Full Court Press -- 435 congressional primaries in 2012
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 ( http://blueamerica.firedoglake.com/ballo... ) containing congressional ballot access info. Making some quick calculations, filing in all 435 states, would take:
$588,081 in filing fees
Split 435 ways, that comes to:
$1,358 filing fee
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 fullCourtPrez@comcast.net