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April 27, 2018

If the following headline causes you to be upset at the Democratic Party, then you do not understand how political parties are supposed to work: “Secret recording shows a top House Democrat pushing a progressive candidate out of a primary: Democrats are trying to winnow their own 2018 field.”

 

Congressman Steny Hoyer was secretly recorded by a “progressive Democrat” running in Colorado to whom he was speaking. Part of what he said, as quoted in a Vox.com piece by Ella Nilson follows:“Staying out of primaries sounds small-D democratic, very intellectual, and very interesting. But it was clear that it was our policy and our hope that, early on, try to come to an agreement on a candidate that we thought could win the general, and to give that candidate all the help we could give them.”

 

Nilson then writes, “Despite party officials saying they would remain neutral in Democratic primaries, the secret recording of Hoyer makes it clear the party isn’t doing that. Hoyer noted that the Colorado delegation consolidated around Crow early on; therefore, Crow was the candidate the national party would throw its weight behind.”

Is this an example of a corrupt and dishonest party leadership? It sure seems like that’s what this and other articles about it are implying, but in fact it is nothing of the sort. Hoyer’s explanation here is, frankly, impressively concise and reasonable.

When party officials say they will remain neutral in a primary it CANNOT mean that they will simply stand back and let nominees be chosen without their preferences being impactful. If that were the case, then there would be little point of parties having leaders. Official neutrality in primaries can, at best, mean no public endorsements until after the primary, NOT no efforts to DO THEIR JOB, which is to get party members elected in November.

The idea that progressive candidates are being somehow cheated when party officials channel resources to more competitive candidates is flatly wrong! If party officials believe a candidate would lose a general election, they have a duty to help opponents that would be more competitive in November.

Since it is clear that progressive critics of the Democratic Party do not understand how parties are supposed to work, I think party officials need to be VERY explicit from now on that they will be PUBLICLY neutral and that this only means that they will not PUBLICLY endorse a candidate prior to the primary. On the other hand, I would even encourage party officials to say that while they will not try to disqualify candidates they do not have confidence in, they will express their preferences both against such candidate and for others in whom they do have confidence.

As for this Colorado progressive Democrat who secretly recorded Hoyer, I hope the party publicly condemns him and calls for him to withdraw from the race.

progressive Democrats, DNC, Steny Hoyer

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