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Still No Excuses
Two years after the far-left launched a scam PAC to primary Joe Manchin, it’s clear the movement has peaked.
Remember politics two years ago this week?
Donald Trump had just been impeached for inciting a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol. Joe Biden had taken office and pledged to heal a bitterly divided nation. A razor thin Democratic majority had been sworn into Congress.
How did the founders of the leading far-left groups respond to this immensely high stakes political moment?
By launching a campaign to defeat one of the Democrats’ deciding votes in the Senate.
“No Excuses PAC” gained a flurry of headlines. Launched by the serial far-left entrepreneurs who co-founded the AOC-recruiting Justice Democrats, this PAC sought to “find the next AOC to replace Manchin”. Reporters credulously repeated their prediction it would raise “several millions of dollars”.
As we wrote last year in The Bulwark, there’s something especially counterproductive about the group’s effort to challenge Manchin:
West Virginia is one of the reddest states in the country, making Manchin an electoral miracle; if the group were to be successful in its effort to oust him with a left-wing primary challenger, that challenger would lose to any GOP nominee in the general. Meaning that these progressives watched the January 6 attack on democracy and decided that what America needed was . . . one more Republican senator.
This would be more concerning if the founders of No Excuses PAC put their money where their mouths were at the start of 2021. Here’s an excerpt from our March 2022 deep-dive:
The whole project seems to have fizzled out with little to show for it. Despite disbursing $136,824 in 2021, No Excuses PAC only spent a meager $14,831 directly against candidates
Even more damning, though, is where the group’s money did end up going:
[Corbin] Trent, the group’s co-founder and director, has received two thirds ($95,250) of all cash disbursed by the PAC over the course of the last year, netting a hefty $7,500 per month in exchange for “communications consulting.”
Two years later, we still haven’t heard any excuses from the apparent grifters behind the No Excuses PAC. The group’s Twitter account hasn’t Tweeted since February 8th, 2021 — just six days after the effort was big news in the political press. According to its latest FEC filings, the PAC has now disbursed more than $180,000 and Corbin Trent received his most recent payment in September.
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The Far-Left Has Officially Peaked
Last March, we posed the question “Has the far-left peaked?”
This wasn’t to suggest that the far-left has disappeared (or that it hasn’t gone mainstream), but to ponder whether the groups and individuals who built the entrepreneurial infrastructure to power the far-left momentum surge from 2016-2020 were past their peak.
Not only had the far-left never flipped a single swing seat, but the “Squad” had seen its growth (which unfolded only in some of the bluest districts in the country) slow dramatically since 2018. Justice Democrats (the group behind the Squad) was recycling candidates. In 2020, two of their three winners were recycled from 2018. In 2022, two of their six endorsed candidates were also from the cycle prior.
The slowdown in momentum was not just on the ballot — it was in the organizations themselves. New Consensus, the think tank also started by the Justice Democrats founders aimed at furnishing the Green New Deal, appeared to have stopped updating their website after a short period.
The midterms provided more evidence that the far-left momentum has reversed. The Squad had its lowest yield in any cycle since its inception (from four new members in 2018 to three in 2020 to just two in 2022). The New Consensus website has gone from no longer being updated to being taken offline entirely (try visiting www.newconsensus.com).
As for No Excuses PAC, it’s been a nothingburger and we’re all better off because of it.
Beyond the fact that Joe Biden’s agenda would’ve been impossible without Joe Manchin’s support (especially the highly-popular Inflation Reduction Act), Democrats will need everything they can muster to get Manchin over the finish line in one of the most Trump-loving states in the nation next cycle. Senate Democrats are already staring down the barrel heading into 2024 (West Virginia is only one of three Trump seats the party must defend) and can’t afford to squander any shot at winning or minimizing the extent of the loss.
But most concerningly, the far-left has taken to downplaying their abysmal performance record in swing races.
2022 marked the third cycle of Justice Democrats and Our Revolution — and the third cycle in which they were unable to flip any seats from red to blue.
As Third Way’s Lanae Erickson, Lucas Holt, and Maya Jones write in a comprehensive overview of the midterms:
The NewDem Action Fund has now flipped 42 seats from red to blue since 2018, while Our Revolution and Justice Democrats have not managed to flip a single Republican-held seat over the last three cycles.
This is empirical electoral reality, but the far-left has not taken kindly to it. When far-left leaders were confronted with data from New York Times’ Thomas Edsall, they had no answer.
When asked if they’d flipped any House seats from red to blue, the top brass at Justice Democrats and Our Revolution demurred. As the communications director for Justice Democrats wrote (evidently word-for-word) in an email to Edsall:
We haven’t run really races in those areas (sic). We’ve been focused on blue seats where the incumbent is corporate-backed and out of touch with their district.
But they have run races in those areas — and they blew them. In 2020, Justice Democrats spent gobs of money supporting Kara Eastman in Nebraska, only for Eastman to lose a seat Joe Biden won handily (a double-digit underperformance). They might deny it now, but here’s a tweet of theirs from October 2020 announcing a six-figure ad buy against Eastman’s opponent:
The executive director of Our Revolution stated similarly that they had no such goal. Maybe they didn’t, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that they turned what should’ve been a safe seat (Biden +9 in 2020) into a swing seat and then a Republican flip.
In other words, the far-left has now officially flipped more seats from blue to red than they have red to blue.
The Momentum is With the Middle Now
Two years after the vacuous launch of No Excuses PAC, it seems a fitting stand-in for the far-left’s zenith. The hubris. The focus on beating fellow Democrats, not Republicans. The denial of political reality — and their own role in it.
Far-left political entrepreneurs had a big moment in the late-2010s. They had an outsized impact, and they made a dent in our politics.
Hats off to them, and cheers to learning from them to hold the middle.
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