David Sirota: DeFazio's progressive economic populism is the key to victory.

David Sirota knows a few things about power, money, and politics. A former Capitol Hill staffer, campaign strategist, and author of Hostile Takeover, he's written extensively on progressive economic populism.

In the aftermath of the 2004 election, he famously defined the "Democratic Da Vinci Code" - seven keys to political success. Even back then, he identifed Peter DeFazio as a key champion:

The same message is working in conservative swaths of Oregon, where Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio keeps getting re-elected in a Bush district. For DeFazio, the focus is unfair trade deals and taxpayer giveaways to the wealthy. When Republicans promote plans to “save” Social Security, DeFazio counters not by agreeing with privatization but with his plan to force the wealthy to start paying more into the system.

Yesterday, Sirota told us why he thinks Peter DeFazio can win Oregon's US Senate seat in 2008 - and it's not about money or mechanics. Rather, it's his focus on economic progressive populism:

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) is one of the leaders of the People Party in its fight against the Money Party in Washington, D.C., and it's encouraging to hear he is considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2008. Having worked with DeFazio when I worked in the U.S. House, I can tell you that this guy is a no-nonsense populist who, if he ran, would instantly become an even bigger Democratic Party star than he already is.

What is particularly important about DeFazio is his profile, and what it says about the state of politics today. DeFazio is one of the strongest progressive populists in Congress, building up a profile and voting record on working-people issues that is the antithesis of that prescribed by the likes of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Of course, despite Chuck Schumer's leading role in the Sirota-defined "Money Party", he understands the power of Peter's populist cred:

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, headed by Money Party front-man Chuck Schumer, is aggressively courting DeFazio to run, going as far as polling the race for him to convince him to get in. By courting him so intensely, the DSCC is acknowledging that they believe the best Democratic candidate to win Oregon - one of the closest swing states in the country - is not to run a Harold Ford-ish DLC automaton, but to run a progressive populist.

And of course, the proof in the pudding came through in 2006:

It's not a coincidence that many of the Senate candidates who won in 2006 came from states or districts considered "swing" and that the one senate candidate who lost was the DLC's Harold Ford. From Montana's Jon Tester to Virginia's Jim Webb even to Vermont's Bernie Sanders (Vermont's at-large House contest was considered very closely contested between Republicans and Democrats), populist politics is the winning model in the toughest places to win.

Read the rest. Discuss.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    Great, DeFazio's anti-foreigner left-wing demagoguery can win him an election. And then if enough of his stripe get into office (remember that the Tancredo Republicans have a few economic troglodytes too) we can ensure that our standard of living goes slowly downward over the next few decades, and that our southern neighbors can continue and worsen as economic basket cases. And then we can build a bigger border fence to keep them all out.

    When Democrats get Populist and Demagogic, they lose elections - William Jennings Bryan was the first proof of that for all you history buffs. Oregon and the country need another Bill Clinton (without Monica), not Peter DeFazio.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Let me tell you basic reasons I am in favor of Peter de Fazio and opposed to Gordon Smith. In 2001 I attended a conference in Washington, DC with the aim of banning land mines. As a delegate from Oregon, I contacted Oregon's two senators and five representatives and requested to meet with them or one of their aides to make the case for their support of this ban. I received an appointment to meet de Fazio but not even a response from Smith's office.

    (1) Peter de Fazio showed respect for an Oregonian (even though I was not in his district) who was prepared to travel from Oregon to Washington to discuss an issue. Smith didn't give a damn. (Officials with the campaign later arranged a meeting for me with one of Smith's aides.)

    The day I met with de Fazio was a hectic one for representatives so if he had cancelled our appointment I would have understood. Nevertheless, he kept our appointment and very courteously listened to my points that he was apparently already in agreement with. At the end of our meeting I thanked him for his time. Instead of responding with a "you're welcome" signifying he was the one who did the favor, he thanked me for being an activist. At the meeting with Smith's aide, it was clear from the beginning she was hostile to my arguments in favor of the ban and clearly felt she would rather be doing something else than discussing land mines with me.

    (2) de Fazio has class; Smith has style but is essentially an empty suit.

    It was clear that de Fazio understood the barbarism and suffering caused by land mines. In a follow-up letter with its typically mealy-mouthed phrases most likely written by some functionary in Smith's office but signed by him, Smith made it clear he was content to let people plant land mines around the world where they could inflict problems on people for years to come. (In 2001 there was an estimate that a land mine killed someone somewhere in the world every 20 minutes even in countries where peace was supposedly in place.)

    (3) de Fazio is a man endowed with humanity. Smith is indifferent to inhumanity inflicted on others unless they are part of his family or circle of friends.

  • LT (unverified)

    Peter is a great guy and would make a great US Senate candidate.

    But given past behavior of DSCC (regardless of who was in charge) I can see a point of view which says DeFazio would be giving up a seat in the Congressional majority party without knowing for ironclad sure that the DSCC would be behind him all the way.

    I can see why this would be a tough decision for him.

  • (Show?)

    Posted by: Urban Planning Overlord | Apr 4, 2007 9:10:24 AM

    Your lame anti-DeFazio screeds are becoming an outright bore (not to m,ention wildly stupid).

  • anonymous (unverified)

    Back in 2001, I sought DeFazio's participation as a speaker in a seminar on animal welfare and rights (as I recall, he had shown some previous support on this issue.). I phoned his office late in the day, and he actually answered the phone himself. He was unable to participate - scheduling conflict - but we had an excellent, brief conversation, and he could not have been nicer in a low-key, direct way. He has been one of my favorite politicians ever since.

  • Matt Richards (unverified)

    I don't see the logic of recruiting a guy in a vulnerable house seat who isn't excited about the campaign. He's a great guy, with a reasonable shot at winning, but he's not the only person who could beat Smith, and well, its just dumb politics to have someone in a vulnerable seat, give up that seat, in the hopes of unseating a sitting Senator.

    We have other choices, lets push somebody that doesn't risk us a house seat, like Kitzhaber.

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)

    "Oregon and the country need another Bill Clinton (without Monica), not Peter DeFazio."

    Bill Clinton was a populist and center-RIGHT in his policies, despite what revisonist Neo-Cons like to believe. I am amazed how little conservatives know about their own values.

    I like DeFazio a lot, but I would want to hear more from him on what he could do as a Senator that he cannot do as a US Representative. Eitherway, Smith's flip-flopping, finger to the wind mentality and actions aren't doing our state any good.

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    Kitzhbaer is out. Watch the video.

    We can certainly keep the House seat. There are many good options for candidates. Tough race, but winnable.

    Frankly, if I had to trade one more D seat in the Senate for one D seat in the House - I'd do it. A single seat in the Senate could easily be the majority-making difference. It's unlikely that a single seat in the House would be.

    After all, that's exactly the situation right now. We've got 51 seats in the Senate (counting Lieberman, Sanders, and Tim Johnson.) But the House is a solid 233 to 202 majority.

  • Sandy (unverified)

    Peter is excellent, best Congressman I've ever had. He's answered every letter or email I've sent, even on abstract issues like psychological testing in schools. Most of the time, I don't even have to write or call because he's already right where we need him to be. I am disappointed on logging, but that's a tough issue down here.

    I also don't think this district is as vulnerable as some might think. Florence just elected a lefty for County Commissioners and went a little cuckoo at the mere suggestion of selling the dune across from the bridge. I think people are disgusted with Republicans in general, not just Bush.

    DeFazio is to the left of Wyden and if he could win here it would be one more true progressive in the Senate and we desperately need that. I think we should call his office and let him know we're ready to give and ask our friends and family to give.

    (541) 465-6732

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    Peter may be a great guy, but if he gives up his seat to run against Gordo, the Dems lose Peter's seat. Then, Peter is locked in a coin flip 50/50 race against Smith, and that assumes that Peter can raise 7 - 10 million bucks between now and next June. If he does not raise the money, then Smith has an even better chance of re-election.

    Earl B. is a much better choice to run against Gordo only because of the district populations. If Earl runs against Gordo and loses, the Dems are not out anything because Earl's seat is more or less guaranteed to be Dem. [There's your chance, Mr. Novick] Of course, if Earl loses he would be unemployed, but I am betting he could find something to do with his spare time between 2008 and the governor's race in 2010.

    Run Earl Run!

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    but if he gives up his seat to run against Gordo, the Dems lose Peter's seat. Posted by: BlueNote | Apr 4, 2007 2:24:21 PM

    Nonsense. His seat can be won by another D. Wyden cleaned King's clock in OR-04 and that is from a "Portland" (ugga booga) Democrat. Kulongoski also won by a healthy margin the OR-04. We also have a deep D bench in the area as well. Your absolutist (and fatalist) pronouncement about the Dems losing Peter's seat should he run are unsubstantiated hooey not backed up by fact.

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    It would have to be a really crappy D candidate and a really good R candidate for the Dems to lose OR-4, in my opinion. As of right now, the Dems still hold a registration edge approaching three points, and that's without the continued expectation that NAVs will tilt D in the election. For them to lose the seat:

    The political environment for Rs will have to improve Democrats in OR-4 will need to defect or stay home GOPers in OR-4 will need every single vote at their disposal NAVs will need to swing back to the Rs

    Frankly, I don't see it unless the Iraq War turns out great in the next 15 months.

  • BlueNote (unverified)

    I did not intend that my post would offend the Dem organization in Peter's district. But as a long time (and fairly successful) handicapper of horses, football teams and political races, I call them as I see them. For my money, Earl's seat is as safe for the Dems as any Dem seat in the country outside of downtown Boston, whereas Peter's seat is at significant risk if he runs for the Senate.

    Obviously there are 1.5 years for the Repubs to either alienate the remaining 22 percent of the country or build back their base and nobody knows what will happen. I still think Earl B. should run for the senate, with Peter keeping his seat for 3 more terms before he hits the big 66 (or whatever) and retires.

  • Jesse Oneleg (unverified)

    "Posted by: Bill Bodden | Apr 4, 2007 9:43:21 AM

    Let me tell you basic reasons I am in favor of Peter de Fazio and opposed to Gordon Smith. In 2001 I attended a conference in Washington, DC with the aim of banning land mines. "

    I know what you mean Bill. I was back in Washington DC about 6 months ago with the aim of banning tanks, bazookas, and night vision goggles. Smith wouldn't even meet with me! Of course, Defazio was happy to mean, but first I had to burn an Amerikan flag, and denounce capitali$m.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    When you look at DeFazio's record, he's right on a lot of issues, and he seems to be a caring, dedicated Congressman. He's just spectacularly wrong on one very important issue - free trade.

    And, Mr. Bodden, I can't speak for Gordon Smith and the Bush Administration, but if I remember correctly our last Democratic president was also opposed to a complete ban on land mines for the very important reason that their placement between North and South Korea replaced many thousands of otherwise necessary American soldiers and was key to protecting many millions of South Koreans from King Jong Il and his madman regime.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    And, Mr. Bodden, I can't speak for Gordon Smith and the Bush Administration, but if I remember correctly our last Democratic president was also opposed to a complete ban on land mines for the very important reason that their placement between North and South Korea replaced many thousands of otherwise necessary American soldiers and was key to protecting many millions of South Koreans from King Jong Il and his madman regime.

    Urban Overlord: You're talking to a committed independent. I probably have more contempt for Clinton that I do for Smith. And I'm not that thrilled with many other Democrats. Unfortunately, the likes of Peter de Fazio and Mike Gravel are in the minority of the Democratic Party.

  • JohnH (unverified)

    Several commenters have mentioned DiFazio's accessibiity. I agree. He works at educating people and connecting with them. He knows the issues and presents them personally in ways people can understand. He freqently puts opinion pieces in the newspaper, holds Town Hall meetings with constituents, and often responds to letters.

    Contrast this to Gordon Smith who parachutes into the state every six years to run for office, using mass media rather than personal communications to convince people to vote for him. I have NEVER had any communication from Smith other than campaign flyers. When he comes to town, he typically arrives secretly what what appears to be his body guard and meets only with selected business groups. Like Dick Cheney, he is aloof, out of touch, and expert at hiding from voters.

    BTW, has anyone had a Smith sighting this week? Supposedly, he is skulking around the state somewhere...

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    Posted by: BlueNote | Apr 4, 2007 3:17:44 PM

    I don't disagree that Earl's seat (OR-02) is safer for another D to hold onto than DeFazio's (OR-04). I don't think anyone here would argue otherwise. But DeFazio would also do much better in areas outside Portland metro and suburbs than Earl would (which I think would still overwhelmingly go for DeFazio, more so than Bradbury in 2002), and I think his current seat would still be the Ds to lose. DeFazio has a proven record of winning handily in the more rural OR-04 (than OR-02), which is why he would be a much stronger candidate to take out Smith. Not that I don't think that Earl couldn't make a real race of it either (or even Novick for that matter, who would be able to clearly and smartly differentiate himself for voters).

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Jesse Oneleg | Apr 4, 2007 3:17:54 PM

    Wow... Jesse Oneleg's proves he's an idiot Fright-Wing troll, who'd a thunk it? Well there goes another $10 from me into the ActBlue OR-Sen Democratic Nominee Fund 2008. Myself and other Democrats thank you for the reminder to donate to winning Smith's Senate seat by acting like an asshat.

  • Jesse Oneleg (unverified)


    You know, I've decided everytime that the tolerate, left wing progressives attack me with name calling, I to will donate: NRA

    BTW - How's the land mine ban working out? Buwhahahhahhahhahhahaha

    Peace out.

  • (Show?)

    Wow, what a sick joke signing off with "peace out" and laughing about land mines that kill and mame human beings (including children) for years after conflicts end. Real funny jack-off.

    Oh, and since many "left wing" progressives are gun owenrs, why would you think the NRA donatation would bother people?

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    How's the land mine ban working out? Buwhahahhahhahhahhahaha

    The land mine ban is a success in other countries where the people are more civilized and not dominated by barbarians, pathetic creatures and the war industries like those we are stuck with in this country. For what it is worth, Jesse, I hope you will get the help you appear to need.

  • (Show?)

    Before Peter, our district had Jim Weaver (D) who also knew how to appeal to the broad swath of political opinion that Lane County is.

    Peter was an aide to Weaver. I'd advise a similar Rx to hold the seat.

    As well, there's guys like Bill Morrissette in Salem who led conservative Springfield as a progressive mayor. I don't think it'd be too hard to find several Dems capable of carrying on the traditions established by DeFazio and Weaver.

    But will Peter go for the Senate? I hope he does.

  • Grant Schott (unverified)

    What about John Kerry's vietnam vet buddy, Jim Rassmun from Florence, for 4th CD if DeFazio runs for the senate? Vietnam Vet and retired LA cop seem like good credentials for that swing blue collar distrcit. Rassmun helped put Kerry over the top in Iowa and became a national political celebrity. He would no doubt have access to lots of national help , and seems liek a natural politican and first rate person.

  • (Show?)

    Now you're cooking Grant.

    If DeFazio does accept a draft, I agree that Rassmun would be a really strong replacement.

    <h2>The profile and the publicity would give him a real edge. He's also very good in person. Friendly, modest, and matter-of-fact, but with a low tolerance for BS and a willingness to stand up when attacked.</h2>

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