Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Want To Know About the 6th District. I'm Here To Tell You About the 6th District.

My good friend the Archpundit may not be willing to have the Cegelis debate again, but now that the general election is over it's time for me to wade back in.

First, I gotta ask the following: Had Christine Cegelis been the Democratic nominee who lost the general election, would Peter Roskam somehow be more of the Representative of the 6th District? Could he have been elected as some sort of Super-Representative if he had beaten a grassroots candidate? Would he get two votes in Congress?


So please don't tell me about how the Democratic nominee "came close."

As someone who's candidate "came close" in the primary, let me assure you that "close" doesn't count for squat. Close or not, the Republican candidate still won the damn election. Had Christine been unopposed by Dems Inc. in the primary, the worst case scenario, the absolute worst case scenario, would place us exactly where we are today -- with right-wing, extremist Peter Roskam as Rep-elect for the 6th District.

But that hypothetical loss would not have come at the cost of alienating anti-war Democrats and undermining the grass-roots Democrats in the 6th Dist/DuPage County.

During the primary, some new names and faces rose up as hard charging activists -- on the Internet and IRL -- through the Cegelis campaign. But very few of them were heard from during the general election campaign.

Some of them were no doubt turned off by the DC Dem's ham-fisted power-play -- not everyone loathes Peter Roskam enough to bite their tongue, swallow their pride and fall in line behind the nominee like I did -- but even more of them were not just turned off by the Duckworth campaign
, but actually turned away. Repeated efforts to reach out to the nominee's team were rebuffed -- often in the snidest and snottiest terms.

I don't know if they were embarrassed because their primary race was razor close or if they simply have no respect for grassroots workers, but the early message from the Duckworth team was crystal clear. It couldn't have been clearer if the folks in the nominee's camp literally said, "We don't need Cegelis workers. We don't want Cegelis volunteers. Fuck you and fuck off!"*

And please don't tell me about how much the 6th Dist race drew GOP resources and money from other races that the Democrats won. That was purely the function of the money that Dems Inc. poured into the race. That money that was raised by the party, as the party, not by the nominee's personal fundraising prowess. The DCCC could have distracted and annoyed the GOP by expending a similar amount of money whether the candidate was Tammy Duckworth, Christine Cegelis or a McDonald's Happy Meal.

But the Happy Meal, although an actual 6th District Resident, would not have had deep and
dynamic grassroots support. Christine Cegelis did. The nominee did not.

And so, the 6th District race was run by the professionals -- the people who know what it takes to win an election.

We all now know the results.

With a shoe-string budget, Christine Cegelis got 44% of the vote against Henry Hyde in 2004. In 2006, Dem Inc's candidate got 47% of the vote against the Republican party's non-incumbent, right-wing extremist.

A meager gain of just 3% -- in an election marked by a nation-wide Democratic tidal wave.

Do I think Christine Cegelis could have done better?

You're damn right I do.

*I did deal with one very pleasant Duckworth person via the internet very late in the campaign.

UPDATE: There are more comments and some remarks from Michael in Chicago over at SoapBlox.


Jonathan Kelley said...

As a volunteer for Cegelis, the actions of the powers-that-be in this race were a pill I couldn't swallow. Too much resentment.

The complaints against Cegelis (she didn't raise enough money; she can't win) were completely vacuous. The promotion of Duckworth so cynical. I believe the only rational argument for Duckworth was the idea that she could be a "loss leader" -- in that as the P.R. face of the "fightin' Dems" she could innoculate the inevitable charges of "traitor" from the GOP.

But while Duckworth's story was inspiring, I don't think she had much of any effect on the national discourse developing around the war. Rather, it was facts on the ground which decided that. The fact that yelling about how the Democrats have "NO PLAN FOR IRAQ!!!" sounds a lot less impressive when your Unca Jim is out there trying to develop YOUR plan (but won't say anything until after the election, because national security shouldn't be used to influence politics, or something).

Duckworth pretty much disappeared from the national scene after her primary victory. The story was the GOP corruption, the escalating war, Michael J. Fox, various Senate seats, and the Democrats leading in poll after poll, in all sorts of districts. And, of course, the fact that it was a national referendum on the least popular president in many of our lifetimes.

Dems' behavior in this race was worse in many ways than it was in the Lieberman/Lamont battle (but at least the consequences are less frightening). They ALL jumped on the bandwagon, for someone they knew nothing about, and therefore against someone they had no interest in learning about. They were seduced, in part, by the story, not imagining that it might wear off eventually. NO decent candidate (someone well within the mainstream in terms of her ideas, even if the media and party bosses didn't realize that) has ever faced quite that kind of onslaught in favor of an unknown newcomer to politics, at least that I know of.

And, of course, it's impossible to imagine Cegelis getting the type of support from the DCCC that Duckworth got. Actually supporting grassroots activists, connecting the money people with the work-doers. Building institutions that will carry us through more than one election cycle. Seems like an obvious tactic, but one that is completely and utterly anathema to Rahm Emanuel and plenty of others. Probably because it hits a little too close to home.

Philosophe Forum said...

Excellent post. You're on target. Duckworth was never about grassroots cohesion. She was a devisive as she could be. I found her lacking credibility & totally nauseating.

Also consider that, in some ways, Rahmbo didn't care if Duckworth won or lost. He justified funneling a lot of money to his PR friend that was a contractor for the campaign.

Christine was the real deal for IL-06.

Mrbillb said...

Those of us who worked for Cegelis and followed the Duckworth campaign closely, are not surprised by Duckworth's loss. We've learned that a progressive message and grassroots activity can overcome money and professional hype. They can upset long held political orientation because they respond to what's actually happening in people's lives. So let's get ready for 2008. The next year is going to be tense, I believe. The war in Iraq will get worse for the US and middle class jobs will continue to disappear. Meanwhile the Democrats in Congress, still under the control of the centrist, pro-war faction will probably fail to act with clarity or courage. That's our job. Learn from the past and prepare for the future.


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