The commentary regarding the Lincoln/Halter race continues, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
“What happened in this race also gives the lie to the insufferable excuse we’ve been hearing for the last 18 months from countless Obama defenders: namely, if the Senate doesn’t have 60 votes to pass good legislation, it’s not Obama’s fault because he has no leverage over these conservative Senators. It was always obvious what an absurd joke that claim was; the very idea of The Impotent, Helpless President, presiding over a vast government and party apparatus, was laughable. But now, in light of Arkansas, nobody should ever be willing to utter that again with a straight face. Back when Lincoln was threatening to filibuster health care if it included a public option, the White House could obviously have said to her: if you don’t support a public option, not only will we not support your re-election bid, but we’ll support a primary challenger against you. Obama’s support for Lincoln did not merely help; it was arguably decisive, as The Washington Post documented today.
Just for kicks someone should put together a post with links to quotes from everyone who not only swallowed the “60 vote” Kool-Aid, but used it to beat anyone over the head who said otherwise. If you decide to do it, cross-post it on The Seminal or send me a link. That’s something I would love to read.
Ari Berman: “[A] lot of base Democrats stuck with Lincoln out of residual loyalty or because they just never got to like Halter, who ran a focused, disciplined campaign but was unable to shed the icy and overly ambitious image that surrounds him.”
Sounds like it came out of Blanche’s oppo department. Democrats “stuck with Blanche” because she had a gazillion dollars pouring in from the Chamber of Commerce and other shadowy organizations, $3 million in PAC money from the likes of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Exxon-Mobil and Wal-Mart, the support of the Democratic Party, the current President of the United States Barack Obama, and former President of the United States (and Arkansas native) Bill Clinton, who all were willing to demagogue labor’s support from Halter in an anti-labor state.
Apologies to those who found Halter “icy.” Jesus Christ wasn’t available.
It’s incredible how the complete imbalance of power on the two sides, and the alignment of the most powerful man in the world with the largest and richest lobbying entity in the world, is rarely mentioned.
What worries me are those who try to manipulate democracy, the pressure groups, the money people who’d like all elections to come down to who can buy the most advertising on television, most of it negative advertising.
What gave me hope last night is that voters don’t like to be pushed around any more that I do. A lot of labor money went into the Arkansas Senate primary and produced a lot of drama — and a real hero. The kind of stand-alone, what-side-are-you-on woman celebrated in that pro-labor film Norma Rae. The irony is that the heroine, the Norma Rae last night in Little Rock, was the Democratic Senator Labor tried to beat, Norma Rae’s name in this picture is Blanche Lincoln.
I guess my memory is getting fuzzy, because I don’t recall “stand alone” Norma Rae getting millions of dollars of support from the Chamber of Commerce in the form of a racist ad blitz:
It really does show how broken our entire political debate is when shady ad-hoc groups like “Americans for Job Security” can drop millions in support of Blanche Lincoln and somehow this outweighs the millions of dollars in small donations that tens of thousands of ordinary Americans gave to Bill Halter.
At least Red State notes that Lincoln’s victory is a Pyrrhic one.
The real story, from the progressive side, is that when Accountability Now was talking to challenger candidates across the country, we didn’t know how much hard money collective organizations could raise online in any given race independent of party support. I guessed $3 million, but couldn’t say with certainty or point to a track record. In the end, the ActBlue tally was $1.2 million and MoveOn raised about $3 million.
Strong candidates don’t want to risk their careers running against incumbents unless they know they have a good shot at winning — if you shoot the king, you better kill the king. Being able to point to $4.2 million in hard money donations in the future is going to be a very powerful recruiting tool for the grassroots. We couldn’t do that 10 years ago, before it was possible to quickly message to millions of potential supporters without the intercession of a commentariat who think Blanche Lincoln bears some sort of resemblance to “Norma Rae.”
Prior to the Halter race, it was thought that labor was the only progressive entity capable of funding challenges against Democratic incumbents. Labor’s presence was a mixed blessing in a state like Arkansas, in that it pulled big Chamber of Commerce money into the race once it was mistakenly cast as labor vs. Lincoln. Bill Clinton quite successfully used labor’s support for Lincoln against Halter when he came to Little Rock to campaign for her, which many believe gave her the margin of success.
But most of labor’s money came in the form of independent expenditures — the $4.2 million in hard money that went directly to Halter, the money that directly funded his campaign, came from small online donors. Anybody commenting on the outcome of the Lincoln/Halter race who doesn’t understand the significance of that figure, and what it means for recruiting and funding progressive challengers in the future, is missing a rather large elephant in the middle of the room.
Blanche Lincoln sent Norma Rae’s job to China. I think Norma would be delighted by the new possibilities.