On Thursday evening approximately fifty Democrats from Johnson County gathered in downtown Warrensburg for their monthly meeting. Missouri Democratic Party Chair Stephen Webber spoke at length about the state and national political scene and the state party’s plans for 2018 and beyond.
No one’s planning on rolling over.
Renee Hoagenson, a recently announced Democratic Party candidate for the 4th Congressional District in 2018, also spoke, introducing herself and speaking at length on public policy issues in the district.
It appears, unlike Representative Vicky Hartzler (r), that Renee Hoagenson won’t be afraid of holding open public town halls in the district.
The organizing, planning, and work for 2018 and beyond starts now.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Claire McCaskill is being cagey about how she’ll vote when The Orange Simpleton’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch, comes up for a vote. The article notes that she’s in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. The state went for Trump in a big way, but she still needs the Democratic base support she’ll likely lose if she breaks ranks with her party, rolls over and gives Gorsuch the thumbs up.
This analysis is probably true. Nevertheless, the decision ought to be a no-brainer for McCaskill. Does she think she’s going to get any of that Trump vote? Ever? Or that moderates are really impressed by wish-washy, to hell with my principles and my party voting?
And speaking of that base and what they might to do if McCaskill stands with the GOP and hands the Supreme Court over to the corporations and Christian fascists, maybe it’s time for a real primary challenge? Somewhere along the line fainthearted Democrats have to learn that there’s a price to pay for playing the odds. I know I’m tired of a congressperson who doles out her votes in a one-for-them, one-for-you kind of way.
I am aware that talk about primary challenges has in the past seemed like crazy talk. Who could we even put up against Claire McCaskill? The Democratic bench in Missouri isn’t exactly rich in strong, charismatic progressives. But right now there is one proven political player in Missouri who’s currently out of a job: Jason Kander.
— Would Kander run against such an established Missouri leader? Who knows. I certainly don’t know enough about the how political incentives work behind the scenes here in Missouri to even hazard a guess, nor do I know anything about Kander’s proclivities. I do recollect, however, that McCaskill herself primaried Bob Holden back in 2004. And won. And then lost.
It’s worth noting in this context that Kander is definitely making sounds that indicate he doesn’t plan to fade into the woodwork. He’s sending out regular emails to Democrats that suggest he’d like to lead the Missouri resistance to the GOP Trumpathalon. He’s hit upon important themes such as voter ID that resonate with progressives in his public appearances subsequent to the election.
—Could Kander win a primary and in the general election? Again – who knows. But I bet he’d put up a notable fight. He’s shown that he’s a smart, very able campaigner and has good ideas about how Democrats can win. Despite the 2016 Missouri Trump juggernaut, he came within three points of unseating a very well-established sitting senator, earning 228,000 more votes in Missouri than Hillary Clinton. He’s recently been lauded as a “celebrity in national Democratic politics.”
As for the general election, there’s also the chance that as Trump’s incompetence becomes more manifest and as folks realize what the real Republican agenda has been all along, there may be a backlash against knee jerk Republicanism that will be potent even against gun love, religious authoritarianism and bigotry. I concede that this may be wishful thinking, but if it pans out, even just a little, add that to Kander’s native appeal and you might have a big winner.
— But, but Kander’s not a progressive. Wouldn’t we be trading one “centrist” Democrat for another? Maybe. But this is Missouri after all. During the campaign, Kander expressed views that are weak in some of the same areas where McCaskill lets us down – he claims to support a balanced budget amendment, for God’s sake – and he showed a tendency to pander when it came to minor memes flogged in the right-wing press. The proof, however, will be in the pudding and we might as well get ourselves a new pudding – especially when the act of getting it sends a message to saggy puddings everywhere.
— Would voting for Gorsuch be enough to totally zero out McCaskill, or should we give her another chance? Maybe. But I know that I’ve been giving her one more chance again and again. Sometimes she comes through, but on the biggest issues she’s often not where we need her to be. The bill has to come due sooner or later.
As for the Gorsuch vote specifically, the thing to remember is that this issue is bigger than just this individual and does not even take into account Gorsuch’s extreme, non-mainstream judicial views, unsavory racist associations, as well as possibly exaggerated resume claims. All this aside, no self-respecting Democrat should even consider rewarding Republicans for defying their constitutional obligations and shutting out President Obama’s nominee, the well-qualified moderate Judge Merrick Garland. Ever.
Republicans broke the process, and we can’t pretend like it’s old times again. Now is the time to say no, say it loud and proud, and if McCaskill isn’t up to saying a forceful no, then maybe that’s what we have to say to her come 2018. Maybe Jason Kander could be the way we say it. Maybe not.
Steve Israel, former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), is reported to have remarked that “Republicans have always been better than Democrats at playing the long game.” It’s likely that Democrats are experiencing the consequences of that shortsightedness today. But never despair. Democrats have a chance to show that they can formulate long-term strategy and carry it out just like the mean kids did during the past eight years. And maybe a chance to even reap the rewards that accrue to astute and hardheaded political execution.
Of course, Democrats so far have, as usual, dithered. They promised a united front against Orange Dumbo’s cabinet nominees from hell and then they broke ranks and scattered to the wind. But never mind. The most important test was set last night when President Circus Barker announced the winner of his Most Extreme Supreme Court Nominee contest, Judge Neil Gorsuch, on national television (winner and loser summoned to Washington to heighten the suspense). Now we get to see if our Democrats are not only capable of developing a viable strategy, but have sufficient discipline to carry it out.
Elections have consequences, we hear, but Republicans taught us through eight years of obstruction, that those consequences need not always be what they’re supposed to be. The GOP rammed this fact home even more brutally when they sat out the clock on President Obama’s SCOTUS nomiee, Merrick Garland. It took them a whole year, but they hung on. It’s time for Democrats to give them a dose of their own medicine.
But, but, you sputter, we are people of principle. We condemned the naughty Republicans (or at least some of us chided them gently) for doing what you suggest. We stand for civility and good government. To which my response is that that model of government has been well and truly broken, the mean kids broke it, they’re proud of doing it, and will continue to grind the pieces to dust if Democrats don’t begin to get just as down and dirty.
And that means doing whatever is necessary to keep Judge Gorsuch off the Supreme Court. Or at least make it clear that no Democrat in good conscience can countenance his presence there – Republicans will have to own this extremist. And this has to be the message that Missouri progressives and Democrats send to our desperate to be bipartisan Senator Claire McCaskill.
Nor are we being obstructive for the pure hell of it. There’s lots of reasons to stand against Gorsuch apart from the fact that he is being given the seat that should have gone to Merrick Garland – and would have gone to him had Democrats had any sense of urgency about the outcome of the election. Far from a neutral, non-ideological approach to the constitution, Gorsuch’s brand of originalism shows him to be in opposition to most of the jurisprudence of this and the later part of the last century – even the more conservative rulings. The adjective that is consistently used to describe his judicial exercise is “hostile”:
- He is hostile to the power of the Federal government to protect the well-being of its citizens against powerful economic interests. He has expressed opposition to commonly accepted Chevron doctrine that allows agencies to enforce regulations. Even Justice Scalia refused to go where Gorsuch goes in this context.
- He is hostile to the interests of consumers and workers and has ruled consistently and aggressively in favor of corporations and business.
- He is overtly hostile to women’s reproductive rights.
- He is hostile to challenges against the use of excessive force by police.
- He is hostile to environmental regulation.
- He is hostile to the demands of the disabled.
Gorsuch is an ideologically extreme candidate nominated by a president who failed to achieve an electoral majority and whose election was further tainted by almost certain foreign meddling. This is not a president who has a mandate to appoint a destructive ideologue to the people’s court – especially when he is taking the rightful place of the equally well-qualified centrist whose nomination was not even allowed to come to a vote.
If Democrats – and, since I am in Missouri, by Democrats I mean Senator Claire McCaskill – don’t fight this nomination to the bitter end, they will have forfeited any claim on our support. They’ll lose, you say. Who cares? The GOP will kill the filibuster rule, you say. So what? Who needs a a filibuster you can’t use because they’ll take it away from you? And anyway, if they were to do that, employ the nuclear option, it’ll come back to bite them in the behind – and lots of them know that just as well as we do. That’s the way political karma works and it’s time for Democrats to get a little Karma going.
What do we do? Missourians need to keep calling and writing Claire McCaskill. Don’t let up. Let her know that we’ll support her if she supports us. This is not the time for self-interested politicians. And we’ll remember, whatever happens, for good or ill, we’ll remember what all the players did.
I just called the office of my Missouri Democratic Senator, Claire McCaskill, to thank her – and you should too. Her Washington number has been busy (a good sign?), but I got through to her St. Louis office with no trouble (numbers for her Washington and regional offices can be found here).
Why did I want to thank Senator McCaskill so urgently? Today she stood up for Americans who are revolted by the cabinet nominations of the rabid circus MC that the Russians put into the American presidency. She along with all the Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee boycotted the Committee meeting where votes on the nominations of Goldman Sachs financier Steve Mnuchin to be Secretary of the Treasury, and of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to head Health and Human Services, were slated. This maneuver deprived the Republican majority of the quorum necessary to ram the two manifestly unfit nominees through the committee.
McCaskill is a cautious woman who represents a state that went for Trump by 19 points – a fact that seems to weigh heavily on her mind – and for good reason since she’s up for reelection in 2018. Standing up to the bullies who’ve tried to pressure her to go along to get along – making big local ad buys targeting her, for instance – can’t be easy. She deserves a little love for putting principle before comfort.
But resisting the Trump-GOP combine as McCaskill did today – and, we hope, continues to do – is essential. In this particular case the two men slated for leadership positions in government are not only ideological disasters, they, in the words of the ranking Committee member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), “misled the public and held back important information about their backgrounds.” He added that:
Until questions are answered, Democrats believe the committee should not move forward with either nomination. […] This is about getting answers to questions, plain and simple. Ethics laws are not optional, and nominees do not have a right to treat disclosure like a shell game.
We may not be able to stop the nominations when all is said and done, but Democrats have got to be clear that they won’t support corrupt and unfit nominees for any office. Republicans may be scared spineless by Trump’s Twitter, but Democrats had better not be if they want to survive as a party.
Price is not only guilty of capitalizing on his privileged position as a congressman to violate insider trading laws, but is accused of explicitly lying about the nature of his questionable financial ventures during the Committee’s initial hearings. Mnuchin was part of the financial cartel that employed illegal robo-signing practices to made big bucks off the 2008 foreclosure crisis, but when called on the practice during the hearings, he gave false testimony about his bank’s use of the abusive practice. In essence, we have a president who comes from the dregs of the business world and who has dredged up some more bottom-feeders to run government agencies for him.
But worse is coming – tonight President Carnival Barker will announce his nominee for the Supreme Court. All three putative favorites are horrible. Not only are the stakes high, but the nomination of anyone other than Merrick Garland cannot be accepted by Democrats given the fact that inexcusable GOP stonewalling stole the office from this well-qualified candidate. We can only pray that Democrats will be willing to take up the burden of possibly prolonged opposition. We need to show them that we’re on their side when they do – and we can do that starting now by letting our Missouri Democrat, Claire McCaskill, know that we appreciate what she did today. Make that call.
It begins with education.
Medicaid expansion has been facing stubborn opposition from the republican majority in the Missouri General Assembly. Yet, the Missouri Medicaid Coalition, an umbrella group, continues to organize in support of Medicaid expansion at the grassroots level across the state.
This evening in Warrensburg the Johnson County Democratic Club hosted Martha Stevens from the Missouri Rural Crisis Center for an informational presentation on Medicaid expansion and on behalf of organizing for its expansion.
Martha Stevens of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center speaking on Medicaid expansion on behalf of the Missouri Medicaid Coalition.
According to the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, because Medicaid expansion in Missouri has been blocked in the General Assembly:
Two hospitals in Missouri have already closed, costing 1,800 rural employees their jobs, while other hospitals are being forced to cut back on services. [….]
Without Medicaid Expansion, Missouri hospitals would lose approximately $3.5 billion by the end of 2019.
68% of all rural physicians are older than age 50, and it’s harder to recruit physicians to rural areas because of the high risk of uncompensated care, due to a lack of Medicaid and insurance.
If Missouri hospitals continue to cut back or close, rural Missourians will be forced to travel larger and longer distances to have access to a hospital….
Again, who represents the rural areas of the state in the General Assembly? I thought so.
HJR 40: let’s give voters an opportunity to put it in the Constitution (February 19, 2015)
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) announced today that she will not be running for governor in 2016.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D) (left) and Attorney General Chris Koster (D) (right) [file photos].
Social media is all atwitter with the news:
Jason Hancock @J_Hancock
“That’s a firm no.” — @clairecmc on idea of running for governor in 2016. Says she’s done no polling on the race, fwiw. #mogov #moleg 11:11 AM – 12 Jan 2015
Yael T. Abouhalkah @YaelTAbouhalkah
Chris Koster is happiest guy in Missouri right now. @clairecmc stays in U.S. Senate. 11:12 AM – 12 Jan 2015
State Auditor Tom Schweich (r) is probably still pretty unhappy, though.
Jason Rosenbaum @jrosenbaum
. @clairecmc says we have a “terrific candidate” in @Koster4Missouri. Can’t imagine he has significant opposition anymore. 11:12 AM – 12 Jan 2015
Maybe Leonard Steinman?
Eli Yokley @eyokley
Why does @ClaireCMC support @Koster4Missouri? “So we can keep some sanity in Jefferson City among some pretty extreme folks.” #MOGov 11:12 AM – 12 Jan 2015
Tony Messenger @tonymess
The most important thing @clairecmc can do for #MO right now has nothing to do with #mogov or #mosen: It’s pass an ethics ballot issue.11:14 AM – 12 Jan 2015
.@clairecmc calls @Koster4Missouri “terrific candidate.” Q is whether she wrung any promises on what he’ll push in return for staying out. 11:16 AM – 12 Jan 2015
Ye of little faith.
Scott Charton @ScottCharton
That wind isn’t just winter; it’s @Koster4Missouri exhaling as he buys the first round. 11:18 AM – 12 Jan 2015
Are we so surprised that McCaskill didn’t want to trade a Senate seat for the right to have vetoes overridden by the MO lege? 11:23 AM – 12 Jan 2015
That is a good point.
Jane Dueker @JaneDueker
Sorry #MOGOP your fantasy of a Democratic primary for Governor is over before it started. Time to focus on your own primary. 11:29 AM – 12 Jan 2015
Meanwhile, State Auditor Tom Schweich (r) has a sad.
This week Democrats got trounced in Missouri. A bloodbath and we all feel really bad, although, as Duane Graham observes in his blog, The Erstwhile Conservative, “Democrats who live where I live expect our candidates to lose each and every election.” Graham is speaking about Southwest Missouri, but the experience is similar if not quite so dire for the rest of us. Even when Democrats win, there are some cases where it’s no cause for celebration. Democratic turncoat Keith English, for instance, won his race. Another Democrat, Linda Black, left the party, turned Republican, the day after winning her race as a Democrat, because of, you know, the gay. With Democrats like these … well, you know the rest.
On a related note, over at Occasional Planet, a “Guest Writer” notes that a local Democratic Club declined to list Arthur Lieber, the Democratic candidate running against Ann Wagner in the 2nd district in a GOTV email designed to help Democratic candidates. The reason given to the Guest Writer when he/she pursued the matter?:
“We talked about him and decided not to include him, because he’s not a serious candidate. He can’t win, and he probably won’t even get 20 percent of the vote,” he said. “He’s not raising money. He’s in a district completely gerrymandered for the Republican. I don’t know why he’s even running: The only reason to file for office in this district is to draw resources away from your opponent-to make her spend time and money opposing you. He hasn’t accomplished that. Also, we never heard from him: He didn’t contact us to make an appearance at our meetings.”
I’ll say nothing about the specifics* of this response since, the Guest Writer ably punctures the half-baked effort at strategic thinking. Instead, I’ll offer some Missouri election statistics I came across in the same Graham post I referenced above:
Most of Missouri’s eight U.S. House districts produce pretty lopsided election results, six of them going for Republicans and only two for Democrats. That’s the way the Republican-dominated legislature designed these districts. They are heavily partisan with predictable results.
But there is a fact that stuns the soul of every democracy-loving Missourian, or at least it should. Democrats got 41.8% of all votes cast in Missouri’s eight U.S. House races in 2012, when turnout was 65.7%, yet it was only possible for them to end up with 25% of the seats, which were essentially capped at two. Republicans got 54.6% of all votes in House races across the state in 2012 but ended up with 75% of the seats. Some of us don’t think that is very democratic, but that’s the way it is.
This year turnout in Missouri was a paltry 35.2%. Think about that. A little more than half of the registered voters in this state who voted in the presidential election two years ago bothered to vote in this one. That amounts to 608,119 fewer Democrats and 627,051 fewer Republicans who didn’t vote, all things being equal. Those numbers look like they might be an advantage for Democrats, since more Republicans bugged out this year than Democrats. But it is a matter of percentages.
In 2012, as I mentioned, Democrats got 41.8% of House votes and Republicans got 54.6%. But in 2014, with the dropout of voters, Democrats only got 35.9% of House votes and Republicans got 58.8%. The lesson: voter apathy hurts Democrats in states like Missouri much more than it hurts Republicans.
See any possible relationship between these two narrative strains? Do you think worthless Democrats and a weak-kneed Democratic aparatus might have something to do with Democratic apathy?
Democrats are never going to win in this state unless they play it like they mean it. That means forgetting the zero-sum, cost benefit strategies that dedicate resources to a few sure-thing, right-now wins, while neglecting the long-term. That, in turn, means putting up good candidates, capable of making a strong case for progressive values, and supporting them – if for no other reason than to establish a presence, grow a stronger base and defeat the “learned helplessness” that characterizes our apathetic Democrats, and that, when we do win, produces timid candidates who willingly promulgate Republican narratives (remind you of anybody you know – Claire McCaskill, or, perhaps, Jay Nixon?).
The crucial ingredient, though, is individuals who are willing to put themselves out there, make those very likely hopeless runs for office, pit themselves against the GOP noise machine and the big money boys who are pulling the strings in Missouri. And make no mistake about it, though the odds are long, most of our losing candidates have the hearts of thoroughbreds, they’re running to do more than just place.
In my area, heroes like Susan Cunningham, candidate for state Representative in the 119th district, or Arthur Lieber who stood up against the Daddy Warbucks’ candidate for the 2nd district federal House seat, Ann Wagner – who, incidentally, hid herself from her constituents during the campaign – did more than just give us a choice when we marked our ballots; they insured that the progressive argument had a voice even though neither won. Out-state, candidates like Jim Evans who ran against Rep. Billy Long – he of the gargantuan restaurant bills – in the 7th district, are among the people who are trying to help us build the foundation we’ll need for 2016 and later. Sadly, in Missouri there are lots more among the fallen. We all congratulate the Democrats who won and we know they have a hard road ahead as a nearly helpless minority in Jefferson City, but the ones who lost, most of whom stood up to what they knew were nearly impossible odds, deserve just as much praise. Nor, if you’ll forgive a dose of grandiosity, did they fall in vain.
As unpleasant as military metaphors may be to some more gentle souls, politics is like war, elections are battles, except that it’s not who lives and who dies that is at issue, but how we’re all going to live our lives. In order to win this war for the good life, progressive Democrats have got to begin to really start thinking strategically, many moves ahead, rather than doing short-term cost-benefit analyses. The people who stood for the Democratic party in the 2014 midterm election were our footsoldiers, the winners and the losers will help crack open the increasingly solid Republican door in Missouri; their example will continue to allow us to widen the opening bit-by-bit if we can only begin to do the right things. Right now the GOP is talking about a “100 year majority” – any resemblance to another group of losers who planned for a 1000 year empire is, I’m sure, purely incidental. But if we’re able to send this group of empire-builders to the same “dust-heap of history” as that earlier, even more unpleasant group, people like our Democratic contenders will be the ones who take us forward.
* I just have to set the record straight on one point, though. Arthur Lieber, who did minimal fundraising, had little media presence (apart from a surprise endorsement from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), managed to harness about 33% of the vote. Do you wonder what would that percentage have looked like if he’d had full party support?
Today, at the Missouri Ethics Commission:
C000960 10/02/2014 MO DEMOCRATIC STATE COMMITTEE Claire McCaskill 1941 Spring House Dr St Louis MO 63122 United States Senate 10/1/2014 $50,000.00
That’s $340,000.00 since February.
Campaign Finance: All in the family (July 28, 2014)
Campaign Finance: join the party (February 19, 2014)
Missouri at the end of the Summer in an election year – there are going to be local political gatherings. Johnson County Democrats held a candidate meet and greet for their candidate for County Sheriff, Arnold Wilson, this evening in Warrensburg.
Gary Grigsby, the Democratic Party candidate in the 51st Legislative District, acted as master of ceremonies.
It’s Summer, there’s a Democratic Party gathering outside, there’s food.
The decor tells you where you are.
Arnold Wilson, the Democratic Party candidate for Johnson County Sheriff.