Moulton drops out

This morning, Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton announced that he is dropping his bid for the presidency. The announcement came in the form of a story in The New York Times by Alexander Burns. Reading from that article:

“Mr. Moulton suggested that most of the other Democratic candidates were also laboring in vain at this point, with only a tiny few — Mr. Biden and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — remaining as real competitors for the nomination. He warned in the interview that if Democrats were to embrace an overly liberal platform, it could make it harder for the party to defeat President Trump.”

While I disagree that this is a three-way race right now, it’s probably something like a five- or six-way race, but, you know, point taken.

Moulton was one of the more moderate candidates in this field, and he was also one of its few veterans. With Moulton and Gravel now out of the race, the only veterans remaining are Buttigieg, Gabbard, and Sestak. Much of Moulton’s campaign revolved around his combat service in Iraq, and his commitment to better serving veterans at home. In the Times article, he said he would continue that work in part by relaunching Serve America, his political action committee devoted to raising awareness around veterans’ issues.

One of the problems that Moulton faced throughout his 123 days in this race was that he announced late. He announced his candidacy on April 22nd, just three days before Joe Biden. When Biden announced, and even in the days leading up to it, he really dominated the news, so it was hard for Moulton to get much traction.

Moulton never made it into any of the DNC debates, since he met neither the polling nor donor requirements. He did make the best of it though, buying TV ads in the four early voting states and scheduling them to run during the first debate.

All right, let’s run through a few highlights from Moulton’s run. First up, in early June he spoke at a CNN town hall held in Georgia. Here’s a clip where a voter asks him a question:

[CLIP-MOULTON-ABRAMS]

He followed up on Twitter about the New Voting Rights Act by writing, “That means: Automatic voter registration, Abolishing the electoral college, Ending gerrymandering, [and] Statehood for DC and Puerto Rico.”

Just three days after that, he announced his plan to proactively repair the discharge status for LGBTQ veterans. Many of those service members are not able to receive veterans’ benefits, and Moulton’s plan would fix that. Listen in:

[CLIP-MOULTON-DISCHARGE]

Moulton says that he will turn his attention to running again for his Congressional seat in the 6th district of Massachusetts. There IS a contested primary there, so it is wise for him to focus on that race right now. Also, he is scheduled to give a formal speech today, talking more about the race and his reasons for dropping out.

The DNC votes down a climate debate

Next up, yesterday the Democratic National Committee held a vote on whether to hold a climate debate. This is interesting in part because DNC Chair Tom Perez had already declined such a debate months ago, but the Resolutions Committee, a subset of the overall organization, was essentially forced to vote on it after a resolution was introduced into that committee. The final vote was 17 to 8, against the resolution.

Now, there will be a general session of the full DNC tomorrow—that’s Saturday, so there may be more news yet to come. But the key news here is, they voted, and it was a big nope. That means it’s not going up for a general vote in the larger DNC meeting.

Reading from a Huffington Post story by Alexander C. Kaufman and Chris D’Angelo:

“The influential youth-led climate group Sunrise Movement, a driving force behind the climate debate push, filled the room where the vote took place with as many as 100 activists on Thursday.
“We deserve a chance at a livable future,” one Sunrise activist shouted after the vote. “We deserve a climate debate.”
The nonprofit vowed to hold protests over the next day intended to shame the DNC for voting down the measure.”

Meanwhile, there was ANOTHER resolution that turned out differently. I’ve talked about this probably a dozen times now, and I even mentioned it YESTERDAY. The DNC has held two positions that have, so far, been tied together: first, it would hold no single-issue debates during this cycle, including no debate on climate change.

Second, if a candidate were to attend somebody else’s single-issue debate, they would be disinvited from any future DNC-sponsored debates. I think the logic there was that the DNC didn’t want to lose control of the overall debate process and have it end up being run by other organizations. But at the same time, that ban-your-candidate position was far less defensible than simply saying, hey, look, we don’t do single-issue debates on ANYTHING, but you do you.

So here’s the news on that—in a SEPARATE MOTION, the same DNC resolutions committee voted to move ahead with a resolution that would reverse that candidate-ban thing. Now, that still needs to work its way through the larger system, and that’s part of the meeting this weekend, but that is seen as a partial victory.

It’s also a big reason why the Sunrise Movement folks are sticking around through the weekend to make sure it’s clear to the party that this issue matters, and there is a strong constituency behind it.

A listener question on donor counts

Next up, listener question time. It’s been too long and yeah, the list of questions is really piling up. Sorry about that, I do have them, I just haven’t been doing them on the show.

Today we have a question from listener Whitney Joe. This was actually a two-part question, and I’m holding part two for Monday, because we just don’t have time today. So, part one:

“Why are donor counts a thing? It seems counterproductive to value them so highly when so many people are giving to multiple candidates.”

Okay, this is an excellent question as usual, thank you to our astute listeners for pointing out things I’ve never really discussed on this show. So the donor count thing is officially called the “grassroots fundraising threshold.” The idea behind it was publicly stated by DNC Chair Tom Perez way back in February, when he said:

“…Because campaigns are won on the strength of their grassroots, we […] updated the threshold, giving all types of candidates the opportunity to reach the debate stage and giving small-dollar donors a bigger voice in the primary than ever before.”

He also said in an email to The Atlantic: “If you want to be president of the United States, you have to develop a proficiency at grassroots fundraising. That’s the only way we win.”

Okay, so that is literally the party line. Another way to put this, at least as far as Democrats see it, would be to say this happened because of Senator Bernie Sanders. He famously had that $27 dollar average donor figure in the previous cycle, and that proved that a lot of people were willing to support him. That is the definition of small-dollar grassroots support. Yet, the DNC famously favored Clinton in the debates in that cycle, so you have to imagine the DNC sitting around early this year and saying, hey, everybody, how are we gonna do this now and allow candidates like Sanders to get a fair shot? Well, here we are with this grassroots fundraising thing. And yes, it has turned out to be very weird in practice, though it sure seemed like a decent idea on paper.

One more important note is that Trump actually BEAT SANDERS in small-dollar donation fundraising in the last election. So the DNC correctly sees this grassroots thing as totally vital, given that they know who they’re up again and how good he is at getting small-dollar donations. Let’s not lose sight of that.

The original idea was that, if a candidate could actually convince 65,000 people to give a dollar to their campaign, that candidate clearly had a good campaign operation and deserved a voice in the primary debates. It was seen as proof of that candidate’s viability, regardless of whether they had good polling or name recognition or job experience or whatever. I think that’s a reasonable IDEA, and I think the INTENT there was clearly good and relatively fair. The 65,000 and now 130,000 numbers may seem arbitrary, but the DNC says they talked to ActBlue and set those numbers based on what they thought would be challenging but NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

In practice, this donor number thing didn’t work as expected, because there were SO MANY CANDIDATES who met either the donor threshold or the polling threshold, or BOTH, and there were only 20 spots on the debate stage. I don’t think the DNC really thought that 20 candidates would qualify under their initial criteria, or that so many donors would give to so many people in an attempt to get around that system in order to have as diverse a debate as possible.

The other big problem was that the DNC preferred polling as a tie-breaker method, which is why Gravel never made it to the debates, even though he did get that donor number just before the second debate. You DID have people on stage, both times, who JUST had the polling requirement but have NEVER gotten the donor numbers. So the DNC clearly thought that polling was still more important than grassroots support.

The other big problem, obviously, is that it has led to millionaires and billionaires begging regular people to please give them one dollar. This is totally bizarre and counterproductive, but is now absolutely required in order to remain viable.

The cost to get that dollar is more than one dollar, and so you end up with a wasteful system—many candidates are spending their high-dollar donations on trying to get low-donor donations in order to meet this particular goal. The beneficiaries of this system have really been the platforms that run the ads—like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and so on.

It’s fair to say that the way donors responded to this requirement was unexpected by the DNC—I have talked to SO MANY PEOPLE who said, hey, I gave a dollar to everybody who was on the bubble, because I wanted to hear them speak. That’s a totally fair and honestly pretty cool thing to do, but it feeds this weird system in a way that I think was genuinely a surprise to the DNC.

The DNC needs to re-think how this works in the future, otherwise we’ll see a repeat of this same weird effect in four or eight years. And I don’t think anybody—candidates, voters, or even the DNC—really thinks that this outcome is what they wanted.

Okay, that’s the summary, and for a really good deep dive on this topic, check out the article titled “The DNC Isn’t Apologizing for Its Debate Rules” by Russell Berman in The Atlantic. There’s a link to that in the show notes, as always.

Candidate anecdotes: Elizabeth Warren

Okay, time for a new segment to close out our Friday shows going forward. For now I’m calling this Candidate Anecdotes.

The idea here is to collect recordings of the candidates telling stories about their lives. They can be funny, they can be personal, they can be sad, I don’t care—as long as they’re the candidates NOT CAMPAIGNING, but just being human. And if a candidate wants to come on the show and tell the story live, or send me a clip, go for it, my door is open, I have Skype, we can make this happen very easily.

So in a moment I will play you the first anecdote, and we’ll do one of these every Friday until I run out—which could be as soon as next week. And that’s where you come in. I only have ONE MORE of these, it’s from Harris, so I need your help to find more, or I will just hit the pause button. What I’m looking for is audio or video clips in the range of, say, one to four minutes.

This can be for ANY CANDIDATE FOR A NATIONAL OFFICE IN THE US. The story itself does NOT have to be news-related or politics-related AT ALL. And, in fact, older recordings might even be better. All parties are welcome, all positions are welcome, though I am going to give priority to people running for president first, especially if I don’t get a ton of these recordings.

Oh, and ONE MORE RULE—the audio can’t come from somebody else’s podcast, because I’m not gonna rip off Joe Rogan or something. This needs to be from some kind of public appearance, and yes, TV is almost always fair game. By the way, book tour interviews are a great place to find these stories, because they tend to be way less formal than campaign appearances.

Got it? Okay, so if you have a candidate that you love, and you can find a recording of them telling a good little story—please send me the link! You can find the Election Ride Home on Facebook and Twitter—those links are at the top of the show notes, or you can just tweet at me directly, my DMs are open, and public tweets are good too. You can also email me using the address chris@chrishiggins.com.

Okay, so our first candidate anecdote comes from Senator Elizabeth Warren. This is a clip from 2011, telling the story of how she met Barack Obama for the first time. This happened at the Chicago Humanities Festival. I originally found this on the Twitter account “Trojans for Warren,”which is a fan group by students from the University of Southern California. A link to that tweet is in the show notes, and there’s also a link to the whole hour-long interview if you’re curious.

Now, because it’s from 2011, remember that Warren didn’t enter the Senate until 2013. So at the time she gave this anecdote, she was running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and had just wrapped up her oversight of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. All right, listen in:

[WARREN-CANDIDATE-ANECDOTE-PREDATORY-LENDING]

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Keeping this short on the outro—the dentist was fine, the tree stump is not, the African violet clones are still doing absolutely nothing. But on the bright side, it’s summer, I’ve got a few good books to read, and I am gonna READ HARD THIS WEEKEND. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all on MONDAY.

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