If there was a truly bright spot for Democrats last November anywhere in red-state America, it was surely in Colorado (with Montana running a close second). Of all the Democratic candidates in close U.S. Senate races, Ken Salazar was the only winner. His brother, John, pulled off one of the few gains Democrats were able to make in U.S. House seats. And Democrats won control of both branches of the state legislature. Now they look poised to take back the governorship next year, and run the whole shooting match.With Democrats around the country looking to Colorado Democrats as role models, you’d think Chris Gates, the state party chair who oversaw this remarkable election day would be on an extended victory lap. But no: yesterday the state party’s executive committee ousted him as chair in favor of environmental activist Pat Waak (Gates is contesting the outcome based on a claim that certain proxy votes didn’t get counted).According to press reports, the coup against Gates was basically an act of revenge by “activists” unhappy with his less-than-secret support of Salazar in his Senate primary against fellow-activist Mike Miles. Presumably, Gates’ perfidious maneuvering, in tandem with virtually everybody in the national party who wanted to win a Senate seat, was responsible for Salazar’s photo-finish 73-27 win over Miles in the primary.I don’t live in Colorado, and thus don’t know if something else is going on, but it sure as hell looks like suicidal cannibalism of the highest order. And it poses a real challenge to those outside Colorado who keep insisting that the post-election activist insurgency in Democratic circles is “not about ideology, but about Democrats winning.” I know some people are unhappy with Salazar about his vote to confirm Gonzeles (which I disagreed with myself), but Jesus, folks, if the Democratic tent isn’t big enough for Ken Salazar–a guy recently touted by no less a fire-breather than David Sirota as a hero of “populist progressivism”–then we better get ready for permanent minority status.The Colorado Coup is especially bad news for new DNC chairman Howard Dean, who may now have to treat one of the most successful state party organizations in the country as yet another basket case. And it doesn’t much help that at least a few of his more vocal and visible supporters are touting the Coup as part of a “silent revolution” spurred by the Dean movement. I know Dean has other fish to fry right now, and is trying to keep a relatively low profile. But if he should happen to feel the need for a bit of a Sister Souljah moment to instill a sense of political reality in Activist World, this would be a really good occasion to indulge it.UPCATEGORY: Ed Kilgore’s New Donkey
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By Ed Kilgore
This year’s big media narrative has been the confirmation saga of Neera Tanden, Biden’s nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget. At New York I wrote about how over-heated the talk surrounding Tanden has become.
Okay, folks, this is getting ridiculous. When a vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the nomination of Neera Tanden was postponed earlier this week, you would have thought it presented an existential threat to the Biden presidency. “Scrutiny over Tanden’s selection has continued to build as the story over her uneven reception on Capitol Hill stretched through the week,” said one Washington Post story. Politico Playbook suggested that if Tanden didn’t recover, the brouhaha “has the potential to be what Biden might call a BFD.” There’s been all sorts of unintentionally funny speculation about whether the White House is playing some sort of “three-dimensional chess” in its handling of the confirmation, disguising a nefarious plan B or C.
Perhaps it reflects the law of supply and demand, which requires the inflation of any bit of trouble for Biden into a crisis. After all, his Cabinet nominees have been approved by the Senate with a minimum of 56 votes; the second-lowest level of support was 64 votes. One nominee who was the subject of all sorts of initial shrieking, Tom Vilsack, was confirmed with 92 Senate votes. Meanwhile, Congress is on track to approve the largest package of legislation moved by any president since at least the Reagan budget of 1981, with a lot of the work on it being conducted quietly in both chambers. Maybe if the bill hits some sort of roadblock, or if Republican fury at HHS nominee Xavier Becerra (whose confirmation has predictably become the big fundraising and mobilization vehicle for the GOP’s very loud anti-abortion constituency) reaches a certain decibel level, Tanden can get out of the spotlight for a bit.
But what’s really unfair — and beyond that, surreal — is the extent to which this confirmation is being treated as more important than all the others combined, or indeed, as a make-or-break moment for a presidency that has barely begun. It’s not. If Tanden cannot get confirmed, the Biden administration won’t miss a beat, and I am reasonably sure she will still have a distinguished future in public affairs (though perhaps one without much of a social-media presence). And if she is confirmed, we’ll all forget about the brouhaha and begin focusing on how she does the job, which she is, by all accounts, qualified to perform.