and suggested that backing a white man to replace one of the Senate’s longest serving female members would be an insult.
The Democratic Party might be playing with fire by backing electable moderates for the U.S. Senate, although the party’s progressive insurgency is less pronounced than the tea party movement was prior to the 2010 cycle. While it would compel the press to use verboten terms like “civil war” to describe the emerging chaotic dynamic that will dominate the Democratic Party’s primary process, it would be still be worth it for reporters to monitor this cover this phenomenon with fervor. The president’s party is becoming pretty interesting, even if you’d never know it from the new media’s coverage.