Rootstrapping, n. The practice of courting grassroots money and activism solely to attain elective office, thus securing the advantages of incumbency and making future grassroots support unnecessary. See also: Carney, Chris and McNerney, Jerry.
First Chris Carney made the transition from Blue American to Blue Dog, and now, according to babaloo at Calitics, it appears that Jerry McNerney has done the same. In the space of less than a year, McNerney has gone from proclaiming himself “a Barbara Boxer Democrat,” to proclaiming, “I am a moderate” to explain his vote in favor of using federal funds to prosecute medicinal marijuana growers. (As babaloo points out, only 24% of Californians, and 33% of CA Republicans agree with McNerney’s “moderate” position.)
To make matters worse, McNerney is also easing himself into the we’re-making-progress-in-Iraq-let’s-just-wait-and-see caucus, although he’s not completely pickled in Kool-Aid yet:
McNerney, the California congressman, also said he saw signs of progress in Ramadi and was impressed by Petraeus, who argued in favor of giving President Bush’s troop surge strategy time to work.
McNerney said he still favors a timeline to get troops out of Iraq — something House leaders may bring to the floor again this week as part of a defense spending bill — but is open to crafting it in a way more favorable to generals’ wishes.
“As long as we start at a certain date I’d be willing to be a little more flexible in terms of when it might end,” McNerney said.
Babaloo asks the very good question: “How do we, as a progressive movement, demand accountability from the candidates that we support?” Sure, we can withdraw that support, but once the rootstrapper wields the power of incumbency, does he or she really care? A strong primary challenge would be the most satisfying corrective, but is much easier said than done.
And while you’re chewing on that one, I have two more:
1) As the grassroots and netroots become more effective at propelling unknown/outsider candidates into elective office, will this make rootstrapping more attractive (“Hey! A way to get my foot in the door without having to attract corporate/establishment donors!”) or less (“Geez, I guess I shouldn’t piss those guys off if I want to keep my seat”)?
2) How do we prevent it? We can ask a candidate all the questions we want about what kind of rep/senator/governor they’ll be, but how do we know they’re not just telling us what we want to hear? Background checks? Polygraphs? Waterboarding?
Maybe we should just be wary of anyone whose name ends in Ney…