Running for office on the ticket of a party tied to radical and rigid ideological purity standards is proving difficult for two prominent Democrat senatorial candidates.
Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Phil Bredesen have each chosen opposite approaches, yet both candidates still stand to be taken down by grassroots party members who do not brook any deviation from modern Democratic dogma.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp is floundering in North Dakota. The first-term incumbent trails by a decisive margin in recent polling. Her Republican opponent Rep. Kevin Cramer leads by a healthy 8.7-point average according to a RealClearPolitics’ poll composite, and is ahead by double digits in several polls.
Even though her campaign was already looking bleak, Heitkamp made the politically insane decision to vote against new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. She did this solely to placate a strident Democratic base that would have furiously attacked her if she had supported Kavanaugh. Yet this base cannot help in her battle for political survival. According to a poll at the time of Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote, 60% of North Dakotans supported his nomination and only 27% were opposed.
Now, in the throes of desperation after her costly party loyalty test, Heitkamp has decided to campaign against her own party. In a new political ad, the same senator who so willingly bowed to party demands on the Kavanaugh circus even as it gravely wounded her own re-election hopes now says she’s not really running as a Democrat after all.
“Every day I see how neither political party understands North Dakota,” Heitkamp warbles in her new ad. “Too many Democrats don’t appreciate our commitment to faith and self-reliance. Or recognize that we know how to handle guns safely. And while Republicans too often side with the powerful, Democrats too often judge how we live.”
The 30-second ad is overwhelmingly anti-Democrat, with the tossed-in shot on “sid[ing] with the powerful” being the only explicit anti-GOP talking point.
Heitkamp closes by saying, “I approve this message because this is why I put party aside and do what’s right for North Dakota.”
The incoherence and lack of overall direction is startling. On one hand, Heitkamp is correctly determining that she must separate herself from a national Democratic Party that is seen as too radical by much of mainstream America, including North Dakotans. On the other hand, she is choosing to do this only after committing ritual suicide on behalf of that same radical national party agenda with her Kavanaugh vote. The only conclusion one can make is that Heitkamp was powerless in her Kavanaugh vote. Her Democratic base simply would not allow her to vote to confirm him. So, after acceding to their demand at great personal cost, she now feels entitled to campaign against those same Democrats without fear of penalty. Heitkamp wants to portray herself as “above the fray” in all of this but she seems to be trying to play both sides of the fence. It’s a disastrous compromise, especially for someone who was already trailing in the polls.
In Tennessee, meanwhile, former governor Phil Bredesen is running against Marsha Blackburn (R-TN 7th District). Bredesen chose the entirely different tack of publicly announcing that he would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh if he had been in the Senate at the time of the vote. The statement shows a political pragmatism rare among today’s shrill Democrats but it comes fraught with peril as well.
Bredesen’s campaign staff is naturally made up of Democrats, and that means they adhere to the national party line with a strictness that can only be compared to religious fervor. These are paid campaign staffers, not volunteers, according to Federal Election Commission records posted by The Tennessee Star. James O’Keefe of Project Veritas targeted these true believers in his latest undercover video sting.
The campaign staffers captured on camera all vigorously asserted that Bredesen was lying about his Kavanaugh position and that he would never have voted for the judge if he indeed had been in the Senate.
Will Stewart, a field organizer for the campaign, commented on the stupidity of Tennessee voters as being the reason Bredesen had to make his loathsome public statement in favor of the reviled Kavanaugh. From the Tennessee Star transcript of the recordings:
Journalist: Is it because of, like, the voters?
Stewart: Yeah. Yeah, that’s it
Journalist: So, he’ll lose voters if he says yes [to not confirming Kavanaugh]?
Stewart: Oh, straight up, yeah.
Journalist: Are the people of Tennessee that ignorant?
Journalist: Are they that dumb to want to put somebody like that in power?
Stewart goes on to acknowledge that he and his fellow campaign workers are all part of the “Resistance” against President Trump but are banned from discussing that in campaign headquarters as Bredesen pursues a moderate campaign.
Amid this two-faced operation, Bredesen’s campaign appears to be reeling. The RealClearPolitics voting average has his opponent Blackburn up by a 5.5-point margin, with poll by The New York Times putting her ahead by a whopping 14 points.
The key takeaway from all this is not just that his own paid staffers are calling Bredesen a liar and are firmly convinced he will be, quote, “a good Democrat” once he gets in office. That’s bad enough. But more crucial down the line is the clear portrait presented here of your typical Democratic campaign field quarters.
Even on a campaign that aims to be moderate and reach out to Republican voters, the candidate’s staff is filled to the gills with radical Democrat True Believers. They seem to hold the power here, and the candidate, while trying to reach out to as many voters as he can, must be wary at all times of offending these radicals in his own nest.
This is the Democrats’ trauma. By tightly binding their candidates to a strict party dogma that is unpopular with the American people, they are making it virtually impossible to win elections outside their urban and coastal fortresses. Heitkamp immolated herself with her Kavanaugh vote. Bredesen tried the opposite approach and was unwittingly outed by the uncontrollable radicals on his own paid staff.
Here’s some political advice to Democrats, free of charge: Try actually being sincere about reaching out to voters outside of your own base.
But there is no need to fear this advice will ever be implemented. In their heart of hearts, Democrats do not sincerely want to work with those who disagree with their radical beliefs. This is why they will continue to lose elections, and there is nothing they can do about it.