A liberal candidate for office is being maligned. The surprising twist? Its her own party that is funding the ads
In their desperation to win back the House in the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats have turned to eating their own. How else to make sense of the unhappy drama unfolding in Texass 7th congressional district?
The district, which includes much of affluent west Houston, has a Republican incumbent named John Culberson, but was carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Culberson, a gun-loving, climate change-denying champion of Donald Trump, is a dreary exemplar of the kind of reactionary outlier who now passes as a mainstream Republican politician. And so the effort to unseat him has attracted a crowded field of seven Democrats, all vying to win the 6 March primary.
Of the seven, the most intriguing and exciting is a 40-year-old mother of two named Laura Moser. Moser is exceptionally intelligent; I taught her when she was a student at Amherst College in the late 90s, and she remains in memory as one of the most intellectually gifted students Ive come across in my career. At 6ft 2in, she literally stands out in a crowd and dazzles with her charisma and quick wit.
While this is her first run for public office, Moser has been politically active, founding Daily Action, a grassroots organization designed to mobilize opposition to Trumps deformation of the American political landscape. As a candidate, she has emerged as an articulate and passionate defender of progressive political causes including womens reproductive rights, single-payer healthcare, sane gun control and sustainable energy.
Her candidacy has generated excitement; Moser has outraised her six rivals in the new year and has gathered an enthusiastic following particularly among younger voters who supported Bernie Sanders.
So it is perhaps predictable that this young Democratic candidate would become the subject of a withering political attack. Branded a Washington insider and a carpetbagger, Moser has been maligned in recent days for harboring an outright disgust for life in Texas.
What is unusual about these attacks is that they issue not from her Republican rival but from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm of Democrats in the US House of Representatives. Concerned that Moser is too liberal to unseat a Trump patsy, the DCCC has embarked in the kind of smear campaign pioneered and popularized by its political opponents.
To be clear: the charges are ridiculous. It is true that Moser lived in Washington for several years, while her husband served as Barack Obamas videographer. And yes, Moser, who is Jewish, appeared at Obamas Seder table, thanks to her husbands White House position. Hardly the stuff to turn her into the second-coming of Nancy Pelosi.
It is also true that Moser, who has worked as a journalist, wrote in a piece for the Washingtonian that shed sooner have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia than live in Paris, Texas. But the article was about the virtues of city living, not about the disgusting idiocy of life in Texas. With all the subtlety of a presidential tweet, the DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly tore the statement out of context to indict Moser as unqualified to represent Houston. Sad!
As for the carpetbagger charge, it is true that Moser, who grew up in Houston, only recently moved back to the city, where her family has lived for some five generations. We might as well mention that she also speaks serviceable French.
Finally, there is the deeper concern that Moser is too liberal for Texass 7th district. Perhaps so. But in fearing that Mosers progressive platform and rejection of Trumps politics of constitutional demolition render her unelectable, it is the DCCC that has betrayed its disgust toward Texans. Moser trusts the intelligence and political sophistication of her fellow Houstonians to embrace change.
The 2016 election demonstrated exactly the kind of catastrophe the Democrats court when they rally behind a supposedly safe candidate over one with a galvanic message that promises to re-energize the party and the electorate. And while the DCCCs desire to win back the House is understandable, its treatment of Moser leaves no doubt about its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
- Lawrence Douglas is the James J Grosfeld professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought at Amherst College, Massachusetts.