We learned this week that the Democratic Party executive board, in a meeting earlier this month, voted to endorse John Walsh in his primary. This left John Bohlinger and Dirk Adams out in the cold, and they are crying foul.
The Party rules disfavor endorsements in the primary, for the obvious reason that party politics are ultimately about people, not boards. But the by-laws say that a “proven incumbent” can be endorsed “with a two thirds vote of the board.” It is rare, and the rule is usually only employed in primaries where there is no serious opposition at all against an incumbent. Baucus and Schweitzer received endorsements, for example, when they ran for re-election even though they had minor opponents.
However, this time things got sticky because on the same day that the Walsh endorsement was issued, the Party issued a statement in which Adams and Bohlinger were labeled as “not true Democrats.”
I can understand the value, strategically speaking, in trying to clear the field for John Walsh. Walsh is leading the primary right now according to polls, and it is not a stretch to say that many things–his major fundraising advantage among them–make him the toughest candidate to field against Daines at this time.
But I am ambivalent about this move by the Party. Bohlinger was once a Republican, yes, and voted also against choice, and he will have to answer for that in this election. But he has since switched sides and supports choice, and progressives probably should keep in mind that though he has quacked like a Republican duck for many years at Schweitzer’s side, it was deliberately for the political benefit of the Schweitzer administration. Bohlinger worked hard every two year to get Democrats elected. And yes, Adams wrote checks to a few Republicans, for various reasons which he explained in the press lately, and that will (and should) hurt him among voters. But he also gave to Democratic candidates. And again, I am not sure that the Party should be proclaiming people as Democrats or Not Democrats. We have to leave room for people to be able to change parties.
And I’ve been reading the remarks of critics on Twitter and elsewhere who point to the fact that the party is an organization that is designed to be grassroots, and I’m debating in my mind whether those arguments (even if pushed mainly by partisans of Bohlinger and Adams) should carry weight here. If and when the Party endorses someone, it is supposed to reflect the clear and unequivocal opinion of the people. Such could be said of the occasions in the past when the Party has made endorsements in the Primary. I’m not sure it can be said here.
The Flathead Memo also has a post up on this that is worth reading.