They say that “politics makes strange bedfellows.” While they are far from being alike, two members of Congress from Long Island are playing major roles in the ongoing debate about how to open up the government after a shutdown. While their activities are quite different, both are in a position to have an impact on the debate.
Rep. Steve Israel is a well entrenched member of the Democratic minority. He is an expert on a variety of subjects, from energy to technology. But his major role is as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His job is not an easy one. No doubt, the shutdown of the government has given Israel a great opportunity to accomplish a lot for a party that is out of power.
Israel takes care of the usual business on Capitol Hill, and then jumps on a plane and goes in search of prominent Democrats whose arms can be twisted to run for Congress in the next election. At the same time, his parallel job is to raise money for all of the key campaigns in 2014. In both roles, he has his hands full.
A large number of Republican congressional seats are held by members who have become entrenched and unbeatable due to legislative redistricting. They can win their districts and sleep late if they choose too, but for that group the threat is from the Tea Party zealots who insist that they move even further to the right. In that group there aren’t many candidates who are vulnerable to a strong Democrat.
Israel’s targets for challenges are a small handful of Republican incumbents who are considered vulnerable or among whom there will be a vacancy due to a retirement. And he has a third role as well, helping to direct the Democratic Party’s “messaging” during the current national paralysis. Israel is in charge of advertising campaigns that expose the weaknesses of various Republican incumbents.
While we go on with our daily lives, hoping for an end to the government shutdown, Israel is the attack dog charged with embarrassing Republicans who can be affected by negative television advertising. By any measure, that is a tough job, because Washington politics is getting crazier by the day.