Establishment Dems Proving Themselves Clueless In Washington's 1st District Race

If you want a classic example of the way Establishment Democrats are perfectly tone-deaf when it comes to the concerns of the working families they like to flatter themselves as representing, take a look at how the race in Washington's

If you want a classic example of the way Establishment Democrats are perfectly tone-deaf when it comes to the concerns of the working families they like to flatter themselves as representing, take a look at how the race in Washington's brand-spanking-new First District is shaping up, particularly on the Democratic side.

Because instead of backing Darcy Burner, the progressive candidate with far and away the greatest name recognition and a record of working for working-class families and their interests -- particularly when it comes to things like protecting Medicare and Social Security, and getting their children out of war zones -- the state's establishment Dems seem to be lining up behind Susan DelBene, a pro-business faux-progressive Dem with little popular support but very deep pockets.

Evidently, it's all about the money. In a year when Democrats should be listening to the anger of their constituents at the failure of Washington politicians to take care of the interests of ordinary people, these dimbulbs are going back to politics as usual and backing the candidate with the deepest pockets, not the deepest support among voters.

On the Republican side, Tea Party nutter John Koster is running largely unopposed and leads in early polling -- largely because it's a six-way race on the Democratic side right now. Things will be different in the fall, when his far-right record and rhetoric will come front and center.

A weekend Seattle Times story laid out the contours:

The Democratic establishment is coalescing behind Suzan DelBene, a former Microsoft vice president who largely self-funded her losing 2010 campaign against U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, who represents the 8th District.

But in this year of economic anxiety and the noise surrounding the Occupy movement, DelBene's opponents are taking jabs at her wealth, to appeal to struggling families.

As Darcy Burner, a progressive activist who twice lost to Reichert, says: "There's already an overrepresentation of the 1 percent in Washington, D.C."

You may notice something important missing from this story. There's plenty here touting DelBene's candidacy, for instance, but nothing telling readers how the candidates actually stack up in terms of support:

DelBene's résumé looms largest. She was appointed Gov. Chris Gregoire's Department of Revenue director after an executive career at Microsoft and Drugstore.com, among others. She and her husband, Kurt, a Microsoft president, live in a $4.8 million Lake Washington waterfront home and said she would, like last time, put her own money into her campaign.

"We talk about the American dream, yet we're in a place where we're making it harder and harder. I don't know if I would be able to tell my same story if I were growing up today," she said.

In an apparent effort to trim the field, Gregoire and Larsen endorsed DelBene, as did the state Washington State Labor Council.

What the story neglects to mention is that despite all this Establishment support -- including, amazingly, the support of labor unions, despite the fact that they have been struggling with (and loudly complaining about) a Congress full of Blue Dog Democrats who always fail somehow to actually come to the defense of working families -- there is hardly any popular support for DelBene, who wasn't even a Democrat until a few years ago, and who tells interviewers that she became a Democrat because she thought the party needed to be more friendly to business interests. That is, DelBene is a classic Blue Dog in the making, and her progressive positions have no action behind them to suggest she would carry through with them once in Congress.

Rather the contrary -- it's clear that DelBene instead intends to attack Burner for having fought for progressive positions. If you keep reading the Times story, you'll discover the scandalous thing that Darcy tweeted that the DelBene campaign used to scare off her supporters in King County:

But King County Democrats struggled with their pick.

A subcommittee recommended DelBene and Burner, but then backed away from Burner when a Twitter message she sent in August 2011, while at Progressive Congress, became public. In it, she criticized President Obama during the debt-ceiling debate, writing, "Barack Obama isn't a bad Democrat — because he's not a Democrat. He's a Republican."

Burner's tweet, it should be understood, came just as word had circulated on Capitol Hill that Obama intended to put Social Security and Medicare on the table as negotiating chips during the debt-ceiling showdown that was occurring then -- and she was properly criticizing the President, as should have any progressive worth their salt, for making these items negotiable. Pressure from people like Burner helped persuade the President to change course, which (thank God) he did.

If it had been up to Susan DelBene or the King County Democrats, apparently, that wouldn't have been the case.

Here's what else the Times story didn't tell you: What the actual polls show.

Polls taken in March, for instance, clearly demonstrated Burner's big lead among actual Democratic voters in the new first District: nearly half the total vote, 45 percent, went to Burner, and some 54 percent of them have a favorable impression of her. DelBene, in contrast, comes in fourth with only 12 percent support, and only 21 percent of Democratic voters have a favorable impression of her. (The other progressive in the race, Laura Ruderman, comes in a consistent second with 15 percent support and a 17 percent favorability rating.)

In other words, it's clear that the voters want a real progressive to vote for, not a fake one. But the Establishment Dems are so enamored with DelBene's deep pockets that they are willing to risk running a candidate who inspires no actual support just because she can finance enough ads to sell her way into the seat.

I have a hunch the voters will have other ideas come August, when the primary is actually held.

As the story notes:

Steve Zemke, chair of the King County Democrats, said the party likely won't endorse a single candidate because Burner, Ruderman and DelBene each have fans and are running vigorous campaigns. "I'll say this, they're not easily scared out of the race," he said.

Not by deep-pocket money, at least.

If you want to help make the point that there are other ways to finance a political campaign than with the pocket money of the 1 percent, you should go to Darcy's Blue America page and chip in some nickels. (Here's Darcy's campaign site.)

About David Neiwert

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