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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Democrats’ rush to the finish line in November could end in a pile-up

In the wake of last week’s Pennsylvania special election it’s no secret how Republicans are now doing a lot of soul searching. The party keeps losing races it should normally win; finger-pointing abounds among the DC establishment consultant class. If things don’t turn around soon it could get ugly.

But what about the Democrats? Is everything so peachy in Democrat-land that liberals from coast-to-coast are Pileupjoining hands and singing “Celebration” (by 70’s group Kool & The Gang)?

Hardly. It seems there’s a little intra-faction civil war brewing in the minority party as well; the Democrats’ recent winning candidates are viewed as too conservative for the new socialist #resistance hate-Trump-and-his-voters crowd. They’re not happy the new faces of the Democrat Party are so “moderate.”

Heather Caygle of Politico reported, “Conor Lamb’s triumph in Trump country is being heralded by conservative Democrats as a major victory in their ongoing turf battle with the far left — and an object lesson on the kind of candidates the party needs to promote and win to take the House in November…

“The scramble by both moderates and liberals to ascribe broader meaning to Lamb’s victory is just the latest volley in the ideological battle that has been raging within the party since the 2016 presidential primary.

“Centrists want party leaders to take notice of Lamb’s upset with an eye toward bolstering similar candidates in upcoming races where moderates are running in primaries against more liberal challengers.”

In other words, liberals weren’t happy a guy like Lamb pretended to have a few token conservative-leaning views in order to appeal to centrists and old-time Democrats in a Trump-heavy district. Leftists demand “purity” from their Democrats and Lamb’s declaring he personally opposes abortion (while supporting Roe v. Wade) and being seen in advertisements shooting guns (and enjoying it) isn’t quite what they had in mind.

If this struggle sounds hauntingly familiar, it should. The moderate vs. conservative fracas has raged within the Republican Party for decades with conservatives notching occasional victories while the establishment remains steadfast in maintaining certain candidates are too “extreme” to win in the vast majority of contests.

But it's a little odd the Democrats dispute the obvious results of their success. Bill Clinton won two terms as president and survived impeachment because he was popular; big bubba Bill was as liberal as the rest of ‘em yet he buried his true views underneath a mound of moderate-sounding lies and rhetorical illusions (like when he declared “The era of big government is over”). Clinton had the less informed hoodwinked into believing he was “moderate” while he advocated for more and more federal control and appointed a who’s who of leftist judges to lifetime positions.

Is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Justice Stephen Breyer (both appointed by Bill Clinton) known as a “moderate”? Not in this universe.

Clinton offered a winning message in places like Pennsylvania’s 18th district so it’s no surprise Lamb copied the strategy. Run as a “moderate” – or even as a conservative – and then once you get to Washington snuggle up to Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders, get your leadership PAC money and vote as though there’s never been a limited government proposal you’ve ever liked.

There may be an intra-party tug-of-war at the district level among Democrats in party primaries but they all huddle together under the radical leftist teepee once they win. They’re all ultra-liberals; some may be contemplating dumping Pelosi as leader but as long as ‘ol Nancy has the firm backing of large blocs like the Congressional Black Caucus she’s almost a shoe-in to be House party chief as long as she wants.

It’s the same way with the Republicans too. Candidates run as conservatives but when they walk through the door of the Speaker’s office they’re sucked into the tight clutches of the ruling class, likely never to see the light of day – or key committee assignments – unless they toe the line. Of course, truly principled conservatives join the Freedom Caucus but there aren’t enough of them to realistically compete for top leadership positions.

Not to sound pessimistic but the problem goes much deeper in the whole of the DC swamp. It’s hard enough to elect good candidates – but even when you do it’s almost impossible to jettison the old “creatures” when changing governing administrations.

Nahal Toosi of Politico reported, “In the early months of Trump’s presidency, conservative media organizations such as Breitbart News and the Conservative Review published several stories singling out career civil and foreign service staffers by name. The reports often called such employees ‘Obama holdovers’ — even though many, like [Sahar] Nowrouzzadeh, joined the government well before Obama took office — and urged their firing. The stories were terrifying to career employees who, in some cases, had spent decades working out of the spotlight. Nowrouzzadeh, who would not comment for this article, told [chief of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff Brian] Hook that she feared for her safety…

“U.S. law is generally supposed to protect career government employees from politically motivated firings and other retaliation not linked to their work performance. But political appointees of incoming administrations have a lot of latitude when it comes to assigning people or promoting them. That means it’s possible to shuffle people around without necessarily violating any laws.”

It goes without saying the prime reason the DC swamp is so difficult to drain is due to the intransigence of ideological holdovers from the previous administration – or even from George W. Bush’s -- where the foreign policy direction quite different than Trump’s. If you’ve got “career” diplomats or policy people who worked diligently in advocating programs like the Iran Deal (as Sahar Nowrouzzadeh did) it’s only natural to suspect they may not be acting in your best interest when new leaders come to town.

Political appointments are what they are – when a new president takes over after the last guy it’s only natural for him to want his own people implementing his courses of action. If the uncovered corruption at the FBI and Justice Department is any indication the rot is endemic in the federal government after Obama and a “complete housecleaning” is in order. Upon serving in Washington for decades most of these people have thoroughly ingrained the ways of the swamp and it’s in their own interests to do everything possible to perpetuate the sleaze.

I witnessed it first-hand when interning at the Department of Justice in the early 90’s (during the George H.W. Bush administration). Practically the entire section I worked for was staffed with liberal Democrats. Does it mean they didn’t care about their work? No; but if there was a close call on an issue you bet these careerists would bend it to their own ideological predilections. Further, a good many of the employees I encountered were openly contemptuous of Bush.

With as polarized as the country has become it’s likely worse today. The bureaucracy has grown over the decades to the point where it’s out of control – and it’s not exactly frowned upon to overtly hate-on the current president in our politically correct culture.

Therefore Trump’s people in the federal departments have plenty of justification to be suspicious of those around them – it’s like a gazelle situated among a pride of lions.

In addition to the intra-party war Democrats have other reasons to worry things may not be as rosy as they appear. Out in California the party has too many candidates hoping to head to Washington – which could mean disastrous consequences. David Siders of Politico reported, “In a state that’s central to the battle for control of the House, Democrats emerged from a filing deadline late Wednesday resigned to the possibility that no Democratic candidate will appear on the November ballot in several key House races.

“California’s unusual, top-two primary system — in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation — had raised the prospect of a nightmare scenario in several districts where crowded fields of Democratic candidates might splinter their party’s share of the vote, enabling two Republicans to finish atop the field in the June primary.

“In response, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and state party leaders had spent weeks running up to the deadline working to cull large fields of Democrats in targeted contests.”

So what Pennsylvania (and other places) giveth the system might taketh away. Siders’ story indicates the problem is particularly acute in two districts Democrats were counting on winning in November (where Dems hold a registration edge but have too many hopefuls). Should they fail to do so the math gets much more complicated for a Democrat takeover starting next January.

Conservatives face a similar problem in Arizona where two candidates (Dr. Kelli Ward and Sheriff Joe Arpaio) conceivably could split the state’s conservative Republican primary vote and open the door for amnesty/open borders supporting ultra-establishmentarian Martha McSally to win the party nomination to replace outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (who pulled out of the race because he knew he couldn’t beat Ward).

In the Democrats’ case they’re all so anxious to take on Trump they can’t see how their collective invective could be injurious to the party as a whole. Tunnel vision is a common affliction when everyone’s telling would-be candidates that they’re the one to save the country.

We can only hope Democrats bump each other off. Republicans have plenty to fix on their own. Newt Gingrich wrote at Fox News, “Republicans could combine the power of the presidency with the power of being the majority in Congress to set up a series of fights for the summer that would define the fall election. There is no evidence yet of the GOP having this kind of strategic capability, but without it, there is very likely going to be a Democratic wave that captures the House and minimizes gains in the Senate.

“...President Trump must take some serious responsibility for the recent election results. If he continues to alienate people (especially women), no amount of policy effort will offset the decline in Republican enthusiasm and voting.

“Right now, there is time to think through recent elections and design a summer and fall effort that keeps the Republican majority in the House.”

Too true, but time is running out to devise a cohesive strategy and then implement it. Recent developments where the GOP and Trump seemed determined to bend over backwards to accommodate the Democrats (on DACA and gun control) isn’t setting the proper example. The same is true of the vote on the federal budget. If Republicans are just going to pay for the Democrats’ wish list, why bother supporting them?

It would be 2006 all over again.

Lucky for Republicans politics is an ever-changing game that is rarely cut-and-dried in favor of either party. If people still believe in “sure things” maybe they should ask Hillary Clinton about it. Democrats certainly have problems of their own – and there’s a long way to go until November.

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