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How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101

Photo by Coco Curranski | CC BY 2.0

Dan Feehan has successfully bought the Democratic nomination for Minnesota’s first congressional district (MN-CD1). Dan, having lived outside the state since the age of 14, has allegedly misled the public on his FEC form, claiming residence at his cousin’s address. Here is Dan’s FEC filing form. One can see that it his cousin who lives at this address. In her endorsement of Dan, she mentions living with her husband and two children, and claims Dan as a cousin, not a housemate. His wife still works in Washington D.C. and his kids live there too.

Mr. Feehan has no chance to win in November. While nobody likes a candidate from Washington D.C., people hate Washington money even more. To be fair to Dan he hasn’t taken super PAC money, somehow. But he has raised 565,000 dollars, an outrageous sum for a congressional race. 94% of this money has come from outside the district, and 79% from outside the state. Where does this money come from? Well, according to the campaign, from people around the country who want to keep Minnesota blue. If this was the case, why not wait to give money until Minnesota voted for a candidate in the primary and then donate? And who on earth has this much money to pour into an obscure race outside of their state?

Even if we were to pretend that this money was benign small donations from interested citizens one would have to ask: what about the people in the district? Shouldn’t they have a right to choose who represents them? For all the hoopla around Russian interference, shouldn’t citizens be just as concerned about interference from Washington?

Rich people from outside of the district bought this seat. Perhaps they aren’t super PACs, or at least they found a loophole. But they are rich enough to decide this local race. Why they chose this seat is beyond me. Perhaps because they knew a slick military man who lived here for part of his childhood. Regardless of the reason, this congressional race was decided in Washington a long time ago. The rural people of Minnesota’s first congressional district, who have little time and money to spare, can only give so much to the race. We stand no chance against the Washington elites with bottomless bank accounts. In a country with grotesque inequality, the rich decide who is elected to office. And because of this, the rich get richer.

MN-CD1 is a district is full of farmers who are being left behind by the Washington establishment. Dan speaks in vague mantras only. In contrast look at local candidate Rich Wright’s thoughtful and specific goals for farmers. To quote from his website: “1. Ensuring adequate safety nets for farmers, including crop insurance that fully covers unforeseen losses. 2. Helping young farmers enter agriculture as a career. 3. Investing in diverse farming, such as organic and sustainable crops, to meet demand. 4, Appropriating funds for rural development and infrastructure.” Big city neoliberals think they have the answers, which is fine, but they have no right to decide elections for the people of MN-CD1.

Establishment Democrats have failed to reach rural communities. They do not consider farmers or any citizen of the rural communities to be an important part of their platform, or even their constituency. They have often been quite insulting and dismissive to rural communities. And of course, under the rule of both corporate parties, life for family farmers is becoming more and more challenging. Fox News may call it the liberal war against the family, but it is really the corporate war against the family. The Democrats aren’t brave enough to seriously go after what passes as “family values” in this country, they only go after a family’s means to live.

Dan Feehan is of the same breed that most post-Trump Democrats are. Clean cut, military experience, stern, anti-gun, anti-crazy Orange monsters, anti-negativity, and anti-discrimination of rich people who fall under a marginalized group. What are they for? No one knows. If pushed they want “good” education, health care, jobs, environment, etc. But they want Big money too for various reasons, but the ones cited are: because that is the only way to win, because rich people are smart and poor people are dumb, and because money is speech. So they cannot and will not make any concrete commitments. Hence energy becomes “all inclusive”, as if balancing clean and dirty energy was a college admissions department diversity issue, rather than a question of life or death for the entire planet. Healthcare becomes not a right, but a requirement with a giant handout to insurance companies. Near full employment (with the near being very important, when we consider leverage) comes with part-time, short-term, and low paying work.

The Clintonite Democrats and their spawn are postmodern progressives. In their world, there is no way to test if one is progressive. Within the world of the Democratic party, there is no relativity. It is merely a universe that exists only to clash with (but mostly submit to) the parallel Republican universe. Whoever proves to be the victor should be united behind without a thought given to their place within the political spectrum of Democrat voters. They believe, if I were to paraphrase René Descartes: “I Democrat, therefore I progressive.”

The Democrats are seen as a shoe-in for this year’s congressional races because they are not in the party of Donald Trump. Don’t count on that being enough. This would be overestimating both the disillusioned public and the hapless Democrats. There is nothing to vote for, as the neoliberals can only have consistent politics with a very small and confused group: those that support widening inequality and cheery liberal kitsch. There is such a group in this country, but if you hate poor people, you might as well go for the whole shebang, as the Republicans have. Anything else is just confusing, although of course marginally preferable.

And don’t underestimate the Bernie wing of the Democratic Party either. Bernie may leave some things to be desired but his supporters are tired of the Democrats screwing over every reasonable candidate. This is a large wing, and they have proved that they are not going to take whatever the DNC is giving them. Blame Bernie if you want for the corporate Democrats losing this November; but if he is at all responsible, we should be thanking him.

In short, the primary races, where the corrupt DNC decides between the big money neoliberal candidates and the more grass root leftish ones may prove to be very consequential in deciding which party takes over Congress in 2018. And this will determine how awful Donald Trump will be allowed to be in his final two years, that is assuming the Democrats would do anything to stop him.

The Democrats aren’t learning much from their past mistakes, but neither are we if we continue to believe in them. There is no viable third party right now, despite some brave efforts by some. This is because of money, and the fact that third parties really are blocked from participating in the electoral process at all. Something more radical than the electoral process then will be necessary for any positive change in our society.

For anyone interested in stopping the bleeding from Trump and the GOP, the Democrats winning Congress in 2018 would be helpful. This is an urgent goal and one not necessarily inconsistent with the more radical changes our society needs to make. But they are already pissing away their chances by pushing through unpopular and corrupt candidates in their primaries. Dan Feehan asked the crowd at Saturday’s convention: “In the age of Trump, what are we, as Democrats for?” A good question. If only our candidates had an answer.

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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