Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Les Roberts Drops Out, So It's Arcuri Whether We Like It Or Not

Yesterday, in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Oregon, voters had the chance to choose between Democratic politicians of differing political philosophies. Today was our primary, but we were not invited to vote.

It's a pathetic thing to have to report, but I have called the Les Roberts campaign headquarters, and they're confirming that Les Roberts has quit. He is no longer campaigning to get the Democratic nomination to our seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Now, the Democrats of the 24th District will have no say in the selection of our own candidate. For Democrats, the decision is now Michael Arcuri or nothing.

I'm told that Mike Arcuri told Les Roberts that he will work to advance the issues that Les Roberts promoted. That's a nice promise, but so far, Mike Arcuri hasn't even done a good job of promoting his own issues.

The truth is that those of us who want to push Michael Arcuri to be more progressive, and to stop his irresponsible attacks against what he calls the "liberal fringe", have no leverage now. Les Roberts just lost all the power he once had to influence this race. After all, what can he do if Arcuri keeps up his slide toward the right, get back into the campaign?

Michael Arcuri now can pander to the right, to try to get Republican crossover votes, without any rival to question what he's doing. We progressive Democrats can disagree with Arcuri, but we should not expect to have much impact. Why should Michael Arcuri listen to us now?

The press coverage on this race will now go down. With a petitioning process that will be merely mechanical, voter outreach efforts on the Democratic side will decline. What is there to say to the Democratic voters of the 24th District now: Stand by your man, even though you didn't choose him?

The insider political game played by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has just been handed a victory. The Oneida County Democrats, who have been making arrogant comments for months that the rest of the district doesn't count, have been handed a victory. But, in the end, we can't blame the DCCC or the Oneida County Democrats.

Les Roberts is the only one to blame for quitting. He's the one that made the decision, and no one forced him to make the choice.

I hope that his decision turns out to be the right one. I am deeply concerned about it, but my concern may turn out not to be well-founded.

I now have to take a hard look at my assumptions about the race, and the issues that matter to me, and conclude that they don't matter very much to most other people. I don't think that there are as many idealists in the 24th District as I hoped there were. The political pragmatists and the party loyalists seem to outnumber idealists these days, and maybe it's always been that way.

Local democratic process took a bit of a hit today, but the choice of local Democrats may have been the same in the end. It's probable that most Democrats would have made the simple choice to pick the candidate that looked more like a winner because, this year, most Democrats are more focused on winning than on thinking about what it is that they're trying to win.

So, Les Roberts fades now, but he was never what the progressives in the Democratic Party were really fighting for. Mr. Roberts only stood for four short months as a representative for the real goal. We progressives have been through enough failed candidates on the local, state and national level in recent years to realize that the ultimate work is not about electing any particular person. It's about the ideas that form the highest tradition of politics and government in America: The ideals of progressivism that, although on the wane in popularity, still hold the key for the revitalization of our nation's promise.

I'm inclined to believe that Michael Arcuri will be less representative of the progressive tradition than Les Roberts would have been. I've been very disappointed in Mr. Arcuri's campaign so far. But, perhaps, I will be surprised by Arcuri. Perhaps, without any Democrats to compete against, he will stop attacking the left, stop pandering to the right, and start speaking up on the issues that matter to me.

It is clear Michael Arcuri would do a better job in Congress than Ray Meier or Brad Jones, though how much better is not clear at all. Michael Arcuri has earned victory in the field of the Democratic primary by assembling the most powerful political machine, but he has not yet earned the support of progressive Democrats. In order to earn that support, Arcuri has to convince us that he has a political vision that extends beyond whatever it will take to get him a seat in the House of Representatives. Whether Arcuri will try to reach out to progressive Democrats has yet to be seen. Certainly, many successful Democrats have made their way into office by taking progressive support for granted.

Though Les Roberts will now be joining the ranks of Bruce Tytler and Leon Koziol, this blog will keep on going, with the same mission, dedicated to the campaign to take back the 24th District from those who aim to dismantle Central New York's tradition of progressive civic values. That's not a campaign any politician will represent, but it is a campaign nonetheless.

I'll be pointing out the many ways in which the Republican candidates fail to represent progressive values, but when Michael Arcuri goes against a progressive vision, I'll nip at his heels too.

The drama of primary season is now over, and it won't pick back up until autumn. The drama of a possible progressive campaign against the Republican Congress is also over. Now, we'll all be watching a battle between two politicians from the same county (as surely the gig is up for Brad Jones), both claiming to be centrists, arguing about the issues that they regard to be safe to talk about.

Right now, the prospect of such a campaign feels about as exciting as an invitation to watch a weekend full of reruns of The Golden Girls. Yet, it remains important to pay attention, and it is up to us outsiders to make it more interesting. It's up to us to continue to speak out of turn.

Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Well I knew it wouldn't stop your nastiness, Jon. But at least his speech shows that Les Roberts perhaps wasn't like you. I would expect you to continue being as negative as possible. Whatever would you do with all your blogs if you couldn't do that?

Anonymous said...

This may come as surprise to you but most Democrats are NOT progressives. That used to be calle the Liberal party. Where did that party go? Same place the Conservative party went. I suggest if people do not want to be Democrats they should register in another party. For me, I want a sensible moderate democrat in office. I am sick of extremes.,, for BOTH sides. you Do have another option though. You can go ahead and vote for Ray Meier.

24 Independent said...

There we go. Take note dear readers, that as soon as the last primary opponent to Michael Arcuri fades away, we see Arcuri supporters coming out with attacks against progressive Democrats.

Already playing to the Republican crossover vote, huh?

That's sad.

What you see as negative, anonymous reader too afraid to leave your name, I see as critical.

You know, critical as in critical thinking.

I do intend to keep on being a critical thinker in my writing about this campaign, as much as it drives campaign loyalists crazy. I'll be damned if I'm going to write a bunch of puff pieces about how much I adore Mike Arcuri, just because he's muscled all the other Democratic candidates out of the race.

Michael Arcuri, if he's a good candidate, can withstand critical examination. If he's not a good candidate, he won't be able to take it.

I'll do my part to ensure that Michael Arcuri continues to get pressure from the left. With his attacks against liberals, and his refusal to adopt progressive policies, he needs this pressure to keep him honest.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how anonymous #2 forgets that liberals (with some modern day liberals referring to themselves as progressives) are the ones who built the Democratic party and gave it its legacy and currently provide the vision thing that's sorely lacking in the party leadership. Maybe a little history lesson is in order anonymous: Who out of the following were liberals: FDR, Truman, LBJ, JFK, RFK, Humphrey.

The correct answer is: All of them.

And FYI - Wilson ran a progressive platform for his re-election campaign.

One other thing, Arcuri needs the votes of the left to win a race where despite an expected depression in Republican turnout the Democrat will only win (if at all) in a squeaker.

The Republicans, whoever they nominate, have the luxury of being able to run a 1/2 assed campaign and probably still winning because their ground game has been demonstrated to be better than that of any ground game run by the DCCC in recent history.

Biggus Dickus said...

With his attacks against liberals, and his refusal to adopt progressive policies, he needs this pressure to keep him honest.

I'm curious what your source is for Arcuri's "attacks against liberals".

Your friend forever,
Biggus Dickus

Anonymous said...

This is truly pathetic. We're left with a guy who has only won one contested race, years ago. A guy who wouldn't run full time for the office when he had primary opponents. A guy who hasn't put in place any organization outside his own home county. A guy who's only hope is voter anger with Bush and the Republicans when there is no indication of any non-Democratic voter anger in upstate.

The safe money bet is Ray Meier wins by default.

thingwarbler said...

Well, now the DCCC and the party apparatchnicks in DC have their man in place -- regardless of what the voters of 24 might have said at the polls, you know voting, that quaint old-fashion way of running a democracy. Sure, it was Les' choice to quit, but when you come to realize as he did that the party he's supposed to represent is, in fact, working against him and against the interests of a genuine democracy, you don't have much option but to call it quits.

"this may come to you as a surprise, but most Democrats are NOT progressives" says our friend Anonymous -- based on what? And define, please, progressive in this context? The party has moved so far to the right with people like Schumer and Hillary and Emmanuel (the "sensible moderate democrats" who cave and cave and cave and pander to the rightwing on everything from the war in Iraq to healthcare to civil rights) at the helm that "progressive" is now being used to tar and feather anyone who dares suggest that the party return to its roots of looking out for the genuine interests of real the average American.

"I suggest if people do not want to be Democrats they should register in another party" -- Well, since the Democratic party as defined by Anonymous and his friends is now GOP lite I think the solution is to continue working to redefine "moderate democrat" to at least mean someone who respects core democratic values. Like primaries without power-brokers in DC throwing their weight around to deny the voters of 24 their say at the polls.

Anonymous said...

Jon - have you ever worked on the staff of a campaign before? If so, did the candidate(s) win or lose?

It seems you are roasting Roberts quit a bit for quitting. I am just wondering how you have thrown your hat in the ring. It's one thing to whine from the outside, it seems another to throw your hat in and go for it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous isn't the one defining Democrats. Read this blog and see how many times the words "Real Democrats" are written. Is that like "Real Americans"?.

What would have been "Pathetic" is not being left with a guy who "won one contested race," but being left with a guy who never one a SINGLE race of ANY kind.

Curious said...

Lionel and 24Dem and others who think Roberts ought to have stayed in for moral reasons--It costs about $5000 a week to run a modest Congressional campaign in this district. It's unrealistic to expect a candidate to go so completely into debt when he's fighting the catch-22 of money drying up because the party leadership isn't behind him. Yes, it would be nice if our party gave us the chance to choose. Yes, we should appreciate elected officials who refuse to endorse in a primary (Hillary refuses; Chuck is another matter!)

Anonymous said...

Interesting - you calling Les Roberts a quitter. I don't know you at all, so correct me if I am wrong TakeBack24, but it seems you should thank Les Roberts for presenting "your ideas" to the public for the past few months. Judging from what I read on this blog, you have about 20 people reading it regularly. I would imagine that Les Roberts as a candidate has sacrificed a lot more for progressive causes than you ever will. Seems like you should give credit where credit is due and stop criticising a good man.

24 Independent said...

Les Roberts is a good man, and I understand his decision. I still think that he made the wrong decision. But that's selfish of me, a voter, I suppose, to want to have a choice in an election. I know it's damn hard to run for public office, but I'd think that someone would have thought that through before entering a race for Congress. It would have been a good thing for the voters to give them a chance to give it their best shot.

It wasn't to be, so we go forward.

I think written plenty enough positive material about Les Roberts to merit one criticism on this occasion.

I did not want to pull a Paul Hackett, and blame everybody but the candidate for what was ultimately the candidate's decision. I think that people who have sent in donations and put in a good amount of effort toward this campaign have the right to be disappointed that their resources were not better used.

Les Roberts is a good man, but he made a mistake, and now he has practically no leverage. His decision to withdraw has also undercut the progressive Democrats of this district, who don't have any choice other than to support Arcuri or to do nothing at all.

Maybe it would have been impossible for Roberts to have gotten the number of signatures necessary to get on the ballot, but there were almost $150,000 of donations given to him in order that he would try.

I value trying and failing more than I value knowing when to surrender. That's my bias - I've always found the most success in life when I've allowed myself not to be pragmatic.

I don't hate Les Roberts. I'm not mad at Les Roberts. I'm a bit disappointed in this decision, that's all. I just want to be honest in describing what happened. Nobody was forced to do anything. Les Roberts made the choice.

Anonymous said...

I must observe that over at the Arcuri for Congress campaign web page, there is not a single acknowledgement of Les Roberts. Not one comment on how gracious Les Roberts was to praise Michael Arcuri upon his withdrawal. Not one press release or even a little note, about what Les Roberts brought to the race.

That isn't just an oversight.

It is an insult.

Anonymous said...


Why don't you run? This blog could be the start of a grassroots effort to restore progressive ideals to the Democratic party. You have the knowledge and insight to run an effective campaign and to highlight the issues of importance to local voters. Your readers combined with the corps of progressive activists around Trumansburg would be your base. Take the plunge!

Anonymous said...

Actually, there is something on the Arcuri website about Les.

Anonymous said...

There actually is a note about Les endorsing Arcuri.

Curious said...

11:39 et al.: This is unfortunately one of the problems with the Arcuri campaign--it typically takes 24 hours for any news to appear on the website. You may think it's trivial, but it's symptomatic of a general communications problem.

Anonymous said...

Now that we all need to support Arcuri, I think it is worth pointing out that despite Roberts being less well funded and supported, he seemed to get in the press more than Arcuri. I hope the Arcuri camp is smart enough to reach out to Roberts supporters and utilize some of their strategy that did work. We'll see...

Anonymous said...

12:46 am - I've worked on winning Congressional campaigns before. Mike Arcuri is no Sam Stratton.

Anonymous said...

How can you call a strategy that resulted in a guy withdrawing from a race for lack of funds and enough supporters..."a stategy that works"?

I'm not sure where Les Roberts was in the press more. Must have been local. I didn't hear a thing about him between the AirAmerica fiasco and his tag on the end of Arcuri's press release on energy.

I imagine Mike Arcuri has his own strategy just like Les Roberts had his. He's just not sharing it on this blog.

Anonymous said...

6:39 am - I didn't see a lack of funds or supporters as a reason for Robert's withdrawl. I see the DCCC talked him into quitting in theory to benefit Democrats in general by having no primary.

The guy who clearly had a lack of supporters and money was Bruce Tytler. He couldn't even get his present or past County Chairmen to make a contribution to his campaign.

CCDem24 said...

You know, I was waiting for some ass to stick it to Bruce Tytler in all this. I helped Bruce towards the end, (and no, I'm not that fasist task-master Matt Penello). Bruce started too late. Pure and simple. That's it. He was a good man, Capraesque, and I cried when he quit.

Anonymous said...

Woody was the guy who stuck it to Bruce Tytler.