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.