About The Hackett Mess In Ohio
There is plenty of blame to go around in the Ohio fiasco, and after reading Paul Hackett’s statement regarding his withdrawal from the Senate race in his state, he has earned his sliver of the pie as well.
He closes his statement with this, “Remember, we must retool our party. We must do more than simply aspire to deliver greatness; we must have the commitment and will to fight for what is great about our party and our country; Peace, prosperity and the freedoms that define our democracy.” Then stick it out and run anyway, regardless of what the Party leadership says. This inconsistency is a bit irritating for those of us who were behind him in his efforts to shake up the party and win a Senate race by straight talking the voters. If he couldn’t reach a negotiated settlement with the Party, he should have kept going and let the chips fall where they may. It would have been a great primary and in the end, the loser could have gotten behind the winner in the real fight against the Republican incumbent. By ending his campaign on such a sour note, he has turned himself into a martyr and turned his supporters into cynics who may stay home in November instead of supporting a progressive candidate like Sherrod Brown.
In all fairness to Hackett, he did enter the Senate race first, while Sherrod Brown was still dithering around trying to decide whether or not he was interested. When Rep. Brown saw that the race was on and Hackett was willing to do what he himself would not, he should have jumped on board and supported Hackett’s bid. And so should have the national party apparatus. It’s not as if Hackett was some nobody with no name recognition, he had almost pulled off a miracle in his Republican district last year. He had a great message, crossover appeal, progressives excited and bloggers on his side who have proven they can bring in the campaign cash. When they had a good candidate, the DNC should have ceased trying to recruit for a job that was already filled and got behind the candidate they had.
Recruiting Sherrod Brown to run for the Senate seat based on the “conventional wisdom” bullshit amongst the elites that Brown had better name recognition and therefore had a better shot, has resulted in huge problems in Ohio that can be laid squarely at the feet of the Party leadership. They have micro-managed democracy to the point of alienating voters, but this seems to be the greatest skill honed by Democrats over the last ten years. If the Democratic Party leadership is going to clear the way for the candidate of their choice through intimidation and behind the scenes manipulation of the money donors, then let’s due away with primaries altogether. What good is a primary of one exactly?
Either the Democratic Party believes in democracy and our right as voters to select the candidate of our choice, or they don’t. The Party leaders who strong-armed Hackett into quitting the race in the name of “party unity” have failed miserably in achieving that goal and have instead managed only in splitting the Party in Ohio in two. They haven’t yet figured out that unintended consequences can be devastating when it comes to policy decisions, let’s hope they are a bit quicker on the uptake when it comes to political ones. The most detrimental consequence of the Democrats myopic view of this particular Senate race may prove to be the reluctance of other war veterans to run for office on our ticket, along with the alienation of veterans who would have been inclined to vote for them. These are men and women who place their very lives in the hands of those with whom they serve, making trust and loyalty a crucial part of who they are. By backing out on their promise to support Hackett’s candidacy, the Democrats have shot themselves in the foot yet again. Next time the leadership wants to preach to us about party unity, how about they first demonstrate that they understand what that means. Here’s a hint: it cuts both ways.
There is a silver lining to this mess though, and that is that Sherrod Brown is not a centrist Democrat, he is a progressive with a long record of supporting the issues that we care about most. He voted against the war, against the Bankruptcy Bill, against re-authorization of the Patriot Act and led the fight against CAFTA. However badly the situation was handled, the end result is still good. This is not a case of a DINO winning out over a progressive. This was an ugly intra-party feud that never should have happened. It was handled badly by everyone involved, but it is by no means a loss for progressives. While the top down dictation by party leaders in selecting the candidate of their choice is a problem we must all be willing to go to the mat in order to fix, this particular race, in the end, was a choice between two great candidates so we could hardly lose.
Progressives should wash the bad taste out of our mouths and get behind Sherrod Brown. He may lose, as he doesn’t have the crossover appeal that Hackett had (and those damn Diebold machines are still a problem), but he will surely lose without our support and regardless of how we feel about the way he entered the race, his record is one we can be proud of. This is a high-class problem for those of us on the left, two good candidates rather than the one bad one we’re so used to. If Brown will stay on message, take a lesson from Hackett and not only push hard a progressive agenda that benefits working Ohioans but shout it out at the top of his lungs, he’s got a very good chance of winning. And Paul Hackett should help make that happen, regardless of whether or not he was personally treated badly by the Party. There is no rest for the weary and this is going to be a long struggle. Like he said, “we must have the commitment and will to fight for what is great about our party and our country”. Don’t waste too much time licking your wounds Mr. Hackett, we need you on the frontlines.