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This Is What It Sounds Like When a Very Powerful Democrat Tries to Force a Progressive Out of a Primary Fight

"They squash progressive candidates," said Levi Tillemann, a Democratic candidate in Colorado, who was urged by Rep. Steny Hoyer and the DCCC to end his campaign

Jake Johnson

"They destroy the diversity of ideas in their caucus," Colorado congressional candidate Levi Tillemann said of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. (Photo: The Intercept/Youtube)

People have long known these kinds of conversations take place, but rarely is the regular voter allowed to hear exactly how it goes down.

"The issues that resonate most with voters are not the issues that the DCCC is telling candidates to focus on."
—Levi Tillemann

The Intercept on Thursday provided a brief and striking look into the Democratic Party's "strong-arm" tactics by publishing a recording of Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the number two Democrat in the House, attempting to push progressive hopeful and Medicare for All supporter Levi Tillemann out of a Colorado congressional race for the benefit of the corporate alternative, Jason Crow.

With the help of cartoonists at The Nib, the conversation—which Tilleman secretly recorded on his phone—was turned into a dramatized video by The Intercept.


The Democratic Party has been accused of waging an "all-out war on progressives" over the past several months as it attempts to retake Congress from the GOP in 2018, but it's not often that the behind-the-scenes dirty work that goes into the party's effort to boost corporate-friendly candidates at the expense of left-wing alternatives been revealed in intimate detail.

In an interview with The Intercept, Tillemann acknowledged that his decision to record his private conversation with Hoyer is a "breach of personal decorum," but argued that this is "much less important than the fundamental principle at stake in our democracy in 2018."

"They squash progressive candidates," Tillemann explained, referring to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee (DCCC). "They destroy the diversity of ideas in their caucus. They keep ideas like Medicare for All, free community college, or impeaching Donald Trump from having a significant role in the national conversation. The issues that resonate most with voters are not the issues that the DCCC is telling candidates to focus on."

Tilleman is far from the only candidate who has faced the wrath of the DCCC for attempting to challenge Democratic Party orthodoxy and threatening the chances of establishment favorites.

As Common Dreams reported in February, the DCCC took the extraordinary step of publishing opposition research on Laura Moser, a progressive candidate challenging an establishment favorite in Texas's 7th congressional district.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), no stranger to the Democratic Party's tactic of marginalizing progressive voices, has called the DCCC's widespread campaign to undermine progressives in races nationwide "appalling."

Saikat Chakrabarti, executive director of Justice Democrats, has argued that the DCCC's attacks on progressives only make it more likely that the Democratic Party will continue to lose.

"Their attacks on Laura Moser's campaign, their internal memos directing their candidates to stand down on fighting for gun reform and Medicare for All—these are not just attacks on progressives but a completely incompetent strategy that will guarantee more losses," Chakrabarti said.

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