The DCCC and the DSCC Are Not On Our Side

The DCCC and the DSCC Are Not On Our Side

The DCCC and the DSCC Are Not On Our Side

We won’t come close to the changes this country desperately needs unless progressives transform the Democratic Party from within.


After the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s venomous draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, activists took to the streets and money flooded into Democratic Party coffers, as the party’s leaders vowed to make Republican extremism on abortion a defining issue in this fall’s critical congressional elections.

And so, in the hotly contested Democratic primary in Texas’s 28th district between the pro-choice Latina challenger, Jennifer Cisneros, and the incumbent, Henry Cuellar, the sole remaining anti-choice House Democrat, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic leadership pulled out all the stops… in support of Cuellar.

WTF. Cisneros, a 28-year-old immigration lawyer supported by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and various progressive electoral groups, forced Cuellar into a May 25 runoff—which Cuellar appears to have won by an extremely thin margin, though the votes were still being counted as we went to press. If the party leaders had just stayed neutral, Cisneros would have been the odds-on favorite to win the primary—and run as a pro-choice progressive champion in a district that leans Democratic.

Instead, Representative Jim Clyburn stumped with Cuellar, dismissing those who think “we have to agree on everything” as “sophomoric”: “If we’re gonna be a big-tent party, we got to be a big-tent party,” Clyburn told reporters. “I don’t believe we ought to have a litmus test in the Democratic Party.”

But Cuellar isn’t just anti-choice. He is Big Oil’s favorite Democrat. He consistently votes against lowering drug prices, winning the favor of Big Pharma. He gets an A rating from the NRA. He’s against the PRO Act, President Biden’s core legislation to help empower workers. For a kicker, his House and campaign offices were raided by the FBI in January. (His campaign says he is not a target of the investigation).

Democrats shouldn’t have to agree on “everything,” but it’s hardly “sophomoric” to suggest they stand for something.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is unrepentant, stating: “I support my incumbents. I support every one of them, from right to left. That is what I do.” The DCCC also weighed in heavily to help Shontel Brown turn back the challenge from Nina Turner, a true progressive champion, in Ohio. In Oregon’s newly drawn fifth district, the DCCC backed Representative Kurt Schrader against a popular progressive, Jamie McLeod-Skinner, even after local party committees representing about 90 percent of the vote formally asked it to stay out of the race. Schra­der, the chair of the House Democrats’ conservative Blue Dog Coalition, is infamous for being one of the three Big Pharma Democrats who worked to block legislation that would lower prices for prescription drugs. With super PACs linked to AIPAC, the American pro-Israel lobby, pouring money into the race, Schrader even snagged an endorsement from President Biden.

McLeod-Skinner had the support of Senator Warren and a broad range of local unions and progressive groups. Despite being outspent 10 to one, McLeod-Skinner—who tagged Schrader as the Joe Manchin of the House—has a likely insurmountable lead in a race in which computer glitches have delayed the final vote count.

The DCCC not only protects incumbents; it also recruits designer candidates for open seats, favoring those with military or intelligence credentials and suitably pasteurized moderate views. Its show horse, Representative Conor Lamb, ran in the Pennsylvania Senate primary touting his ability to work with Republicans. Lamb was, as The Daily Beast put it, “sheared” by Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the 6-foot-8, tattooed, goateed Sanders supporter running openly against the Manchin wing of the Democratic Party.

Yet even more destructive than the actions of the DCCC during this cycle has been the tsunami of outside super PAC money that corporate and special interests have unleashed on progressive candidates in Democratic primaries.

When Brown upset Turner in the 2020 primary, big-time outside expenditures made the difference. That provided the playbook rolled out against progressives in primaries across the country this year. For example, AIPAC is putting out big bucks for the first time. Its first-round endorsements featured more Republicans than Democrats, including dozens who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election, but it seems particularly focused on assailing progressive women of color in Democratic primaries.

In Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, Summer Lee, a progressive powerhouse and state legislator, earned endorsements from union locals, state legislature colleagues, Sanders, and Justice Democrats, among others. The Democratic establishment consolidated around Steve Irwin, a former Republican congressional staffer and anti-union attorney. As Sludge reports, three in every four dollars supporting Irwin came from AIPAC or super PACS associated with it, totaling more than $2.6 million. Despite this, Lee held on to win by a very small margin. And in North Carolina, sadly, Nida Allam, a proven progressive favored to win the nomination in the state’s fourth district, was undone by the $2.4 million dumped into the race by AIPAC and its various allies.

In Oregon’s sixth district, Andrea Salinas, a progressive candidate backed by prominent local and national liberal and Latino groups, found herself challenged by a political unknown, Carrick Flynn, whose candidacy was basically invented by $13 million in independent expenditures plopped down by a super PAC funded by a crypto billionaire. Bizarrely, Pelosi’s House Majority PAC spent $1 million for Flynn as well. Happily, Oregon voters resented the effrontery, and Salinas won going away.

All of this is a dramatic reminder that even as Democrats mobilize against a Trump-dominated Republican Party that poses a direct threat to our democracy, the fierce battle over whom and what the Democrats represent must continue. The sabotage of Biden’s reform agenda by the likes of Manchin in the Senate and the Big Pharma Democrats in the House demonstrates that we won’t come close to the changes this country desperately needs unless progressives transform the Democratic Party from within.

In this struggle, the party committees­­—particularly the DCCC and its Senate equivalent, the DSCC­—often stand in the way, along with the massive war chests of the special interests reveling in a new Gilded Age.

In response, progressives have been building an independent infrastructure to recruit and support insurgent candidates. Independent endorsements from progressive leaders like Sanders, Warren, Ocasio-Cortez, and Congressional Progressive Caucus head Pramila Jayapal galvanize support. The Working Families Party, Our Revolution, Justice Democrats, Way to Lead, Democrats for America, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee seek out and help support progressive challengers. Progressive unions like SEIU and issue-specific groups like the Sunrise Movement increasingly endorse in primaries as well. These can help counter the outside super PAC money, but, as the victories of Fetterman, Lee, and Salinas demonstrate, only ongoing—and on-the-ground—organizing can withstand the blizzard of negative ads and slanders that progressives will face. It is long past time that progressive donors and activists stopped contributing to the DCCC and its allied PACs and focused on building this independent infrastructure for change.

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