Bricks and Mortars

The definition of imbecilic

By Lawrence Reichard | Apr 27, 2017

There's good news. In a previous column I suggested that the definition of “insanity” was the Democratic Party. Well, the good news is that you no longer have to dive that deep into the dictionary to find the party. Now you only have to go as far as “imbecilic.”

The Democratic Party, which of course got wiped out in November, losing both houses of Congress and the presidency, has had the chance, since November, to turn the tide in very impressive fashion and to rack up some serious momentum with special congressional elections in Kansas, Georgia and Montana. A trifecta in those special elections would have rewritten the political landscape and would have gone a long way toward pulling the rug out from under the Trump administration. It would make a good number of congressional Republicans rethink their support for Trump and his policies.

Wins in these three special elections would have had the potential for putting some serious brakes on Trump plans to attack health care, seniors, schools, the environment, workplace safety, and on and on.

So, what has the Democratic National Committee done with these golden opportunities? Almost nothing. It has done the political equivalent of sitting on its hands.

In Kansas, Democrat James Thompson narrowly lost an April 11 race to fill the House seat vacated by now CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The seat has been in GOP hands for 22 years, and last November Trump won the district by 27 percent. Thompson lost by only 6.5 percent. Thompson's near victory was impressive, and sent jitters through the Republican Party, but imagine if Thompson had actually won. That would have really shaken things up, and would have kept House Speaker Paul Ryan awake at night with visions of pumping gas for a living. And Thompson might very well have won if the national Democratic Party had invested a reasonable amount of cash in the race. But it didn't, and Thompson lost.

Then there is Georgia, where newcomer Jon Ossoff is running for a seat in the Atlanta suburbs vacated by Tom Price, who is now secretary of Health and Human Services. The seat has been controlled by Republicans since 1979 and is of considerable symbolic importance because it once belonged to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has done as much as anyone to advance the Republican revolution that started with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

With 48.1 percent of the vote, Ossoff almost won the 50 percent needed to win the seat outright. But now Ossoff faces a June 20 runoff with Republican Karen Handel, and Republicans are pouring money into the race. This because they understand its importance, a lesson lost on the DNC. If the DNC wants to win this seat, it will now have to spend much more than if it had invested upfront in the first round.

And then there's Montana, where Democrat Rob Quist is running to fill the House seat vacated by now Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Montana Democrats are pounding on the DNC door beseeching the party to pour some real money into the race. Montana is a purple state in a largely red Rocky Mountain swath, but this is essentially heartland stuff. This is right in the heart of where Republicans get their Electoral College bread and butter. Look at an Electoral College map going back decades and you'll see broad swaths of red across the southeast, where Ossoff is running, and in the Rocky Mountains. The Montana seat up for grabs has been occupied by Republicans for 20 years, and losing that seat could not be painted by the GOP as just another example of coastal liberalism. A loss here would be a big blow to the GOP, and the DNC should be pounding on Rob Quist's door, not the other way around.

This all adds up to a lack of vision, and grossly excessive caution and timidity, on the part of the DNC. The DNC wants to save its money for future races, not seeing the importance of momentum and the return on investment these three races could have provided. Victories in Kansas, Georgia and Montana would have energized the Democratic base and pried open wallets from coast to coast. Americans love winners.

Meanwhile, Tom Perez, former Obama secretary of labor and newly installed chairman of the DNC, came to Portland April 17 in a dog and pony show with Bernie Sanders intended to assure Sandernistas that their progressive agenda is still loved and cherished by the Democratic Party, despite the DNC's election of same old same old Tom Perez over the candidacy of progressive Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison. But instead of traveling around with this mobile love fest, Perez should have been back in D.C. doing his job. Instead of speaking before a few hundred people in a state that doesn't have a congressional election for another 19 months, he should have been back in Washington figuring out how to give the Georgia and Montana races everything he possibly can.

This is not rocket science. This is what the Democratic base wants and is demanding, like never before. That is why hundreds of thousands are marching in the streets. I may be wrong, but I don't think they are marching in the streets to demand Democratic Party caution and timidity, and if the Democratic Party doesn't understand that, then it is indeed the definition of imbecility.

Lawrence Reichard is a first-place Maine Press Association winner, freelance writer and activist living in Belfast.


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