Political Fundraising Begins To Tap Progressive Frustration

Political fundraising on the left now is acknowledging, even harnessing, a sense of antipathy among progressives who feel Democrats have not sufficiently delivered on their priorities.

Organizations inside the Democratic Party establishment have begun to recognize what has been a sense of frustration within the party’s liberal base building for a year or more. At least one group outside the establishment is not only recognizing that anger, but are working to capitalize on it, as well.

Progressives have become disillusioned with Washington Democrats on many fronts, from President Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan, to legislative setbacks, such as the loss of a healthcare public option and the collapse of climate change legislation, and more.

However, the 2010 midterm elections are approaching rapidly, and Capitol Hill Democrats are hoping to stave off big losses in the House and Senate.

The arm of the Democratic Party charged with electing Democrats to the Senate on Saturday sent out an email signed by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Kerry voices regret for even making the fundraising appeal, but says Republicans have already committed $2.7 million in airtime to run ads to defeat Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.) in November.

“I know many of you are tired. You’re frustrated. You want more and better change. Know what? I don’t blame you,” says Kerry, who had become a champion of climate legislation that now appears dead in the Senate. “Believe me, so do I. But we’re not going to get the change we want and America needs — we’re not going to get anything except more of the Bush policies — if we cede even an inch to these extreme ideologues who have taken over the Republican Party. Republicans have proven whom they’re fighting for, and I don’t think I need to tell you: It’s not you. Whether it’s health care reform, Wall Street oversight or campaign finance, they have chosen their team. They’re on the side of the big corporations and the status quo, not the American people.”

Top Democrats, including Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi began publicly acknowledging frustration on the Left recently at the Netroots Nation gathering of progressive activists.

Meanwhile, an independent progressive organization aligned with former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, goes even further with an email to supporters titled, “Democrats: Epic Fail.”

The email, signed by Democracy For America (DFA) Executive Director Arshad Hasan, blasts last week’s loss in the House at the hands of minority Republicans, of a bill to fund healthcare for those who responded to the disaster at Ground Zero in New York in the days and weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

This isn’t the sort of bold progressive leadership I fought for in 2006 and 2008. I worked to elect Democrats to get stuff done, but they keep letting Republicans trip them up with parliamentary tricks. I’m sick of it.

“That’s why here at DFA we don’t support just any Democrat, we support Better Democrats,” Hasan says. “We support Democrats with backbone, who are willing to lead on the tough issues and get stuff done — Democrats like Howard Dean and [Rep.] Alan Grayson [D-Fla.]. But we can’t do it alone. We rely on small contributions from supporters across the country to get our work done. Contribute today to support our mission.”

DFA was formed out of Dean’s failed 2004 bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

Specifically, DFA says it will be supporting such candidates in November as Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, running for Senate in Pennsylvania, and Elaine Marshall, the Democrats’ Senate candidate in North Carolina.

“In 2006, Insider Democrats told us to sit down and be quiet — we needed to retake the Congress, even if it meant we weren’t electing the most progressive candidates. In 2008, Insider Democrats told us to sit down and be quiet — we needed to retake the White House and get 60 votes in the Senate, even if it meant we weren’t electing the most progressive candidates,” Hasan says. “Well, now it’s 2010 and it’s time they learned DFA members aren’t going to sit down and be quiet. We’re not going to support candidates just because they have a ‘D’ next to their name.”

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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