Try as I might, I can't really find a scandal in the wikileaks dump of the DNC's emails. It may turn out that Russia was involved -- that would certainly be upsetting. But other than getting a refreshingly candid look inside major party fundraising techniques, I -- like Dana Houle from The New Republic -- can't find much to get worked up about. But this is not to say there isn't something disturbing happening inside the Democratic Party's process of selecting nominees. It's just that the problem is out in the open, not in the vault. So open, in fact, that no one seems to be paying attention to it.
The Party is getting involved in primaries, and is spending money defeating Democrats -- but not at the top of the ticket. It's happening in Senate races. In Pennsylvania and Florida, two of the most important states in this upcoming election, the Party is working against itself, and it has to stop.
Two of the most interesting, compelling, and passionate Democrats who chose to run for Senate this year are Admiral Joe Sestak and Congressman Alan Grayson. They are incredibly strong candidates, with proven ability to attract voters (both unlikely and likely). And yet the Democratic Party has, inexplicably, spent huge amounts of money to defeat them in their primaries.
Grayson, in particular (as documented in Slate Magazine by David Weigel) is literally the most effective member of Congress from either party, with an uncanny ability to raise small campaign donations, to fire up voters, and to raise the roof with his speeches. Even more importantly, he has a proven ability to get out the vote. He is one of the incredibly rare politicians who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders when it comes to giving life and energy to the Party. Poll after poll shows he's the best option the Democrats have against Marco Rubio. And you only need to see him on Bill Maher, or hear him speak on the House floor, to understand why. He's among the most knowledgeable, clear thinking, tough-talking politicians the Democratic Party has seen in a generation.
And yet the Party has already spent a million dollars -- with the primary still a full month away -- supporting Grayson's rival, a two-term Congressman who was a registered Republican until four years ago, who has voted to condemn Barack Obama, and who has accepted more money from Wall Street than any other member of the House from either party.
In Pennsylvania, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) spent three million dollars against Admiral Sestak, even though his Democratic primary opponent consistently polled poorly compared to Sestak against incumbent Republican Senator Pat Toomey. Three million dollars against Sestak, when his military experience mixed with liberal views are sorely needed in the party, in the Senate, and in the government itself. When he started out the front runner in the primary. When polls suggested he was the Democrats' best chance to beat Toomey.
The Democratic Party spending millions of dollars to defeat Grayson and Sestak in the primaries is short-sighted, to say the least. People like Grayson and Sestak can bring out the vote in two highly competitive states, two of the states where the most money will be spent in the Presidential race. Having strong, passionate candidates near the top of the ticket will compliment and buoy Clinton and Kaine. In victory, having Grayson and Sestak in the Senate would help ensure Clinton has a Congress she can work with.
And lest it be forgotten -- only by electing more progressives, do we as a nation have a chance at reforming gun laws, fighting for education, putting qualified Justices on the Supreme Court, and passing meaningful campaign finance reform.
The damage has now been done in Pennsylvania. Sestak lost his primary. But the story isn't over for Grayson, in Florida. Despite being vastly outspent by his opponent, he's still clinging to a thin lead. The people haven't given up on him. And they shouldn't. His primary is August 30th.
Democrats who care about democracy should be paying attention.
At the very least, take a look at Grayson, look at his positions, listen to his views, and see if they align with yours. Ignore the rumors, ignore the ads, ignore attack pieces -- see what he's accomplished and what his record suggests he could accomplish in the Senate. And if you like what you see, support him. Because, in fact, supporting him over objections of the party, is the very best thing you can do for your party.
Perhaps the only thing that might stop the party from interfering in primaries is if it starts to become clear that interfering doesn't work.
And the opposite -- allowing a diversity of opinions within the party -- does work. I've served on the staff of some of the most active liberal, moderate, and conservative Democrats in the Senate. Just as a wide diversity of opinions makes America stronger, a wide diversity of opinions makes our political parties stronger. Our nation isn't served when either party marches in lock-step. Only with a healthy debate in each party, can a two-party system even function.
Please join me in calling for the Democratic Party to let voters decide who is best to represent their party. It's time to pay attention to real scandals, even if they are already out in the open.
The writer has served on the staffs of Senators Paul Wellstone, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Joe Lieberman