The infighting consuming Democrats this year has spread beyond the presidential primary campaign and House caucus to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Conservatives’ popcorn machines are overflowing.
According to Politico, DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos was making an unplanned flight from her Illinois district back to DC during a six-week recess to address what critics describe as “complete chaos,” due to the committee’s alleged lack of nonwhite people in its senior ranks.
In general, the DCCC does not lack people of politically favored groups. Rep. Jim Costa told Politico: “The representation within the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is higher now than during the previous chair.” Prior to the midterm elections, the committee boasted its staff was 38 percent “racially diverse” and 50 percent women. The committee also claimed its senior staff was 52 percent “diverse,” which is the current bone of contention.
The flashpoint for this particular bonfire appears to have been the promotion of longtime staffer Tayhlor Coleman as director of the “Cycle of Engagement,” a multi-million-dollar effort targeting non-white and younger Americans. The rascally muckrakers of the Washington Free Beacon reported on a series of Coleman’s seemingly anti-homosexual and racist tweets from 2010, including usage of the hashtag “#nohomo.”
Coleman deleted thousands of her tweets and issued an apology for her “hurtful and insensitive” comments, explaining that “witnessing the bravery of childhood friends who came out as gay and trans” had caused her opinions to evolve. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told Politico: “I asked for her not to be terminated but to please be given different duties and responsibilities, but don’t terminate a young African American woman for something she may have done on social media when she was 19 years old.”
Coleman remains on the DCCC staff, but will not be working on the “Cycle of Engagement” project or any issues concerning minorities (although such contact would seem like a good way of breaking down prejudices). However, as with the feud between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the complaints against Bustos from progressives run deeper than the Coleman incident.
In March, the Congressional Progressive Caucus contended with Bustos after the DCCC announced it would not do business with consultants and other vendors who worked with primary challengers against incumbent House Democrats. Progressives saw the new policy as an attempt to blacklist groups like Justice Democrats, who are closely aligned with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ironically, Justice Democrats has considered challenging less socialist Congressional Black Caucus members such as Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Yvette Clarke of New York.
Two months later, Bustos was pressured by progressives into canceling a fundraiser for Rep. Dan Lipinski, perhaps the last strongly pro-life member of the House Democratic caucus. She issued a statement touting her 100 percent pro-abortion rights voting record and expressing concern over new pro-life legislation in states such as Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi. The DCCC declined to endorse Lipinski in 2016 under former Chairman Ben Ray Lujan.
Bustos is returning to Washington following an all-staff meeting last Friday in which Executive Director Allison Jaslow tearfully assumed blame for the D-trip’s lack of “diversity.” (Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela want Jaslow fired, while complaining that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has not been complaining about the DCCC.) Politico reported several other employees became visibly upset and demanded to hear directly from Bustos, who was not present. DCCC spokesman Jared Smith said Bustos plans to approve structural changes to the committee. Jaslow submitted her resignation Monday.
Some of this intraparty brawl is not particularly out of the ordinary. Long before the current infatuation with identity politics, political parties have engaged in more traditional forms of ethnic politics. The committee’s former chairman and executive director were both Latino-Americans. Bustos campaigned on increasing diversity at the D-trip. Accordingly, it is not exactly shocking that representatives of Latino descent would be agitating to hold Bustos’s feet to the fire on questions of staffing and contracting.
Nevertheless, it might be asked whether Bustos’s critics remember the purpose of the DCCC. The committee is concerned with re-electing incumbent Democrats, particularly in close races. In 2018, a good year for Democrats, only four far-leftists flipped House districts carried by President Trump; almost five times as many non-progressives won in Trump districts. Democratic gains in 2018 were disproportionately among white voters, in part due to the gerrymandering of majority-minority districts.
Bustos’s critics seem less concerned with protecting incumbents (even incumbents who aren’t white) or reaching out to working-class white voters (as in Lipinski’s district) than with representation within the committee, money being spent on voters in their districts, and ideological litmus tests (even for nonwhite staffers). In this sense, they resemble the field of Democratic presidential candidates, who are focused on the far-left quarter of their voters, and seeming to ignore party as a whole and the general electorate.
The staff at the National Republican Campaign Committee are undoubtedly smiling at their good fortune.