Tuesday, February 14, 2006

On the Hackett withdrawal

Paul Hackett has withdrawn from Ohio's Senate race. Sherrod Brown is now unopposed. This is unfortunate, but not for the reasons a lot of people think:
I would like to think that the furor surrounding Hackett's withdrawal from the Ohio Senate race that has been expressed over the past day on Dailykos, MyDD and other sites has gone a long way toward finally convincing a large number of journalists and members of centrist Democratic organizations that what the progressive netroots and blogosphere want from the Democratic party is not simply a hard push to the left. Hopefully, witnessing the online anger over the Ohio Senate primary being handed to Sherrod Brown, who happens to be the only Democratic member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to ever run for statewide office (Bernie Sanders is also a member of the CPC, but he is not a Democrat), has caused more than a few people who have simply dismissed the netroots as "hard left" to reconsider their views. I would like to think that, and I would like to hope that, but I am probably asking for too much.
Don't look to the brave wankers at Fire Kansas Democrats. Their response was that this was "[j]ust another example of how the national Democrats take their progressive wing for granted."

Indeed, one might think that the pressure the national party exerted on behalf of the more progressive candidate would indicate exactly the opposite. You might even have expected that this would please a lot of progressives.

Why it didn't tells you a lot about the party and the struggle for a new direction between the establishment and grassroots/netroots activists. Hackett's fall wasn't about veterans (the Fighting Dems have moved from an idea at the DailyKos to a national party strategy), it wasn't about progressivism.

Paul Hackett's run against "Mean" Jean Schmidt was a classic grassroots campaign. Hackett was no one from no where on day one, and by the end of the campaign, the race was tight and pulling national attention. Hackett was special because he paid attention to the local voters, and people in his district saw that he cared. Their interest attracted the netroots, and Hackett embraced the new options the blogosphere offers for campaigning. Once the netroots put him on the map, the Party jumped in and dropped money on him.

We want a Paul Hackett in every race. Not because he walks in lockstep with my views or Howard Dean's or kos's, but because he cares about people and he's ready to run hard on core values and commitments. It's a shame to see him bow out, and it's clear that the institutional powers pushed him out. And we need to change the Party. But not on a left/right axis, on a responsive/nonresponsive axis. On a populist/non-populist axis. The Democratic Party doesn't need to move left or right, it needs to stand firm for what it believes, and show the public what that means. Hackett did that, and people who believe that the Democratic Party has better ideas and ought to be winning more elections rallied to him. He's a synecdoche for the struggle at large over the importance of passion.

Update: On a purely "winners win" note, Sherrod Brown is tied/ahead of Mike DeWine in an early poll. Hackett isn't in the poll (or the result wasn't reported) so we can't say how he plays statewide. Brown is a known entity in statewide politics there, so that helps too. And as kos notes, Brown was raising more money, and had lent a lot of his campaign staff to Hackett for the special election. They are now dancing with the one that brought them. Even if Hackett wasn't pushed out, he'd have lost the special election. And fighting in the primary would have sapped Brown's strength before he took on an incumbent. This is good politics, not a slap in the face.