Looking up Longfellow Street: This anti-democratic diktat from a Democratic committee must be retracted

By Edward M. Cook
Special to the Reporter

“I am from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” said presidential candidate Howard Dean in 2003. I am also from that wing. I want to shout that quote at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) because of its newly announced policy that it will not grant contracts to pollsters, strategists, and communications specialists who are working with primary challengers. This policy has me so vexed that I am looking for tea to throw into the harbor.

I am a life-long Democrat, a 34-year member of the Ward 15 Democratic Party Committee, and the current co-chair of that Committee, and I am wondering what party the DCCC is living in. This policy is like gerrymandering within the party. The DCCC should not be putting its thumb on the scales for some Democrats against other Democrats. Do they not remember that Debbie Wasserman Shultz lost her job at the DNC for doing just that for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries? Did they not pay attention to the midterm elections last year? Did they not see those women wearing white jackets to the State of the Union address? Who are they to make such a draconian diktat?

Full disclosure: I supported incumbent Congressman Mike Capuano against challenger Ayanna Pressley last year. It was a tough choice between an incumbent who was a friend and ally of 20 years and a challenger for whom I had worked hard in every one of her city council elections. On election night, I texted Ayanna to say that she was right: She had caught the mood of the voters and I had missed it.

If nothing else, this DCCC policy is proof that the Democratic Party needs the new blood of challenges to incumbents like Ayanna’s. This decision is what turns off voters, especially progressives, young voters, voters of color, or anyone else who is looking to the future rather than over their shoulders at old style, smoke-filled-backroom politics. This policy says, “Democrats are a closed club.” I repudiate that. We don’t need policies of exclusion to win. We have the ideals, ideas, and policies that are our winning formula and that American voters want: transparency, gun control, health care, fiscal responsibility, foreign relations, to name a few.

We do not have to look any further than Beacon Hill to find recent anti-democratic policies being promulgated by people with (D) behind their names. I have written in similar anguish and outrage about the votes in the House of Representatives to kill amendments to their rules that would have added simple transparency: providing 72 hours for reps to read a bill before voting (instead of same day notice), 30 minutes to read amendments before voting (instead of no notice), and publishing transcripts of hearings. These minor changes, proposed in January by newly elected progressives, were defeated by 2-1 margins in the Democratically dominated House, at the behest of the Democratic speaker.

DCCC members should peek out from their Capitol Hill bunker and learn from what they see: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive Bronx bartender who is turning the House of Representatives with big, new ideas like the Green New Deal. She beat one of the most powerful incumbent Democrats in Congress with those ideas and hard work. Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of a Midwestern city smaller than Dorchester, gay, progressive, a Navy veteran of Afghanistan, polyglot speaker of seven languages, Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar, is running third in Iowa behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and third in fundraising behind Bernie and Kamala Harris. And this before he has even declared!

I am an Irish Catholic Dorchester Democrat baby-boomer. I love and admire Elizabeth Warren. I like Joe Biden, even with his creepiness and a baggage train that is longer than Hillary’s. I caught the Bern in 2016. But I see new stars rising to lead.

We need to follow these bright newcomers, or at least get out of their way, if we are to reverse the demons of the Trump debacle. I call on my fellow loyal Democrats, and anyone else, to join me in demanding that the DCCC retract its anti-democratic policy and let the voters decide.