A Brand New Congress?

by Mark Lause, North Star Editorial Board member on August 7, 2016

lobbyists

Something called “Brand New Congress” now seems to be emerging as the latest Democratic Party scam to channel the momentum of the Sanders campaign into service of the party.  The organization describes itself as originating in “just an idea that some of us Bernie volunteers and former staff have been talking about with each other.”  One suspects that the latter had much more to do with shaping it than the former.

Through a very spiffy and pricy website, it offers as its public face is a page full of individual photos and statements by Sanders volunteers.  One of them assures us that this approach “gives us another opportunity to build on the momentum from the Bernie Sanders campaign, and finally stop the influence of big money in politics and the lack of representation in our government.”

BNC claims that it wants to recruit and field new candidates in all the Congressional districts.  And it offers to bring organization and money to bear on their behalf.  They do not want to start a third party because “America seems to be sick and tired of parties.”  And “we are not trying to create a big bureaucracy behind our candidates. It’s just them.”  If that sounds like a contradiction to the idea of BNC as a unified force, it is.

And if they see third parties as generating “a big bureaucracy,” we should certainly expect them to take their distance from the structures of the two major parties.

Don’t count on it.

A search for “Brand New Congress” at OpenSecrets.org indicates a hit on a page listing PACs, though when you click on that link, the BNC isn’t listed.  It probably was on the page at one point, but the actual structure of the thing has been fluid.  But its origins seem to have been less to “stop of the influence of big money in politics” as to help get more of it into politics..

Much of what they’re presenting is less than honest.

They claim that the strategy is to “run in the primaries and then as independents if they lose.”  Most people who read this probably don’t realize that fielding an independent campaign after the primaries will only be possible in states committed to permitting and counting write-ins.

BNC presents itself as non-partisan, and assures potential participants and contributors that their donations and efforts won’t just go to the Democratic Party.  Indeed, it insists that it collects these through ActBlue, which “is a private entity with no connection to any party. It’s a great service for accepting donations. That’s why we use them.”

OpenSecrets quotes ActBlue’s self-description as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.”  “As a federally registered political action committee,” continues OpenSecrets, “it serves as a conduit for online contributions to Democratic candidates and committees. That is, ActBlue bundles and transmits earmarked contributions from individuals raised on their website to specific candidates.”

In its 12-year history, ActBlue has raised over $1.2 billion dollars for the Democratic Party.

To summarize, we’re talking about promoting Democratic Congressional candidates (selected through the BNC process) in primaries.  After the primaries, the efforts will naturally focus on those who’ve won the nomination.  In practice, independent political action will be out of the picture, as will be any candidates who haven’t packaged their politics in a way acceptable to the local Democratic power structure.

Time will tell on such things, but right now BNC offers us a spiffy website and a carefully crafted presentation of fresh-faced, well-intentioned Sanders supporters, but the substance isn’t really going to be a Brand New Congress but some brand new members, some of which we get very two years.

People serious about a “brand new Congress” need to change the mechanisms by which people get into Congress. Every election, the big money, the lobbyists, the NGOs, etc. comes in and weigh the composition of that Congress they way they want and the voters are left to choose between preselected options.  The BNC offers no solution to this.

What it does offer is a means of getting more votes into Congress that will support President Clinton . . . which raises interesting questions about the funding of this entire operation.

A real Brand New Congress will need Brand New Politics.

 

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Davidson August 7, 2016 at 7:42 pm

You beg the question. We all know that many Democrat officials run on a platform opposed to the Third Way faction of Clinton, and much more in tune with Bernie’s platform and that of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Like PDA, BNC aims to cherry-pick candidates that will weaken one faction and promote others. You don’t have to agree with this, but it’s a bit disingenuous in ignore or cloud it over.

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Daniel August 7, 2016 at 7:59 pm

Since the members of the si calls Dem Progressive Caucus have supported Clinton’s claims and political throughout 2016 amid all the BS and since they support Obama’s whole presidency of changing nothing I think it is you who are being disingenuous

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Carl Davidson August 8, 2016 at 9:48 am

PDA and the Congressional Progressive Caucus call for a vote for Clinton over Trump, and wisely so. But they run their candidates on platforms opposed to hers, and if the win, they strengthen their forces and weaken hers, but without helping Trump. This is not a one-round battle.

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Steven Combes August 8, 2016 at 10:24 am

Go Green Party!
No coronation!
No getting in line!

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Cornelius Brantley, Jr. August 8, 2016 at 5:00 pm

The strstegy needed is for the Green Party to recruit and run two candidates, one in the Democratic primary who endorses the second, the Green Party nominee if the Democrats nominate a corporatist instead of a peace loving green progressive.

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Cornelius Brantley, Jr. August 8, 2016 at 5:01 pm

The strategy needed is for the Green Party to recruit and run two candidates, one in the Democratic primary who endorses the second, the Green Party nominee if the Democrats nominate a corporatist instead of a peace loving green progressive.

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Shelley Tamres August 13, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Cornelius – Anyone who runs in a Democratic primary pledges to support the winner. You’d be asking them to go back on their word in order to endorse a Green.
Mark Lause – I disagree with your comment in the article about write-ins being needed to field an Independent run after losing a Primary. First, not all states have “sore loser” laws. Second, BNC could simply run a second candidate.

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Carl Davidson August 13, 2016 at 6:02 pm

You guys are missing the point. IF the BNC grows large enough, the Dems will implode, or BNC will be purged, At that point, you can make a new First Party

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S.Artesian August 17, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Or they can do what all the other “change from within” organizations have done, simply disappear, or integrate themselves successfully within the existing structures of the Democratic Party; and then disappear; or get candidates to pay lip service to a progressive agenda, which agenda will be abandoned, reversed, or flipped in short order, and then disappear.

Great strategy you got there, Carl.

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Carl Davidson August 18, 2016 at 8:56 am

That’s a possibility with any strategy, Artisan, when those engaged lose their revolutionary will, inside or outside. ‘Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will’ was a motto to counter such things.

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S.Artesian August 19, 2016 at 10:54 am

Sure thing Mr. Davison, but at issue was your “either/or” claim: ” IF the BNC grows large enough, the Dems will implode, or BNC will be purged, At that point, you can make a new First Party.”

Now you admit those aren’t the only possibilities and so your subsequent claim that “you can make a new First Party” is without support.

You can always pretend that you are making a “new” First Party, but you won’t be, you’ll just be repeating the same old, same old.

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Carl Davidson August 19, 2016 at 4:10 pm

I’m presenting a working hypothesis, not a iron conclusion about the future. The only thing we know for sure is that there is only one case in US history where one of the two major parties was taken down, and replaced by a new and better one, The Whigs shattering, and then Lincoln’s Whig faction merging with Ftrr Soilers, Liberty Party, Greenbacks, and Wide Awakes to make the new GOP that carried him to victory.

Of course my tactic of forming a ‘party within a party’ may fail. We’ll see. But I’ve been a member of the Citizen’s party, New Party, Labor Party Advocates and the Greens. And my experience is that they gain no traction and flop. Keep trying if you like, but as the Bernie upsurge indicates, we get more results this way.

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Carl Davidson August 19, 2016 at 11:32 am

Why is that so? If the Dems implode, and the Third Way faction purges the labor/.rainbow factions, and those in turn merge with , say, the Greens, DSA and the Leftroots groups,and other insurgeent mass organizations and make a new ‘First Party’, call it Progressive Democracy or an Alliance of the Democratic Left, united around, say, the plaform Bernie ran on, or even better, wouldn’t that be a step forward? Especially if the mew grouping could win, say, 150 seat in Congress, not to mention sate and local?

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S.Artesian August 19, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Cal,

You start out stating Mark Lause “begged” the questions, when his article shows that BNC is an appendage of the big D Democratic Party and is being less than transparent about its connections, and less than honest about its prospects for running candidates independent, and independently, from the Democratic Party.

Claiming Mark “begged” the question then is a highly dubious, if not downright disingenuous assertion.

Then you point out what a “wise” thing it is to endorse Clinton, as long, I guess, as you are running candidates that “oppose” her programs, because that will “weaken” Clinton.

That’s highly dubious assertion number two. Exactly how that weakens Clinton when, on every critical matter, they will tactically align with her faction against the “greater evil” of the Republicans at every critical juncture, just as you recommend that alliance at this critical juncture, requires a leap of faith…which you seem always eager to make.

Then you claim “if BNC grows enough, the Dems will implode.” Why? Why wouldn’t the Dems just coopt those who give every indication of willing to be co-opted at critical junctures against the “greater evil” Republicans? Your faith based assertion is more than dubious– it’s a regular disavowal of reality.

Oh, or, according to you, BNC will be purged, and its elements will be ripe for another “third way” alternative– which of course will endorse the official Democrats at every critical juncture against the greater evil Republicans.

Now not to put too fine a point on it, that’s not exactly a strategy you’ve got going there, it’s a repetition compulsion.

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Carl Davidson August 19, 2016 at 4:12 pm

The BNC as ‘appendage’? As far as I know, it’s an independent PAC, not subject to the DNC’s ‘discipline, such as it is. But if you think everything operating under the Dem tent is ipso facto an ‘appendage’, well, that’s what I mean by ‘begging the question.’

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S.Artesian August 19, 2016 at 7:59 pm

“BNC presents itself as non-partisan, and assures potential participants and contributors that their donations and efforts won’t just go to the Democratic Party. Indeed, it insists that it collects these through ActBlue, which “is a private entity with no connection to any party. It’s a great service for accepting donations. That’s why we use them.”

OpenSecrets quotes ActBlue’s self-description as “the online clearinghouse for Democratic action.” “As a federally registered political action committee,” continues OpenSecrets, “it serves as a conduit for online contributions to Democratic candidates and committees. That is, ActBlue bundles and transmits earmarked contributions from individuals raised on their website to specific candidates.”

In its 12-year history, ActBlue has raised over $1.2 billion dollars for the Democratic Party.”

Appendage or not? You make the call. Reads like an appendage to me.

What’s the question? How to unify “left” elements that circulate around the Democratic Party? That might be your question, Cal. And you can answer it as you see fit. I don’t happen to think the answer is going to be very productive.

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Carl Davidson August 20, 2016 at 7:45 am

You might say the same for Paypal. The money goes to designated candidates, not the Party. I think a good way is to unite forces is around Bernie’s platform or that of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, both of which differ from the DNC. That is, if you want the candidate to unite a progressive majority. If you only want to unite a militant minority, you can use PLS platform, or the dictatorship of the proletariat, or whatever you like. You’re then only running to educate, not to win.

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S.Artesian August 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

“You might say the same for Paypal.” Indeed, and we know about the politics of Paypa’s owner, don’t we.

There is a slight difference however. BNC misrepresents what ActBlue is and does, so that hardly speaks well of any claims to independence.

What I love most of all, Cal, is how you constantly change the issues when you are confronted with facts. First it’s how there are only two alternatives, then when there aren’t only two, then there are possibilities– of the DSA and Rainbows etc. leaving; and then there’s appendages that aren’t appendages, and then when they really are appendages, there’s always “winning” vs. “educating.”

Except exactly what do you think you are winning with your contortionist “boring” [in more than once sense] from within strategy? Exactly what have you won for example with your support of Obama?

And I really love this:

“I’m presenting a working hypothesis, not a iron conclusion about the future. The only thing we know for sure is that there is only one case in US history where one of the two major parties was taken down, and replaced by a new and better one, The Whigs shattering, and then Lincoln’s Whig faction merging with Ftrr Soilers, Liberty Party, Greenbacks, and Wide Awakes to make the new GOP that carried him to victory.

Of course my tactic of forming a ‘party within a party’ may fail. We’ll see. But I’ve been a member of the Citizen’s party, New Party, Labor Party Advocates and the Greens. And my experience is that they gain no traction and flop. Keep trying if you like, but as the Bernie upsurge indicates, we get more results this way.”

One major party was taken down, the Whigs, and the Whigs were destined to crack apart because………why, Cal, it’s because they thought they could avoid the fundamental issue of that period in US history; they would not confront the issue of slavery and the slave power.

With all due respect, in these discussions, you’re the Whig– urging that we all avoid, or veil, issues of class, of capital, of class struggle.

What made the Republicans a successful party was that they represented a specific class interest, and were able to mobilize a large sector of society around that class interest– which was, originally, the restriction of slavery, which had to become a civil war against slavery. Don’t forget what was the real impulse behind the Republican Party– the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the civil war in Kansas.

The South, and the Democrats, knew what was at stake, what was inevitable.

And then let’s not forget the limitations encapsulated by that “new party” the Republicans, based on that same class allegiance, that loyalty to bourgeois property– the turning away from Reconstruction, the acquiescence in the return to power of the plantation class, the active support Redemptionist governments in the South by Republicans such as Tom Scott (of the Pennsylvania RR), the equivocation by our “new party” in the face of terrorism waged by the ex-slaveholder class after 1870.

Nothing is more ridiculous than holding up half of history as a lesson for the future.

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Carl Davidson August 21, 2016 at 7:47 am

Paypal? Every left group I know uses it for their own dues and donations, despite the politics of Peter Thiel, its founder. Are we all thereby appendages of the Pentagon, the founder of the Internet?

I’m quite familiar with the history of the GOP, the decline of the radical Republicans and the Hayes-Tilden sellout. But under Lincoln, it was backed by Marx, and it remains the only example one how one major party collapsed, and a faction of it joined with others to make a new major party. As you well know, we have no successful case of the kind of party you’re looking for.

I’ll stick with the ‘Bernie Revolution’ tactic, and see what we can do with it. You can go with the Greens or whatever other group you want, and we can compare notes in a few years.

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S.Artesian August 21, 2016 at 9:25 am

Bernie revolution? You’re not supporting any “Bernie revolution,” as debatable a concept as that may be. You’re supporting Clinton.

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Carl Davidson August 21, 2016 at 2:05 pm

I will indeed give HRC a vote to defeat Trump. But Bernie’s ‘Revolution’ is not going to be liked much by her or her ‘third way’ faction, especially beyond Nov 8. The longer argument in here…. http://carldavidson.tumblr.com/post/141210444802/leaders-of-the-gops-three-parties-trump-of-the

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Esme September 25, 2016 at 10:19 pm

Thank you for the illuminating article. I signed up for BNC emails after reading a pitch in The Guardian. I received a request for candidate suggestions. I thought of a couple of people, but was pretty busy and didn’t respond. THEN I got an email asking for more suggestions because people were nominating themselves. They were very specific not to nominate activists. “Activists have their place” the email said. That place is not in political office. Unbelievable. That was when I realized that there was something very fishy about BNC. I’m glad someone it speaking up. I thought I was fairly savvy and they punked me. Later I got another email from them Sking for donations for the Dakota Pipeline protestors. So, pay off the activists but make sure they’re never in a position to work for just legislation. How do the people at BNC sleep at night?

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John schmidt December 7, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Trump won, get over it you sanctimonious libtards.

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Reader February 8, 2017 at 8:52 am

Blah blah blah…Libtard, I will own. Proud to be a liberal and a part of a group (tard) that has more compassion in it’s little pinky than you have in your whole body. But “santimonious”. I’ve never known a more judgemental, sanctimonious group than the GOP. Wonder how you’re feeling about Mr. Trump now….?

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