Darcy Burner is running for Congress, again. And Goldy is excited, again.
Why? Well, for starters, if there's anyone in this office who's written a Goldy-sized number of words about Burner over the past six years, it'sme—and I really don't say that to brag. I say it simply to own my own personal, and rather extreme case of Burner burnout.
I get paid to be interested in people who do what she does, but all her newly announced candidacy in Washington's 1st Congressional District did for me was generate a strong desire to sleep for the next year. I'm not alone, based on the comments here.
Obviously, my own personal fatigue with Burner isn't really an argument against her third Congressional run in six years. (Though it's worth noting that the same kind of fatigue was a pretty common argument against the candidacy of Republican Dino Rossi last year, and it easily morphed into widespread cynicism about his motivations and sincerity, helping to make Rossi the most famous three-time-loser in recent Washington State politics.) There are plenty of other arguments against Burner's third Congressional candidacy, though. As I see them, they are these:
1. She still hasn't done anything: I know, I know, Burner's been at the Progressive Congress in D.C. That's not a job you get elected to, though. And this fact will merely serve to remind people of a problem Burner has faced ever since her first run (of two) against Republican Dave Reichert in the 8th Congressional District. Her political experience consists of chairing a women's group at Microsoft, where she worked as a mid-level executive back in 2004, and being the president of her neighborhood's Community Association for one year way back when. So she will be attacked in this race, as she was in her last two races, for aspiring to high office without ever having proved herself at low office—and it will probably start in the Democratic primary, in which her major opponents all have five or six years of experience serving as elected public officials.
Consider the field: Democratic State Representative Marko Lias was elected to the Mulkilteo City Council and is now in his fourth year in the state house. Democratic Senator Steve Hobbes has been in the legislature for five years. Former Democratic state representative Laura Rudermann spent six years in the state house. Even the little-known Democratic candidate Andrew Hughes has served on the state’s Energy, Transportation, and Telecommunications Committee. Darshan Rauniyar, also a relatively unknown Democrat, is an elected Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, was an elected member of the Snohomish County Democratic Central Committee, and is now on the 1st District Democrats Executive Committee. All of them arguably trump Burner in actual public service—as opposed to what is certain to be described by Republicans as Burner's six years of self-service, should she make it to the general.
2. The Harvard problem still exists: No, it was not at all fair that voters in the 8th District were led to believe that Burner didn't have a degree from Harvard and lied about having one. She has one. But as I said in an examination of the 2008 Harvard debacle here, "politics is about what can be said in sound bites and simple language." And all of the Harvard debacle materials—the video clips, the cherry-picked Seattle Times quotes—are still out there, ready for use in mounting the same damaging attack all over again.
3. The entitlement problem still exists: This was always more important than the Harvard degree problem. The strength of the Harvard degree attack was never just about the old political game of catching a candidate in an embarrassing "lie" (even if that "lie" was not actually a lie). The strength of the attack came from the fact that the Harvard degree hit tied right into, and amplified, a sense that Burner is an obnoxious, entitled climber who thinks she's so smart she deserves a seat in Congress as her first elected job—and that making this so becomes an end in itself, truth-stretching means be damned. Now, the political world is full of people who are actually, deep down, exactly like this, and the good ones learn to successfully hide it. I'm not saying Burner is actually, deep down, like this. I personally don't think she is. She has deeply held political convictions, and wants to use them legislatively to help others. But that's not how she comes off to a lot of people. To this day. It's not fair, and it probably has a lot to do with sexism, but hey, life's not fair, and anyway there are ways to deal with this problem. What Hillary Clinton showed in her successful U.S. Senate run is that when people are bent on dismissing you as an obnoxious and entitled line-jumper, the best way to neutralize that is by proving that you are actually a hard-working, dues paying listener. Which Burner hasn't yet done here in Washington State.
4. What she's doing now is opportunism: Yes, any political run is almost by definition opportunistic. Yes, Burner's Democratic primary opponents are all opportunists, too. But losing twice in a row in one Congressional district and then, when that doesn't work, running in a neighboring Congressional district—that marks a different order of magnitude on the opportunism scale.
5. The shrill blogger problem still exists: Or, at least, it might. Burner was certainly helped in the past, in terms of fundraising and buzz, by an army of progressive bloggers all around the country who decided she was one of them and had to be elected. But the vengeful world view of a number of those bloggers ended up being a disservice to her candidacy.
If you're not asleep already, I can explain, by quoting (quickly!) from my own post-mortem on Burner's 2008 race, in which I digested my own reaction to sometimes ending up on the wrong side of certain liberal bloggers' Manichean divide:
Sure, politics is about the exercise of raw power. But the Burner campaign's successes and failures prove that bloggers don't have it in sufficient quantities—not yet, anyway—to behave as if they can dictate the terms of the debate and to condescend, you-got-punk'd-style, to those they need to persuade. They misunderstand human nature if they think that people will be persuaded after a good talking-down to.
To put it another way: In this race, it sometimes seemed as if the bloggers' deepest dream was to no longer have to deal with the stupid people in politics. If only that were possible.
Different year, different election, but: A lot of the same bloggers. And ever since I mentioned I might write something like this, Goldy has been promising to personally shred me on the blog—personally meaning in personal terms, though he promises it will be done "lovingly"—for going against his Burner orthodoxy. I actually think I might be doing Burner a favor here, airing criticisms that, if they can be easily knocked down, should be knocked down early and convincingly. I don't think it does Burner any favors for them to be knocked down in a way that gives political observers flashbacks to the ruthless manner in which Burner's backers tried to mow down obstacles to her previous races. But hey, maybe I'm wrong.
Goldy's promising to mow me down shortly after I post this, so, you know, enjoy.