Friday, September 29, 2017


Under this photo from the 2016 Democratic convention...

... Politico tells us that Democrats, surprisingly, don't seem to be seriously divided going into 2018:
Democrats have long been terrified that the Sanders-Clinton slugfest of 2016 would set off a prolonged civil war in the party, forcing incumbents to fight off primary challengers from the left in Senate and gubernatorial races.

It hasn’t happened.

... Instead, it’s Republican incumbents yet again facing heat from the right, as arch-conservative Roy Moore’s defeat of incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) this week emphatically showed.

“What Democrats right now care about more than anything is winning,” veteran Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock said of divisive Democratic primaries. “I don’t think the ultra-progressives have abandoned their principles — not at all — but I think they looked at the challenge and said, ‘This is not the right place.’”
A few Democratic incumbents are likely to face Bernieite challengers -- Senator Dianne Feinstein in California, Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York -- but there doesn't seem to be a lot of energy behind the challengers' campaigns. An all-out civil war doesn't seem to be happening.

We're told that the reason for this is pragmatism on the part of would-be insurgents:
Democrats have escaped the brunt of their own party’s populist fury largely because they’re heading into the midterms in a defensive crouch, with 10 of their incumbent senators on the ballot in states that voted for Donald Trump. So instead of going after their own senators, progressive activists are focused on gaining Republican-held seats in the House.

“There’s some reluctance to put a lot of time into [unseating Democrats], versus [building] a more progressive Congress overall,” said former Communications Workers of America union president Larry Cohen, a top Bernie Sanders advisor who now chairs the board of the Our Revolution political group that was spawned from the senator’s 2016 presidential campaign. “There’s going to be a lot more activity where it’s possible to change the makeup of the Congress.”
I think there are other reasons as well. With rare exceptions, we're not seeing elected Democratic centrists defiantly adopting parts of the Trump/GOP agenda. Democrats in Congress -- after some prodding early in Trump's term -- have stood their ground, voting as a bloc to save Obamacare and mostly opposing Trump's most extreme Cabinet picks. Congressional Democrats regularly appear in the media pressing for more answers on Russia. And we see mainstream Democrats gravitating toward single payer, which seems, in part, like a peace offering to Berners.

Of course, it's early now -- if challenges to Democratic incumbents become serious, we won't know until next year. Some Democratic contests could play out like the Alabama Senate race. But for now there seems to be peace.

I think the friction, if it happens, is likely to come in 2020. I think part of the reason for the relative calm is that many left-leaning voters who want a revolution expect it to come through the election of a president. Sanders, Nader, even Obama -- there's often a belief that all it takes is a presidential win and massive change will automatically happen. Lefties have an unfortunate tendency to forget that you need a like-minded Congress as well.

Revolution-minded conservatives don't seem to make that mistake -- the religious right, the Tea Party, and now the deplorables have all put a lot of effort into downballot races, all the way to the state and local level. I think that's the influence of big-ticket donors and other D.C. power brokers in these supposedly grassroots right-wing movements -- the movers and shakers know that just electing a president isn't enough.

The left needs to understand that -- but for now, the tendency among lefty firebrands to focus on the presidency may be working in Democrats' favor.

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