Is It The Freshmen, or Party Leadership?


Posted by Bob Lord

My colleagues, Pam Powers Hanley and Craig McDermott, both have posted on the recent House Financial Services Committee bill written by Citigroup and supported by most of the committee's Democrats, including Kyrsten Sinema.

This is troubling. It's hard to believe that Kyrsten's principles line up with the banksters. And she's way too smart to be duped by the banksters. 

So what's going on?

Here's my theory: I posted earlier this week on Our Democratic Party Establshment At Work. That post was almost diametrically opposed to the view I had of House leadership as a candidate in 2008. I thought the world of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz back then. How could I not? She was championing my cause (and she was a close friend of my step-sister). She was quick-witted, could speak to any issue on the spot, and always had an encouraging word. Ditto for Steny Hoyer and Adam Schiff. I only met Steve Israel once, but had he been more involved in my campaign, I'm sure I would have felt the same about him. 

So if that's the dynamic that's in play during the campaign, what happens after Rep. Freshman's election? Seems to me that the party leaders will have a ton of influence, for several reasons. First, Rep. Freshman owes them — they paved the way for Rep. Freshman's election. Second, Rep. Freshman is clueless in his or her early days. Third, Rep. Freshman looks up to the party leaders. Fourth, the party leaders have really compelling personalities. They didn't get there by chance. They know how to work people.

Now, with that background, consider the party leader who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, and who leads the Democratic House fundraising effort, Joe Crowley. From Down With Tyranny:

Since being elected to Congress, Crowley has yet to face a serious challenge for his seat, as he usually runs unopposed.

While in Congress, Crowley has turned his back on our community and New York City. While pretending to live in his mother's house in Woodside, he secretly moved his family to Arlington, Virginia in 2004. The New York Post reported that he enrolled his children in the renowned public schools of this affluent suburb of Washington, D.C. shunning New York City's educational system. Talk about arrogance.

In Congress, Joe Crowley often takes positions opposite to those of the middle class… Clearly, Congressman Crowley also does what special interests want. Let's examine his latest abomination: H.R. 658– FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act: The bill authorizes appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration for fiscal years 2011 through 2014, to streamline programs, reduce waste, improve aviation safety and capacity, and provide stable funding for the national aviation system, among other things. Our neighborhood is near two large airports and we certainly could benefit from this bill.

Supporters of this bill gave Joe Crowley $16,650. However, opponents of the bill such as teachers' unions, building trades unions and railroad unions gave Crowley a whopping $85,950. So how did Crowley vote? He voted NO. Luckily the bill passed both the House and the Senate and is awaiting approval from the President.

That makes you think Crowley is total scum. But if you met him, you'd never think that. If you met him, you couldn't help but like him. I did. He has a larger than life personality, and he's instantly likeable. 

So what happens when Rep. Freshman is faced with a vote where raising money and getting re-elected come down on one side and progressive principles come down on the other? Rep. Freshman may very well pass that test. Now, add in party leader Joe Crowley pushing really hard in the direction of raising money and getting re-elected, with a lot of well scripted arguments justifying the cynical vote?

And here's where it gets the most cynical. Everytime you see a press release from a Rep boasting about how he or she bucked party leadership, you can bet that release was drafted by party leadership itself. 

Bottom line: If Democrats want real change, they need to change party leadership. 


  1. I disagree that this problem can be solved by getting the right kind of people in party leadership. Similarly, I don’t believe that we will get legislators who represent the traditional values of the Democratic party by voting the right kind of people into office. At one time, all of the folks you mention might have acted like the right kind of people. But today, money has hijacked our system and recruiting good people to lead is not going to fix it.

    We know that money has always been the power broker in our society. But I wonder if those of us of a certain age believe that our democracy can actually work because we were raised in an era when unions and other progressive organizations were an effective balance to the a pure profit motive that now drives our ungodly wealth inequality. A constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United certainly would be a move in the right direction. But there is also the issue of our education system that prizes compliant behavior and learning to be good test takers, rather than critical thinkers. When I was young in the 60s, I had to think about why someone would tell me to always question authority. Watergate then drove that home to me. In high school in 1977, we questioned the morality of the Vietnam War in my social studies class. What are kids learning today about the war with Iraq? What kind of citizens will our children be in 20 years? (Sorry to be such a downer.)