Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call on you to do a service for me.
Today, DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer held a conference call with bloggers. He was in a rush, walking and talking on a cell phone on his way to cast a vote. He talked to us about some interesting things Senate Dems are doing about tax breaks for the middle class, and to provide assistance with funding for college education, but we had been told in advance the call would be about senate races. We had our own questions (emphasis added):
Question: I’m curious: Is the DSCC taking a position where it will unconditionally support the eventual nominee of the Connecticut Democratic Party?
Schumer: We haven’t taken a position on that yet. . . (interrupted by crosstalk with staff over timing for a vote). What we do is. . . we are an organization of incumbents, and while we certainly find challengers who go up against incumbents, we support incumbents, so I know I didn’t answer your question, but we are supporting Lieberman at this point. Our general rule, and I don’t think there’s been an exception, is that we support the Democrat against the Republicans. We expect Lieberman will win, but if he doesn’t and Ned wins, my guess is we will support him. We haven’t taken a position on that but we’ve almost never deviated. I do not know of a time that the Democrats have deviated and not supported the Democrat.
Question: Would that hold if Senator Lieberman decided to run as an Independent?
Schumer: I think we’ll have to, you know, cross that bridge when we come to it, because it hasn’t happened. Will Senator Lieberman be pledging to vote for Harry Reid for Leader? Will he be running as a Democrat but on a different line? I don’t know; I’d have to give it. . . If it’s a Democrat versus a Republican, there’s no complicating factor. We’d, you know, almost always vote for the Democrat. In this situation we expect Lieberman to win. I don’t think. . . So, you know, we’ll have to weigh that when we come (sic). Our goal is first and foremost to elect a Democratic Senate. We think there’s a moral imperative there, given everything else, and I suppose that would guide our decision.
Question: So Senator, there’s a possibility that if Senator Lieberman runs as an Independent, and there’s another Democratic nominee, that the DSCC would be supporting the Independent?
Schumer: I’m not saying that there is a possibility. I’m saying we haven’t even begun to look at it yet.
Question: I hate to harp on this, but this is something that is big in the blogosphere. If the race does tighten, and Ned Lamont does make it a race, how committed is the DSCC to committing resources to Senator Lieberman since Senator Lieberman hasn’t committed to running as a Democrat?
Schumer: I think Senator Lieberman has committed to running as a Democrat to us. That’s me, and he has to Senator Reid.
Kind of speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
If you want to fight this sort of thing, help us Crash the Gate by participating in this Action Alert from this morning.
Update: Some people seem less bothered by this exchange than others. Fair enough. That’s why I reported it with minimal editorializing. But I have to ask, what’s so hard about the chair of the DSCC (emphasis on "D") saying the organization will unconditionally support the state’s chosen Democratic nominee? Is the person (the incumbent) bigger than the party? Is getting leadership control more important than respecting the will of the state’s Democratic voters? Winning is critically important, but what is winning for, and for whom?
I’m not stupid: I understand the strategic stakes and potential immediate-term ambiguities. But these kinds of questions tease out values, and we as a party have for too long made tactical, short term calculations at the expense of the Democratic movement in America, and at the expense of the country itself. That’s why we’re in the minority in every branch of the federal government.
Update II: Just to clarify, because some people seem confused. When Senator Schumer describes the DSCC’s overriding goal, he is referring to a Democratic controlled Senate. If the DSCC feels that goal is advanced by backing an Independent over a Democrat, then such matters would at least be considered. That’s the hypothetical calculus he’s describing.