Salon Radio: Jane Hamsher & Markos Moulitsas

A new campaign to recruit and support primary challengers to Congressional incumbents, supported by a vast coalition, is unveiled today.



Glenn Greenwald
October 6, 2008 8:36PM (UTC)

(updated below - Update II)

In July, I enumerated just some of the instances of complicity by the Democratic Congress with the worst abuses of the Republican agenda from the time they took over control of Congress in 2006. As part of doing so, I wrote about the creation of Accountability Now, designed to address that overarching problem, which I defined this way:

What is the best course for those who want to battle against these civil-liberties-destroying, rule-of-law-trampling, war-making policies that the GOP leadership pushes and the Democratic Party leadership supports, enables, and/or passively accepts? In a two-party system where blind support for either party will do nothing but perpetuate these policies, how can they be undermined?

Going back to March of this year, the campaign to raise funds for these efforts by a handful of blogs has generated more than $500,000, and the campaigns that have been sponsored thus far have been profiled in The Wall St. Journal, The New York Times, and numerous other publications.

Today, Accountability Now is launching a major new project devoted to compelling real accountability within the political class and forcing behavioral changes in Congress that will ensure the existence of an actual opposition party in Washington. AN is creating a new organization to recruit, coordinate, and support primary challenges against vulnerable Congressional incumbents who deserve defeat. A vast, diverse and very well-funded coalition has been assembled to participate in the initial research phase of Accountability Now's new campaign, which includes Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Color of Change, Daily Kos, Steve Rosenthal and They Work For Us (who spent $1.5 million in an issue advocacy campaign that resulted in the removal of Democratic incumbent Al Wynn from Congress, replaced by Donna Edwards), MoveOn, BlogPAC (Matt Stoller), and others.

Today on Salon Radio, I spoke with FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher, who assembled the coalition for Accountability Now, about how this new primary challenge campaign will function, the reasons why it is the optimal means for achieving AN's objectives, and the benefits of this coalition. The discussion is roughly 25 minutes long and can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below. A transcript will be posted shortly. Later this afternoon, my discussion with Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas about this campaign will be posted here as well. I believe this new campaign is potentially quite consequential for the reasons I discuss with Hamsher and Moulitsas. Those wishing to help fund this new campaign can do so at the general Accountability Now page here.

UPDATE: The discussion with Moultisas, roughly 10 minutes in length, is now posted and can be heard by clicking PLAY on the top recorder, below.

UPDATE II: The transcript for my discussion with Moulitsas is here; the transcript for my discussion with Hamsher is here.

To listen to this interview, click PLAY on the recorder below:

Glenn Greenwald: My guest today is the founder of DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas, and we're here to discuss a new project designed to do some research and test the viability of recruiting and finding credible progressive primary challengers for the 2010 cycle. Markos, thanks for joining me.

Markos Moulitsas: Pleasure. Thank you so much.


GG: Now, I wanted to begin by asking you, you've been writing in general over the last couple of months about the 'more and better Democrats' phrase, and have stressed that the 'more' part of that objective, namely "more Democrats," has been achieved, as a result of the Democratic majority now, and what will certainly be a much greater majority after the 2008 election, and the focus from now on will be on the 'better' part, meaning replacing bad Democratic incumbents with much better ones.

Why is it that you think that now is the time to do that, and what do you think the benefit of that is?

MM: Well, we started writing on races, when the sort of netroots arose, we're talking 2002, when we had fairly weak... we're bound in the Senate by what kind of seats, we were down in the House by 20-some seats, and so it was really difficult for us to talk about being picky about the kind of Democrat, when we were in the minority. So we focused in the last several cycles in building the number of Democrats in the House and in the Senate, and of course in the White House. And, now we're at the point, 2006, way ahead of schedule I think, thanks to Republican disastrous governance, we took our lead in the Senate, which is really a 49-49 deadlock with Joe Liebermann being sort of a hybrid, and obviously he doesn't count, and in the Senate [House] we took a, what is it, 34 seat majority, which is pretty impressive, but not so impressive that when you see that about 40 of those seats are held by Blue Dog Democrats, very conservative, and not just conservative in ideology, but the kind of people who really work to undermine the Democratic Party in order to score political points back home. People who work in concert with Republicans to stymie much of the Democratic agenda this past Congress.

So, we are right now on the verge, in 2008, of picking up maybe up to a dozen Senate seats, to take a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, even taking Joe Liebermann out of the equation; we may win 20 - 40 seats in the House which would put us into a 60 - 100 seat majority. These are crazy, ridiculous numbers. So, we have the sort of majority at this point where we can afford to be a little more choosy and picky about the kind of Democrat - there are so many, right now, in the House, and even some in the Senate, who have lost touch with the fact that they serve the people, that they're supposed to represent their constituents, and that they're not there for their own ego, for their own aggrandizement, or to serve corporate interests, who have seen the law, many of those people. So, what we wanted to do is, is we want to teach these people who is really their boss, and that's their local constituents, not the K Street lobbyists.


GG: Right, now, I want to ask you about a couple of objections that are typically made to the idea of launching primary challenges against Democratic incumbents in order to achieve these objectives. The first of which, is that, in a lot of these districts that you're talking about where you have Blue Dogs, the group that you mentioned, and other Democrats who have just been fairly awful, that these are conservative districts, and that only these types of Democrats, the kind of ones who serve the corporate donor base and who ignore the progressive base, that only those kind of Democrats can win, and that if you successfully mount aggressive challenges to them from the left, that what you're really going to do is ending up electing Republicans because you're going to be putting in Democrats against Republicans who can't win in those districts. What's your answer to that?

MM: You have a - obviously, every district is different; some of them are more conservative than others, and you have situations where, say in Alabama or Louisiana, where you cannot be a pro-choice Democrat and win. And it's just the reality of those districts. But, there is nowhere in the United States where voting for bankruptcy bill that benefits the credit card companies is going to cost you an election. It may cost you some lobbyists money, but it ain't going to cost you votes. There's nowhere in this country where voting for retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies is going to cost an election. It may cost you money from the AT&T and Verizon lobbyist, but it's not going to cost you votes. So, there's a difference between representing your district because of its conservative/liberal leanings, and then there are issues that really transcend partisanship or ideology and are really corporate issues. And this is where we, at least that's where I put a lot of my attention, is congressmen and senators who have lost touch with the fact that they represent their constituents, and are actually working to represent corporate interests that have absolutely nothing to do with the well-being of their district.

So, we're not going to go after representatives, congressmen, that are conservative just because they are quote "conservative." We're going to look at those districts, with representatives that elected officials that have lost touch with their constituents, and not providing their constituents service, are not voting in a way that helps the well-being and the welfare of the people who are in those districts. So, it's not a left versus right sort of thing; it's really more of a corporatist versus populist approach to governance. We think that elected officials should represent their constituents and not corporate interests.


GG: Yeah. I just want to follow up on that for a second, because one of the -- I wrote a piece, where I debated Ed Kilgore, maybe six or eight weeks ago, about whether Blue Dogs should be targeted for primary challenges and for defeat, and what was amazing was the amount of people who think that primary challenges and targeting people like that is some form of ideological purity. The argument was made that essentially it's repeating the mistakes that the Republican Party made in trying to expel and expunge anyone who is ideologically impure, and they turned themselves into this parochial minority party, by expelling anyone who didn't tow the ideological line.

How do you see this effort and your general view of primary challenges as being different from what the Republicans did: just basically implode and self-destruct?

MM: Look, DailyKos has raised a lot of money in past races for conservative Democrats like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in South Dakota and Ben Chandler in Kentucky; so we're not afraid of Democrats who are more conservative than liberal allies. It's not - they're making it an ideological issue, no matter what we do or what we say - I think on ideological issues, because that's something that I think (unintelligible).


And also, the political people who are trying to discredit us can latch on to, right, they're trying to purge. There are plenty of so-called liberal Democrats, I think, in districts around the country, who have lost touch with who they represent. I don't think it really tells us, this liberal/conservative line - it's about representing the people in your district versus representing your corporate masters.

And I think that is why the Republicans lost at the end of the day. Yeah, there's been some ideological purity type stuff happening in their caucus, but the reason that they lost their majorities is because they became corrupt. Because they became really corrupted by the corporate money, that the Jack Abramoffs of the political world. That's why so many of them are going to jail; it's why so many of them have had to retire in disgrace. And that's what I want to avoid, because, you know what? The reason that the Democrats lost control of the House in 1994 was in large part because of the scandals of those, corruption, Dan Rostenkowski-type corruption. And it costs us dearly, it cost our nation dearly, because it brought in Newt Gingrich and it brought in this Republican Congress that had so much harm to our country, and I do not want the Democratic Congress become just as corrupt as a Gingrich Congress, as a DeLay Congress, and as Rostenkowski Congress did, because if we go down that path, all we're doing is we're opening up the doors for another Republican take-over, and we cannot afford that. We've seen what happens when that happens. So, I'm more interested in making sure that we have an accountable, clean, transparent majority, that's accountable to the people -- and doesn't forget that, then a Delay-style Congress where Republicans looked the other way because all that matters is power, and protecting the incumbent at all costs, and the heck with issues of clean government, transparent government, those things. I refuse to go down that path, and I want to make sure that our party is held accountable in the way that we want to hold Republicans accountable.

GG: Yeah, I think that's an important point, that a lot of times, everything gets looked at in terms of the ideological spectrum, and these conventional left-right categories, and the overwhelming perspective really is, to whom are these officials listening, and by whom are being held accountable? And I think you're absolutely right that it actually helps a party to continuously inject these demands that they be more accountable, so that you avoid that bloated corruption that the Democratic Party became in the 1990s.

Well, Markos, I think a lot of your explanations have been interesting and helpful, and I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me today.


MM: Thank you so much. Keep up the good work.

GG: You too, Markos, bye.

[Transcript courtesy of Thames Valley Transcribe]

To listen to this interview, click PLAY on the recorder below:

Glenn Greenwald: My guest today is the founder of Firedoglake, and also the spearhead of a new project, to be unveiled today, by Accountability Now, which I personally think is extremely exciting and potentially very consequential. And that person is Jane Hamsher. Jane, thank you, and welcome.


Jane Hamsher: Thanks for having me today, Glenn.

GG: My pleasure. Now, we're here to talk about a new project that we have been working on for a couple of months and are unveiling today as part of Accountability Now, and we're going to talk about what that project is, and what it entails and what we've done with it in just a minute, but I want to, before we do that, give a little bit of background and a reminder of where we are with the year-long project we've been creating, which has become Accountability Now, and where we're at and what we've up to independent of this project.

So, as most listeners here probably know, we began this campaign in March, and it arose out of the complicity on the part of the Democrats with regard to the FISA issue. And the question we were asking ourselves at the time is, what can we do to turn the Democrats into a genuine opposition party, which they haven't obviously been almost completely for a long time, and certainly since they took over their control of the Congress in 2006. Our idea originally that we conceived of was that we would target what we call "bad Democrats," and target them for defeat or at least make their constituents aware of how unaccountable they've been, and that by doing that, we would be sending the signal to the Democratic congressional leadership, that they can't build their majority by ignoring the base, or by continuing to be subservient to corporate interests at the expense of our constitutional and civil liberties.

One of the things we've done is we've put together a small list of people that we thought were vulnerable Democratic incumbents who deserved defeat, led by people like Chris Carney, and we raised between the two projects that we've created, close to half a million dollars, in just a few months off of this idea. Some of that money is spent on things like an enduring campaign in Chris Carney's district, we've targeted Steny Hoyer, and we've run ads against him. We've run ads against other well deserved, deserving of defeat incumbents, including a Republican here and there, and we've posted all those ads, you and I have, on our blogs, and have informed people what we're doing.


But the problem that we ran into in terms of trying to figure out what to do between now and November, has been that just like in 2006, when not a single Democratic incumbent in either the House or the Senate was defeated - not a single one, they all won re-election - this year is even more pro-Democratic, and is becoming more pro-Democratic by the minute, so that there almost is no such thing as a vulnerable Democratic incumbent. There's maybe one here, one there; probably the most vulnerable one is actually a very good one, Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire. And other than that - Chris Carney is showing leads in virtually all polls, and so, if we were to take the money that we raised, and simply run ads against bad incumbents that we don't like, it would probably be emotionally satisfying, there'd be some vindictiveness to it that would be merited, but ultimately, it would probably be nothing more than just throwing away the money that we've raised in order to defeat Democratic incumbents who just this year aren't going to be defeated. That's just the reality.

So we spent that last couple of months trying to determine, are there any incumbents worth targeting, and we're still considering doing things against Chris Carney, and are polling in his district to see if he's truly as invulnerable as he seems, but what we decided was instead that a much better use of the money that we raised, would be a long-term project. And by long-term I mean beyond just November of 2008, that we believe can actually affect behavior on the part of Congress in a more systemic and enduring way in order to force the Democratic Party to become much more of an opposition party than it's been, opposition meaning different than the prevailing right-wing Washington establishment agenda. We think that our new project, that we've been working on for the last couple of months and have put together a vast coalition in order to support, is a project that can achieve that and is the best use of the money that we've raised all year. So, Jane, why don't I ask you to go ahead and describe what that project is and why you think it'll work?

JH: Well, dial back to 2006, when the Democrats first got their congressional majority. We saw people like Ellen Tauscher running as, this is a chance for a conservative Democrat to be corporate-friendly and take all kinds of K Street money, and we have to get rid of these liberal committee chairmen. And, the blog went nuts, and she was very much targeted as people started looking at her district to see who could run against her, and she changed her tune really fast. She signed on to the letter saying that timelines needed to be in any budget for getting out of Iraq, and she really backed off the hard core - at least publicly - George Bush love, and the same thing happened with Al Wynn. Al Wynn was running against Donna Edwards in Maryland as we all know, and whereas before he had been Mr. Bankruptcy - very corporate-friendly, basically saw himself in his seat as what can you do for Al Wynn; he really back-pedaled, and so we were kind of surprised that the threat of having a primary, just the fact that we were talking about it, really made a change in behavior right then, instantly, in 2006. We didn't have to wait 'til 2008 to see a change in behavior.

GG: And just if I can interrupt for one second, another example of that is Jane Harmon, who had a fairly spirited Democrat primary challenger whom she ultimately ended up defeating by, I think, like 15 or 20 points, but it was a well-funded credible challenger, and I think everyone agrees that she became less horrible than she was in the past, as a result of the fear that she would attacked on the basis of a primary challenge as well. So there's a lot of examples of that dynamic working to change behavior.


JH: Very much so, and when we sat down to think about what can we do to change behavior now, it wasn't like we sat there and said, oh, there's nothing we can do. There is something we can do now, but it does look to 2010 in order to be able to achieve those goals in the here and now. So what we decided to do was put together a coalition of groups that likewise were disappointed in the Democratic majority's failure to get out of Iraq, it looks like *Robert Manuel has been given permission to pass that Columbia free trade before the end of the term, I mean, all the things the Democrats were supposed to do and they didn't.

So, we decided that we would get together with other people who were likewise disenchanted or who would like to see people in Congress who represented more progressive views. And, I put together a coalition that could go in and say, let's take a look at the districts across the country. There's going to be a change in the composition of many districts. Brian Baird, who was a Democrat who's very, running around saying, hey the Surge is great, was in a district that was very Republican when he ran last time. There's been a huge demographic shift; it's now becoming overwhelmingly Democrat. Where we might not have had a chance of running anybody in that district who is progressive before, now the chances are very good. Where's that happening across the country? Who should we take on, just because they may be powerful and have lots of money, but they need to be shook up and let, told that nobody is safe. Should we be looking at Steny Hoyer's district? Do a serious analysis of what's happening in these districts across the country, and then go in and start looking, who are the rising stars? Who are the progressives that may not think they can get the backing to take on an incumbent, but with all of these groups and looking at what happens in the Donna Edwards race, they may feel like they have a real chance. That's what this is designed to (unintelligible).

GG: Now, let's talk about the structure of the organization and the coalition that we've assembled. The principle focus of what we've been dissatisfied with and have been talking about have been, as you mentioned earlier, Democratic complicity with the Republican erosion of civil liberties, of constitutional rights, of the basic checks and balances and certainly the whole imperialistic foreign policy that goes hand in hand with that. Other groups that we've now decided to form this loose coalition with, like SCIU and the Steelworkers' Union, and Daily Kos, and other groups and Color of Change and we may have others as well, right.

Now, all of these groups don't have the same focus and the same agenda. Some of these groups care a lot more about union issues, obviously, because they are unions, other groups care about economic progressivism as opposed to civil liberties and constitutional issues. Clearly, though, part of the problem with the Democratic Party and the reason it's been so complicit is because it's subservient to these same corporate forces. We saw that in the FISA bill, which on the one had was a civil liberties issue, and yet on the other hand was driven by the fact that all of these corporate lobbyists and AT&T and Verizon and the like, were able to drive the process and force through this subservience to corporate power and to lobbyists in both parties adherence to their agenda. So talk about what Accountability Now's role in this new organization is going to be in terms of coordinating and the looseness of the coalition that will enable these groups on an ad hoc basis to support various candidates or not, and what it is that we're doing in first instance in terms of how this is going to work, given the sometimes disparate agendas.


JH: Well, two things I'll say. One, is that people in Congress who tend to be bad on one thing tend to be bad on all of them, right? The John Barrows, the Jim Marshalls, that vote really bad every single time, tend to draw down fire from the ACLU, from the AFL, they tend to take bad votes across the board. The fact that they would provide rallying points for a group whose interests could be disparate is no surprise. And number two, what we're doing right now is basically providing information.  We're trying to figure out in a very systematic, very methodical way where the country is at after the election. What do people care about? Where are our best chances? Part of the problem is also that the Democrat leadership has been very complicit in all of these bad agendas. How do we try and break that up? How do we try and challenge that? There are going to have to be a lot of considerations made between 2010.

Donna Edwards is a unique candidate. She had run before, she knew what she was doing, she had really strong roots in her community, she was a great campaigner, she was a good person, she's smart. You don't know where you're going to find a Donna Edwards that makes everybody line up behind her. But what happened last time was that Steve Rosenthal at They Work For Us, who is part of this, and is actually is sort of running this for us, went in and ran a $1.5 million shadow campaign where money can from 1199 and SCIU and Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, and MoveOn. And a coordinated campaign was run on her behalf, and Al Wynn was soundingly defeated in that. So the fact that all these groups are officially getting together now is a very, very, very, very scary thing to people in Congress. The fact that we're looking in their districts now and evaluating if there are people who could be recruited to run against them, all the factors that they count on to ensure their reelection - a lot of them are just, it was with the announcement of this project, are giving way under their feet. No one group will be able to say, yes, we're going to go after this person and everybody's going to give money to it; it's not like that. But the fact that we're all sitting down and taking a look, and really trying to evaluate where our best chances are for 2010 I think should put them all on alert that nobody's going to be safe.

GG: Right. Now, I want to emphasize a couple of things with regard to what the philosophy is behind that. The first is that, we don't intend to restrict ourselves only to Democrats or only to Republicans. When it makes sense in terms of maximizing accountability, which is ultimately the aim of the project, or making the political class more accountable, when it makes sense to, say, challenge some horrific Republican who really is at the core of the rot with some Republican challenger who is good on a lot of these issues, that's certainly something we intend and are open to doing.  Although, what I think is so critical is that by and large, it's really going to be irrelevant who's in the Republican caucus, because the Democratic majorities in Congress, by everybody's account, are going to increase substantially, certainly after the 2008 election. So the question becomes, not who is in Congress, and which party will control Congress, but what will the Democrats do with their majority, and I think so much of what any campaign to change behavior in Congress needs to focus on is, is changing the nature of how the Democrat Party behaves.

The other aspect that I think is so important to underline is the reason why primary challenges are so scary to incumbents - and they really are, especially when they're credible and well-funded and well-coordinated, which is the purpose of this organization, is to make them as credible and as potent as possible - is one of two things happen with a primary challenge. Either it ends up succeeding, in which case the incumbent loses, and that's scary for obvious reasons, but even if you don't ultimately win, what can you do is you can substantially weaken the incumbent, you can divert resources that would go to the general election that you then force those resources instead to be spent defending against a primary challenge so the incumbent gets really weakened for the general election. I think the idea here is that you can say, we're going to be an organization that will have a list of say, depending on our funding, five or nine or thirteen or seventeen incumbents in the cycle that we intend to target with primary challenges - credible, potent serious primary challenges - and the fear of being on that list or the desire to get off that list, can change behavior among the individual members, as you say, and also among the Democrat leadership, who doesn't want see their majorities weakened or over-diminished as a result of serious primary challenges.

Now, talk about, address that and also talk about why we decided to go and seek out coalitions with these extremely well-funded groups that have a history of being able to mount these kind of serious challenges rather than just doing it on our own, and raising funds. Talk about whatever...

JH: I think you just answered that question. They're well-funded, and people take them very seriously. But I'll address your earlier point, too, because I think it's important. We've been on the blog, financing a lot of candidates through ACLU for many years now, and what we find out is that we go in and we meet these people and really like them; they're great. And they have great values, they're really good people.

GG: You're talking about candidates that you've been supporting.

JH: Challenger candidates, either in primary challenges or in the general election. And they're wonderful people and they just don't know how to run a campaign. About half-way through we'll realize, oh, this person isn't going to make it. And they probably never would. Like whatever the skill is at campaigning, they just don't have it or they didn't get the training early enough in the cycle in order to set up their campaign appropriately to make a difference, and by the time we realize it and we get in there, they're too far behind in order to make up the difference.

So we want to, early in the cycle, identify these people to see if we can't get them the resources.  Can we get them some good, from our perspective, 'cause we work online, can we get them good Internet directors and help them set up their organization online in a way that gets them out there early and be able to get their message out? Can they raise money for themselves, can they set up a campaign, can we get them trained? Are there places we can send them in order so they can learn how to get a good organization set up? What can of help can we give them early on? Just the fact that knowing we're there, people who might not otherwise run - sometimes you get the beautiful dreamer in a community who's got nothing to lose, so they'll take on the incumbent because the odds are so great, whereas the person who actually might be able to beat them doesn't want to jeopardize their standing in the community by taking on a race that they can't win, right?

GG: Right.

JH: If we can find that person early on, and help them get the resources they need, a year in, a year and a half in, we'll be able to see who's really got the right stuff, who has the capacity to be a Donna Edwards. And at that point, these groups can come back and say, yes, I want to target this person, no, I don't want to target this person, yes I believe in this candidate, let's get behind them. And we run what is known in Washington DC speak as a Steve Rosenthal special, where everybody comes together and supports alternative candidate. How many of that there'll be?  I don't know - we're purely at the research stage right now, but we're looking.  We're not keeping our field of investigation narrow. we're looking very wide this time, because progressives have been on the ropes for a long time; they have very little power in the House.  Even though there are quite a few of them, they've never been organized. We're attacking this from a lot of different avenues right now. But I think that the one that we're doing right now, which attempts to target the ones who have just said, I'm in office, I'm going to *field as much as I possibly can. I think that everybody's going to have an interest in seeing these people out of public office.

GG: I think the, taking a step back, the important thing to underscore is what the objective of any of these campaigns has to be in order for it to be meaningful at all. If you decide that you're going to decide to target one particular incumbent, you can have some deterrent affect, or it can have a broader message that gets sent, as we talked about with Ellen Tauscher and Jane Harmon, and obviously Al Wynn, incumbents who have been targeted successfully or almost successfully. It can change behavior. But what really need is an institutionalized approach and ultimately what is missing from Washington more than anything else is an opposition party, meaning a party that isn't loyal to the Washington establishment and the corporate elite and the lobbyists who run Washington, but to the American citizenry, and to these political values that have been systematically ignored.  And in the absence of some enduring institution or organization that scares these incumbents into knowing that there's a way that they can lose their seats if they continue to be so unaccountable, that behavior is just going to continue.  So what we have decided is, and we're in preliminary stage, we're putting together this organization, we're going to fund it for the first few months in terms of researching it and canvassing some of these districts, and looking at what the political realities are, what the vulnerabilities are, how these things can be approached, but that really has to be the ultimate objective, because there is no other real way to change behavior, other than by imposing some sort of fear on these incumbents. Can you just talk about why you think, if this goes well, this can actually work in effecting, not just limited change in terms of a seat here or a seat there, but more systemic change in terms of what these deficiencies have been for so long in how the Congress works?

JH: One of the reasons I moved to Washington DC about a year ago was to try and get an idea of what we're up against, because you can have all these fabulous ideas from the outside, but until you actually see it in action, and try and get a sense of what the mind-set is, it become very hard to deal with. These notions would come back that just seemed insane on their own, and I wanted to be able to try and piece them all together. So, having lived here for about a year and a half, a year and three months, my understanding of the place, and it might not be completely comprehensive, but I think this is not altogether wrong, is that when you get elected to Congress, right, you come here, and all you care about is maintaining your seat, right? And everybody else who comes here has a pact with each other, like, we'll help you maintain your seat, and you help us maintain our seat. And that's just what we're going to do.

And anybody who sets outside of that orthodoxy, is considered the enemy. It's heresy; it's just something that's not done. That's why you have organizations like Planned Parenthood, which is run by the Pact, as distinct from the states which run clinics which are absolutely amazing. The nation *tack which is run by Cecile Richards, who is somebody's kid and always needs to find a job within the Democratic Party doing something, for some organization, goes and endorses Joe Liebermann, for Senate, running against Ned Lamont, even though Joe Liebermann was instrumental in putting Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court bench, right? Even though Planned Parenthood is raising money, saying, oh, no, this is horrible, Roe v. Wade is going to go down, they endorsed Joe Liebermann, and when Joe Liebermann makes a meaningless blurb against Alito, they send out an e-mail telling their members to thank Joe Liebermann for his vote against Samuel Alito. Now, just seems insane from the outside, right? That just seems crazy. It doesn't make any sense. you're going, how could this possibly happen? When you're in Washington DC, and you see how things run in this city, you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back kind of way, and nobody's going to do anything that could possibly get anybody defeated, and we're all going to be Democrats here and then let's just line up and see how much we can all get if we're in the majority. That is the trouble with mind-set.

So when they get into the majority, they don't see that the problems in the country that may have gotten them the majority are anything that needs to be addressed. The domination of Washington DC by corporate interests is so complete and overwhelming, that when these people get into office, they go, well, I can't fight that, so my opponent is evil, and they must be defeated at all costs, so if I can get a $10 000 campaign contribution from this company by signing away a billion dollars in, not necessarily pork, but a bill designed to funnel all this money in this particular direction, then that's the righteous and good thing to do. And that is the orthodoxy that everybody ascribes to. So, until you can break that up, until you can find some other counter-balance in the universe that people go, okay, there is another sheriff in town, Gary Cooper has the walk of the town, and he is over there, and we're going to have to pay attention to him, because if we don't, all of this is going to come crumbling. You have to challenge the mind-set, the articles of faith that these people are living their lives under, or you can't change a thing. And I think that's what this coalition of groups, this organization, is trying to do. It was done somewhat successfully in the Donna Edwards race - scared the daylights out of people in Congress - so let's try and find what we did sort of by accident at that point, and give form to it, and then start to do it again institutionally really regularly in order to provide to be able to provide a counter balance.

GG: Yep, I think that's a great way of describing it and that's exactly right, you need a counterweight, because right now the people in Congress know that there are no punishments, no costs to ignoring what citizens want, and the only rewards come from serving the corporate class, and so that's what they do. You need need to change that calculus, and make them fear...

JH: They really believe that what they're doing is right.

GG: Right, and as you say, they believe that what they're doing is right because that's what keeps them in office, and so that's the formula that they understand, and so, in order to alter their behavior, that's the formula that needs to be altered and that's the purpose of trying to extrapolate the Donna Edwards model, into a much larger and more longer lasting model for being able to change behavior, and that's what this group is.

So, as we said, we're sort of in the preliminary stages, we're doing the research and putting together a couple of people to be able to work on this and gather data and polling information and surveying and canvassing districts and the like, to put together a much more comprehensive plan, and generate large amounts of funding with our coalition partners and really create a formidable task.  So obviously Jane, we'll continue to have you on hear and talk about it, we'll both keep writing about it, updating everyone on what it is we're doing, but it's a huge amount of work, the bulk of which Jane has really done over the last two, two and a half months; we've been figuring out what we wanted to do with this money so we didn't just do the easy thing, which was just create a bunch of ads against people we hate, and throw them into their districts, and have the money vanish with very little good being accomplished. This is the harder work, to figure out the longer term approach, but I think ultimately it's the much wiser and more effective course.

JH: I take the trust that people put in us when they gave that money very very seriously, and really feel, and I know that you do to, Glenn, an obligation to do the right thing and come up with a plan that really has the best chance of working.  I feel really good about what we're doing. I think that it is a real shot across the bow.  I think we have been faithful to the trust that people placed in us, and it's been a lot of work and I've really excited about it, and I want to really thank everybody for contributing to this, and for having faith in it, because I think it's going to be really exciting.

GG: Yeah, I do too, I really do, and I think it's the kind of organization that can grow and you just keep an open mind about what it can become and how it works, and I think that's what we've done. It's a really great foundation that has been laid. So, I'm excited too, and I'm excited, as always to talk to you here and everywhere else, and we'll be doing this again shortly. Thanks, Jane.

JH: Thanks.

[Transcript courtesy of Thames Valley Transcribe]

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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Washington, D.c.


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