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Full Court Press -- 435 congressional primaries in 2012

jeffroby's picture

The plan

The basic concept is simple and flexible. The plan is to file a candidate in all 435 Democratic congressional primaries in 2012. A Full Court Press (FCP) candidate would agree to the following 5 principles:

o WPA-style jobs program
o Medicare available for all
o Repeal Hyde Amendment and its ilk
o Repeal DOMA, DADT, support gay marriage
o U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan

These points in their entirety are designed to highlight the distance between the Democratic Party leadership and officials, on the one hand, and the progressive Democratic Party base on the other. If different issues face us two years down the line, they can be modified accordingly.

The bottom line is to have at least one FCP candidate on the primary ballot in every district.

The FCP activist would pay the required filing fee or gather required signatures or combination thereof to get on the primary ballot. While any FCP candidate could run a full-fledged campaign with the intent of winning the seat, a minimal candidate could:

o Ask the other candidates if they will actively support the FCP points and put that in writing.

o If they sign, the FCP candidate could simply endorse that candidate, or the best of those candidates (if such is the case) and campaign actively for their endorsee or not as the FCP candidate sees fit.

o If that candidate betrays the points, the FCP candidate would have the option of campaigning more aggressively.

The FCP candidate could minimally:

o Talk to the local press.

o Appear at candidate nights.

Tactically, that's it. That's the plan. This requires some money and some effort, and ballot requirements vary from state to state, but it is within the capability of the ordinary citizen. The main requirement after getting on the primary ballot is a willingness to make some phone calls and show up. If the FCP candidate wanted to do more and could do more, that would be excellent. But not required. The FCP candidate could raise other progressive issues based on local circumstances. Or not.

The plan is flexible and the power is in the spread.

Frequently Asked Questions

Aren't you imposing a litmus test?

Of course. About goddamn time, too. The Democratic Party as it now operates is an orgy of pragmatism. Judged in terms of pragmatism, it has failed utterly unless your pragmatic goal is to attract corporate contributions. Like it or not, litmus has been working for the Republicans in terms of moving public policy to the right, e.g., Stupak.

But what about actually winning seats?

That seems to be everyone's first thought. But it's a mistake. Going for a win without massive resources and groundwork forces us to play their game by their rules. We all have stories about the progressive Robert Redford-like candidate who moved right during the campaign, “only to win,” and kept sliding once in office because that’s what you have to do to be a player. That’s the rules. Full Court Press will drive them crazy because it breaks the rules. We are challenging the entire Democratic Party with 435 cuts.

We are angry, we are crazy, we're not gonna take it, won't get fooled again, no more promises in the dark, no more leading role in a cage. The power is in the spread.

Will such low-key races be effective? Will anyone even notice?

Damn sure they'll notice. Why? We'll be like a gleaming silver needle headed towards an over-inflated balloon. They may look smug, but their underlying weakness is the huge disparity between their shenanigans in Congress and the opinions of the Democratic base, as well as the American people. Based on FEC 2008 info, 71 Democratic representatives faced no primary challenges, and the great majority of those were incumbents, largely in New York and the South. The thought of having to actually fight progressives for their seats against anyone will send chills up their spines. 435 chills. 435 needles.

Don't your 5 principles open the door to all sorts petty wrangling?

They do. Unfortunately, such is the human condition. But the Full Court Press is for people who actually want to do something. We have to trust that people who actually want to do something will actually do something.


For instance, if Anthony Weiner has to pay the price for what Stupak does, it gives him an incentive to try to do something about Stupak rather than simply trying to keep his own hands clean. So Anthony gets on our good side by signing the 5 principles. But he double-crosses us. Full Court Press isn't magic. Not a blueprint for all situations. No guarantees. Evaluations have to be made. But Weiner’s young and hopes to have a future, so I'd guess that next election he's got a Full Court Press challenger.

Ballot Access, how hard is it?

I’ve put together some rough numbers using a site put up by FireDogLake ( ) containing congressional ballot access info. Making some quick calculations, filing in all 435 states, would take:

$588,081 in filing fees
298,488 signatures

Split 435 ways, that comes to:

$1,358 filing fee
693 signatures

It varies wildly by state, of course, with 10,000 sigs and $100 in South Carolina, to 1,000 sigs and $3,480 in Virginia. New York only requires 1,250 sigs, but its paperwork is murderous, designed to let party regulars knock insurgents off the ballot. Then others are easy, from 100 sigs and $50 in New Hampshire, to just 25 sigs in Tennessee.

Clearly, 435 seats will take some kind of centralized fundraising.

Some states need only signatures, or a filing fee in lieu of signatures. 200 signatures could be gathered by one person in a hard weekend. 3,000 would require some kind of campaign team, volunteer or hired. (Hired teams have a tendency to sign up Disney characters, beware.) Here is where national expertise and fundraising comes in. It looks tough, but not insurmountable. As an aside, if you ask for a contribution when someone signs, you can raise about $1/signature fairly easily. Petitioning can be a money-maker, not a drain, if done properly.

How long will it take to get this off the ground?

We are focused on 2012 for actually fielding 435 candidates. We have to lay groundwork, including recruitment, fundraising and ballot access plans. There has been some interest in running a few people in 2010 and that would have great benefits in terms of visibility and experience. But not surprisingly, to date no candidates have stepped forward. The work to run is modest, considering the stakes we are fighting for, but conceptually, it is quite a leap for someone to put themselves so far forward. We have a lot of work ahead of us.


Obviously there would have to be some kind of national structure, and some tasks such as fundraising and ballot access expertise require activity on a national level. Likewise, there would likely have to be some kind of state structure. It will have to reflect those who respond to the plan. I envision slow but steady growth, with structure determined by participants, and changed by participants as it develops. We are not interested in building empty paper empires.

Where did this idea come from?

A few years ago, it was just a throw-away idea I tossed out from time to time and it met thundering silence. I don't consider it particularly brilliant, merely stating the obvious. Since then, I grew increasingly disgusted with progressive leaders who are calling on politicians to do something, weary of progressive ranks calling on progressive leaders to do something, calling on other progressives to do ... wait, that was me. I had to take responsibility for making the Full Court Press a reality or I was no better than any of them. In that spirit, I say to angry progressives, the Full Court Press means you taking a lot of responsibility for the direction of this country. Getting on the ballot is serious work. You'll take flak from the smug and the comfortable and the bought. But at this point, it's clear that nobody else is going to do it for us.

And someday, as Bob Dylan put it:

Oh the foes will rise
With the sleep still in their eyes
And they'll jerk from their beds and think they're dreamin'.
But they'll pinch themselves and squeal
And they'll know that it's for real,
The hour that the ship comes in.

And they'll raise their hands,
Sayin' we'll meet all your demands,
But we'll shout from the bow your days are numbered.
And like Pharaoh's tribe,
They'll be drownded in the tide,
And like Goliath, they'll be conquered.

If interested, please e-mail me at

No votes yet


madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Otherwise, this makes a huge amount of sense to me. Very well-presented and developed, and as you said, extremely doable.

There is an effort to develop a Justice Party going on now as well. Seems to me your input would be very valuable over at

Perhaps you and Violet could coordinate your efforts.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

... The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind can't be all bad!

It's now on my llist.

Submitted by lambert on

I'd be interested to see how you'd evaluate the 7 values from Violet's place:

–Economic justice: a fair deal whether you’re rich or poor.

–Gender justice: a fair deal whether you’re male or female.

–Racial justice: a fair deal whether you’re black or white or brown or beige.

–Social justice: a fair deal no matter what you look like or who you love or what you believe.

–Global justice: being a good global neighbor, treating other nations and nationals fairly.

–Environmental justice: a fair approach to the environment; clean air and water for everyone, not just rich folks. No dumping in poor people’s communities.

–Democratic justice: fair government, fair elections.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

They wouldn't work for the Full Court Press, however, because they are overly general for nailing a politician down.

Global justice, sure I'm for that. That's why we have to send more troops to defeat extremism in Afghanistan.

Social justice, yeah. That's why we have to send more troops to defend women's rights in Afghanistan.

Economic justice, of course. The healthcare bill is great because it screws everyone.

No, I'm not knocking or mocking. But Repeal the Hyde Amendment is a simple yes or no answer, out of Iraq is yes or no, etc.

Submitted by lambert on

Like breaking up the big banks, or turning the banks into regulated public utilities, or ending usury. Finance is the real enemy, so why not be direct? Also, economic justice is a principle... And this is bigger than WPA, which is by definition temporary.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

Personally, I would nationalize them. But seriously, there are so many good things that could go into the principles, and everyone who reads the plan has at least one. Good ones.

The idea is to have the shortest possible list to drive a wedge between the Democratic Party politicians and their progressive base. Each demand invites another, and each demand may eliminate others. See, you say finance and now you've got 3 possibilities, how do you decide, or do you add all 3? Could a rep say I like them all, but what exact percentage interest would constitute legal usury, and so sorry, you're 2% too high so I can't support you?

The smaller and more specific the list, the more exposing when the incumbent doesn't sign.

Also, one thing to understand is that the Full Court Press is a very specifically designed tactic. It only calls for filing in the primaries. There is no reason an FCP candidate can't run on breaking up the banks in any specific race.

It is a tactic, not a strategy. I've written other things that I'd be glad to post here that speak to the broader movement. I agree that progressives need a broader program. FCP is just not the particular vehicle for that for all sorts of reasons.

One final note, though, is that the left is far too soft on economics, other than Wall Street as a general boogie-person. In that vein, your point is taken to heart.

Submitted by lambert on

... under the aegis of "gender justice" (not in those words, but that's the idea) and add in finance, to preserve the 5 number. Interest, fees, etc is a huge kitchen table issue, and a wedge issue, too. Nothing will separate the honest ones from the crooks faster than taking on the banks.

So, I'm not sure what the talking point is, but I think it deserves to be there.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

lambert regarding the financial issue.

I understand the problem of framing the issue in such a way that captures as many supporters as possible while losing as few of those opposed but, as a tactical matter, some financial issue will capture more supporters and lose few opponents than not having one. It will be a net gain. The anger against the banks is white hot now. (It's not "my" personal axe to grind—I'm much more interested in health care—it's my impression of which issues are most effective here.)

Maybe something like "Restore Glass-Steagall." I'm not an economy wonk but maybe something like that (Ian seemed to think it was a good idea back when we imagined President Obama might do something constructive.)

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

Maybe something like "Restore Glass-Steagall."

That would certainly be an improvement. This does require further thought and I'll pass it on. Remember, the Full Court Press is not just me.

I guess why I'm bemused at this fixation on program is that our focus is to run a full slate in 2012, and the FCP has raised all sorts of issues with people.

Am I to understand that with your suggested fix to our programmatics, you would then give the plan your wholehearted support?

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

You're to understand that I would give the plan my wholehearted support with or without my suggested fix to your programmatics. I'm just making a suggestion to make the plan even more effective; it's not a precondition of my support. (But I'm glad you liked it.)

As for the fixation on the programmatics: I'd say reasonable people will debate about the things that are debatable, not about the things that are inarguable. The exact nature of the programmatics is debatable; the overall concept really isn't.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

I'll have another piece tomorrow on method. I don't want to trivialize what you're saying with a quick response.

Submitted by hipparchia on

thanks for posting this.

i've been keeping an eye on kendrick meek, who is trying to get on the ballot for senator here in florida by collecting enough signatures [112,000+]. in spite of the fact that he's too centrist for my taste, i hope he makes it.

one thing to keep in mind in calculating the costs... i don't know about other states, but florida requires the candidate to pay for getting the signatures validated, something like 10 cents per signature iirc. it's cheaper than the filing fees [for representative, at least], but still a chunk of change to keep in mind.

eta: also, you have to watch out for sharp operators like one barack obama.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

glad to be here!

The more candidates the better. It allows for more ideas to develop, sometimes in spite of them.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

This is not to invalidate what you are saying, but it is interesting that of all the things in the piece, how does it turn into a discussion of program?

And, just to go where you are, ABORTION GETS ITS OWN POINT because throwing abortion rights under the bus is one of the worst features of the healthcare bill.


It is striking that this point gets dropped so routinely in the discussions of the healthcare bill.

Meanwhile, the number 5 isn't magic. I've got to give it some thought. But bank regulation is a bit more radical than some of the others. It would have to be formulated so as not to be too easy (repeating what Obama calls for) or too "socialistic" and splitting the progressive base.

Submitted by lambert on

"Gender justice: a fair deal whether you’re male or female" covers both. That's why "of all things in the piece" it comes under discussion: I argue the two points can be collapsed into one, since they fall under one principle. (If they don't, that's another issue).

And so far as I can tell, they're the only two points that can be collapsed. That is what is "interesting" about them, to me. Why were you interested?

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

... and my thing is tactics.

I argue the two points can be collapsed into one, since they fall under one principle.

They indeed fall under one principle. As an aside, I mentioned to my wife that this post called for combining two principles to make room for one more, and her immediate response was, "Oh, he wants to mush together abortion and gays?" Then she laughed. It wasn't a pleasant laugh.

But my "interest" has to do with the pull on the left to go to program rather than tactics. The left is good at arguing program, as though programmatic unity will lead to unity in action. But it doesn't.

The left in this period is -- overall -- really rotten at tactics. I force that issue over and over and over. You want to dump the Democratic Party? How? Get rid of the worst of them? How? You're calling for a general strike? How do you start one?

Submitted by hipparchia on

"Oh, he wants to mush together abortion and gays?" Then she laughed. It wasn't a pleasant laugh.

good for her! i'm with her 100%.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

As a qualifier, Lambert is pretty darn good on feminist issues, so this is not addressed to him.

But in general, the "progressive" left is ABYSMAL on women's rights. Absolutely fucking ABYSMAL.

I just read a great rant over at Common Dreams about Obama's first year. Nowhere in about a billion words does he mention women.



Guess what does get mentioned? Gay rights.

Excuse me, but why is 10% more important than 51%?! Oh right - gay marriage doesn't "kill" "people." Plus, a lot of LGBT are MEN. Can't infringe upon MEN's rights, can we?

No, women's reproductive rights and LGBT rights should not be collapsed. A thousand times no. We have to hammer this point into the heads of every "progressive" until they realize we will not shut the fuck up and take whatever scraps they throw off the table of equality.

And by the way, this is a huge weakness in Violet's thinking, which I have mentioned to her before: You cannot, CANNOT be a feminist without being pro-choice. Being pro-choice means that you recognize that women have the legal right to control their own bodies. If you don't recognize that, then you don't think that women should be legally equal to men, and therefore, you are not a feminist.

Can you be pro-choice and not support women's equal rights? Absolutely. But being pro-choice is a MINIMUM requirement for feminism.

The more we give up on this point, the more rights we lose. And frankly, we've lost enough ground already.

Submitted by lambert on

My point is editorial only -- if two points can be collapsed into one, they should be. If they can't, they shouldn't be.

That said, finance is key. I mean, we've got Golden Sacks running the government. That needs to be addressed in the points. If there are 6, rather than 5, so be it.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

When you want to stress a political point, making a separate point gives emphasis. Collapsing issues de-emphasizes each. That's a practical matter.

The argument for adding a point 6 is a valid argument. I'm thinking about it.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

Don't collapse, add.

Would "All Public Financing for Elections" be a good sixth point? It's Yes/No, and quite important, I believe.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

I appreciate your support, but somehow folks are missing one of the points I'm trying to raise.

There are many points that would make a good #6, but what we have does the job, and since our target date is the 2012 elections, the situation will change in any event.

But what I keep raising is why, of all the things in the proposal, people are most interested in discussing the 5 points? Responses seem to be along the lines of, oh, that's the most natural thing to discuss, but it's not natural.

Is it the case that everyone completely agrees with the Full Court Press, and the points are the only bone of contention? I doubt that. What I keep trying to drive home is the need to develop concrete tactics if they are going to get from here to there. The 5 points are not a tactic. They are 5 points. The tactic is presenting those 5 points to determine if a politician is someone we want to challenge, or to support.

One thing I have found with the Full Court Press is that it is a great agitational device, for raising issues of method, of how you move from general cries of outrage like form a third party, yeah, what's your plan, masses gotta rise up and form one, how you gonna get them to do that? Or to discuss the role of program in the progressive agenda, as we are doing here.

I'll shortly be publishing a piece on method. Perhaps it will clarify some of this.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

And if the contentions seem to be over semantics, well Corrente is all about the discourse, and propagating memes. As CMike said in another thread, lambert knows how to turn a phrase, as does Vastleft.

I, and probably a few others here, am absolutely clueless about method. I would definitely categorize myself as an advocate, more than activist(I argue politics for hours in RL, so...) and am very eager to hear more discussions on network building for successful activism.

I, also with a few others, are potentially interested in running for local offices, and these discussions are also useful for building the coalitions necessary to succeed.

So I'll mostly be taking notes, and if I have any questions, you'll hear from me.

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

I have just published "Toward a method of activism pt. 1" this afternoon. I'd like to know what you think.

I'll be publishing pt. 2 tomorrow, I hope, a practicum for applying method to popular causes.

Submitted by gob on

After all the law in its majestic equality forbids the male and the female from getting abortions on demand.

--Anatolia Frances

Violet Socks's picture
Submitted by Violet Socks on

And I have no idea where this comment will show up. The nests, they bewilder me.

Anyway, this exchange:

I'd be interested to see how you'd evaluate the 7 values from Violet's place

By lambert on Sun, 01/24/2010 - 9:43pm

I support them all

They wouldn't work for the Full Court Press, however, because they are overly general for nailing a politician down.

By jeffroby on Sun, 01/24/2010 - 10:01pm

These are two different things. The values aren't platform items or slogans or anything like that. They are underlying core values to guide the party.

But as I've said several times, we would actually need discrete, actionable, yes/no items to run a campaign. "Repeal Prohibition Now" -- that sort of thing. Which is what the Full Court Press items seem to be.

Violet Socks's picture
Submitted by Violet Socks on

To elaborate a bit on the difference between values and a campaign platform.

A party could be built around a handful of items that most left-leaning Democrats would agree on -- such as the Full Court Press items. Those are all great items. (In the original Justice Party post, I referred to those as "immediate demands/rallying cries.") But if the structural values of the party go no deeper than that, then we will end up with exactly the same craptastic, misogynistic, hateful mess we have now. This is why there needs to be -- in my opinion -- a set of guiding principles, a sort of bedrock for the party to build upon. Key values that we won't compromise.

This is especially important to me as a woman, because there is no party in this country (including the Greens) that takes women's rights seriously, and that won't trade away women's rights in a heartbeat to get something they really want more.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

I think your idea is more of a "third party" idea, whereas Jeff's is more of a "change agent" idea. I don't know if you could build a party on what Jeff is suggesting.

Does that make sense?

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

I don't know if you could build a party on what Jeff is suggesting.

No, you certainly couldn't. The Full Court Press is my response to various leftists who put out bold cries for action while knocking anyone whose bold cries are less bold than theirs. Yet have no sense as to how to begin making their bold cries actualize. The FCP's very concreteness as a tactic is a de facto critique of such empty posturing, and provokes all sorts of reactions.

But people have to realize, as I think you do, that it is ONLY a tactic. One tactic. The strategy isn't necessarily manifest. I personally have some vague notions of a strategy, but I don't believe that the conditions are ripe to take that far.

I've written two additional posts here, arising out of discussions on Docudharma and posted there, on a Method of Activism. Part one gives a brief and admittedly crudely schematic history of how method developed in the 60's, and how not just the movement but also the movement's mode of discourse deteriorated following (to pose an arbitrary point) the McGovern campaign of 1972.

Part 2 extracts the the concepts that were discussed during the 60's, driven by the necessity of the movement, turns them into a checklist (vision, strategy, tactics, organization, constituency, demands, etc.) and applies that checklist to some of the issues of the day. It does so crudely, hoping that proponents of some of those ideas might try to improve on them.

To put it simply in this context, it is an attempt to provide the broader context that the Full Court Press inhabits.

If you are into a lot of reading, I have a whole series of posts, including these, on Progressive Independence.

Submitted by lambert on


And from a purely pragmatic standpoint, the voting population that Obama marginalized in 2008 would respond well to these values.

cellocat's picture
Submitted by cellocat on

or Hyde, how about "Pass the ERA"? That's a concrete step to take with broad consequences if it does pass. And I agree that gay rights and women's right shouldn't be "mushed together".

jeffroby's picture
Submitted by jeffroby on

... but as far as I know, it's not being actively campaigned for. Hyde has been brought to the forefront due to the Stupak/Nelson amendments.

The issue isn't the merits of the issue, per se, but rather to have a limited set of issues that intersects current consciousness.

Am I wrong about the ERA being an ongoing issue?