And I put ‘moderates’ in scare quotes, as most independents aren’t moderates, but a weird, inconsistent mix of left and right opinions, depending on the issue. If a progressive candidate runs, even if she doesn’t stand a very good chance of winning, the Democratic left (construed broadly) often will do some serious fundraising for her. It might not be millions, but it will typically be enough to stay in the game. But that never seems to happen with moderate Democrats.
This is all prompted by a NY Times story describing how West Virginian Democrat Joe Manchin (who is arguably the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus) nearly decided to not run again for Senate. Leaving aside the political machination angles, there doesn’t appear to be much of a groundswell of support for Manchin (though there is much relief).
Imagine if Sen. Elizabeth Warren decided to retire. Or Sen. Bernie Sanders. There would be much wailing and gnashing of teeth from a subset of ordinary Democrats. Not political operatives, but ordinary people who don’t do politics for a living. When both of those candidates ran, they collected a lot of money and donations from the Democratic hoi polloi. But does someone like Manchin or Senator Claire McCaskill get those kinds of donations (“27 dollars!”)? Is there a rank-and-file response by conservative Democrats? There doesn’t seem to be much energy there (though it might be a good political strategy).
Consider Democrat Conor Lamb, who is running for Congress in a Pennsylvanian Republican district. As Democrats go he’s fairly conservative; he has some strong points (solid union support), but he’s hardly a progressive (and I’m pretty sure his criticsm of The Dread Nancy Pelosi isn’t rooted in his differences over how the DCCC spends its money, but in the ‘San Francisco liberal’ trope). He hasn’t really raised a lot of money either from the grass roots. Actually, he hasn’t raised much money at all–which is the point. Will the self-styled centrists step up? Are there any?
So where are these grassroots moderates? And if they are thin on the ground, maybe that should tell us something?