Progressive Organizations Toeing Party Line?


A couple weeks ago we suggested that progressive grassroots efforts to target House Blue Dog and Conservative Senate Democrats were faltering in the face of opposition from high within the party.

Today, Ben Smith and Jane Hamsher shed some light on the dynamics of that pressure.Smith writes:

Common Purpose is formed as a 501(c)(4), which leaves it focused on policy, rather than electoral, work. Its political director is another former Obama aide, Miti Sathe.

Part of the group’s role is to enforce a kind of message discipline, and one topic of discussion there, sources said, was a campaign launched last month by some of the more liberal members of the coalition — the Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, and liberal blogger Jane Hamsher — under the rubric “Dog the Blue Dogs.”

The White House, however, was in the midst of discussions with members of the congressional Blue Dog caucus, and objected to the slogan, which was promptly changed, and the page describing the drive is gone from CAF’s website.

Robert Borosage, the president of the Institute for America’s Future, which launched the campaign, said he wasn’t present at the meeting where the campaign was discussed but that he’d been made aware of the objections.

Hamsher clarifies:

Ben Smith has an article on Common Purpose, one of the many groups Rahm Emanuel has set up to coordinate messaging among liberal interest groups.

There are a variety of vehicles through which this is done — the 8:45 am call, Unity 09, Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America — and they’ve been extremely successful. When the banks told the White House they wouldn’t cooperate with the PPIP plan unless they got their bonuses, and the administration made the decision to “ratchet down their rhetoric,” the call went out to the liberal interest groups to stay silent too…and silent they remain….

A couple of things. One, I wasn’t actually part of the campaign — US Action decided to join a campaign they were doing against four Blue Dogs with a CAF campaign against five “Bayh” caucus Senators. I was asked by Robert Borosage to join in on a conference call and be supportive. Which I was happy to do, I like both Borosage and Roger Hickey.

Second, the original press release on Monday, March 23, did say they were targeting Blue Dogs. That was the day I got involved, and I mentioned that since the Bayh caucus weren’t really Blue Dogs it was probably better to rebrand. So they did. When the campaign launched and the press conference was held on the Tuesday the 24th, it was actually targeting “Obstructionists,” not Blue Dogs. By the time the White House whacked them on Tuesday afternoon, the name had already changed. So that ain’t why it happened.

Third — and most important — I had no role in scaling the campaign back, because it wasn’t mine, and I wouldn’t have done it anyway. I wasn’t at the Common Purpose meeting because the earth would cleave open and swallow Washington DC whole before I’d be invited to get White House talking points from some lobbyist, which is as it should be. Our big strength is being an independent voice.


Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at