House Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Pramila Jayapal of Washington have made their peace with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They will resume paying dues to the House Democrats’ fundraising arm, even though DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos of Illinois has refused to alter her edict that campaign professionals who work for challengers to incumbents will be blacklisted and boycotted by the DCCC.
Pocan and Jayapal said they were relenting for the sake of party unity. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, meanwhile, who won her House seat in 2018 after a primary against an entrenched incumbent, is continuing her own boycott of the DCCC.
I have great regard for Pocan and Jayapal, but in this case I think they are wrong and Ocasio-Cortez is right. Incumbents should not be challenged willy-nilly, but there are definitely cases when it’s reasonable to take on a corporate Democrat, especially one who happens to represent a liberal district.
Exhibits A and B are Richie Neal of Massachusetts and Dan Lipinski of Illinois. Neal, the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, is the quintessential corporate Democrat. In his very progressive seat in western Massachusetts, Neal is being challenged by Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, an effective young progressive.
Lipinski is a conservative in an Illinois district covering southwest Chicago and suburbs that could definitely elect a liberal. He did not endorse Barack Obama for re-election in 2012, and voted against the Affordable Care Act. He also votes to restrict abortion rights. Lipinski barely defeated a primary challenger last time, and will face another one this year.
What’s tricky is when a challenger takes on a progressive, as Boston’s Ayanna Pressley successfully did in 2018, when she ousted incumbent Mike Capuano. But who to send to Congress is the business of the voters in the district, not the DCCC.