Randy Bryce, also known as “Ironstache,” has emerged as the Democratic Party’s latest sensational candidate after he announced his bid to challenge House Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat to represent Wisconsin’s first congressional district. The district is one of many across the country that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but for Donald Trump in 2016. Ironstache’s first campaign ad went viral, and Bryce was immediately courted for interviews by mainstream media outlets like MSNBC, Washington Post and more. Hillary Clinton’s most loyal supporters—including David Brock’s outlet Shareblue, Peter Daou, Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert, MSNBC’s Joy Reid, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden—have all tweeted in support for Bryce.
On April 4, Politico reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was actively seeking out veterans to run for congressional office. “They’ll formalize the focus on recruiting veterans on Tuesday, with a meeting at headquarters between DCCC leaders and Vote Vets, a liberal group focused on veterans’ issues.” On June 27, VoteVets formally endorsed Randy Bryce. Democratic Party operatives Sachin Chheda and Bill Hyers are managing the campaign. Hyers previously worked on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign. Bryce served as the treasurer for Paul Ryan’s Democratic opponent Rob Zerban in 2012 and 2014. Additionally, he served as a surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries but campaigned for Hillary Clinton in the general election.
The attention from the media has afforded Bryce a significant social media following and thousands of campaign donors from across the nation. He’s raised over $430,000 in less than two weeks. But the attention has also drowned out his opponent in the primaries, Cathy Myers, who isn’t mentioned in most stories on Bryce’s campaign. Instead of focusing on issues, qualifications, and appeal to voters, the Democratic establishment has lined up behind Bryce, thereby subverting democracy in their own primary. Myers tweeted on July 9, “While it’s true that Randy is a working guy, that doesn’t differentiate us. I’m a teacher with a strong record of union leadership. I stood strong with union members who elected me when their working conditions hampered their ability to teach. I am currently a working high school English teacher and the value of my work to my community should not be questioned.”
The Democratic Party has been criticized for taking sides in primary races, most notably for tipping the scales in favor of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential primaries. It has also earned a reputation for intervening in congressional primary races, for example in 2016 when Barack Obama and Joe Biden endorsed and campaigned for former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Florida Senate candidate Patrick Murphy. DCCC memos leaked by hacker Guccifer 2.0 showed that it is a common strategy for the DCCC to line up behind their preferred candidate in the primaries. This tactic ensures that establishment backed candidates are nominated to represent the party. An attorney representing the DNC argued in federal court earlier this year that the DNC would be within their right to “go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.” In most cases, establishment Democrats view primaries as a nuisance. This attitude devolves democracy and stunts the party’s growth.
After hyping Jon Ossoff’s failed congressional campaign in Georgia, the Democratic establishment is now making the same mistake by lining up behind Bryce. Rather than allowing the voters in Wisconsin’s first congressional district to select their own Democratic Party nominee, the Democratic establishment is doing it for them. Democrats will fail to recoup their losses so long as they market what they think voters will buy without changing their policies or addressing the shady insider politics that rot the party from within.