Wednesday, May 16, 2018


We've all heard the laments: Democrats can't just be anti-Trump! Democrats can't survive on anti-Trumpism alone! Democrats have to stand for something!

And then when they do, they hear this from The Washington Post's James Hohmann:
The far left is winning the Democratic civil war

... The success of very liberal candidates in primaries across four states is causing a new bout of heartburn among party strategists in Washington, who worry about unelectable activists thwarting their drive for the House majority. But it also reflects a broader leftward lurch among Democrats across the country since President Trump took office.

-- In Nebraska, a liberal social worker and political neophyte ... scored a shocking upset in a Democratic primary to take on Rep. Don Bacon (R). Kara Eastman, 45, beat former congressman Brad Ashford, 68, in an Omaha-area district that national Democrats believed they could pick up in November.
Good Lord, what does this "far left" candidate stand for?
[Eastman] built her campaign around “Medicare for All” ...

Eastman advocated for universal background checks to buy guns, raising taxes and decriminalizing marijuana.
So radical!

What other wild-eyed crazies won yesterday?
In Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where GOP Rep. Charlie Dent’s retirement created a winnable open seat for Democrats, early front-runner John Morganelli — a district attorney who has been locally prominent for decades — lost the primary to attorney Susan Wild, who ran at him from the left.
Why would Wild do something so reckless as run against a fellow Democrat from the left?
Morganelli, who opposes abortion rights and “sanctuary cities,” was attacked relentlessly on the airwaves for speaking positively about Trump and tweeting that he was open to taking a job in the administration during the transition.

(Check out the "Principles" section of Wild's campaign site for all of her extremist, nutball ideas -- strong unions, apprenticeship programs, and rural broadband! Practically out of The Communist Manifesto! Allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices! Restoring the full Voting Rights Act and reversing Citizens United! Loonier and loonier!)

Hohmann goes on and on in this vein, and yet he concedes:
If Democrats are going to retake the House, Pennsylvania will be the keystone. It’s realistic that Democrats could pick up as many as a half-dozen seats of the 24 they need there.
What?! Even after nominating all those pinko candidates?

First of all, Democrats still seem to have an enthusiasm advantage, as Hohmann makes clear:
Democratic enthusiasm was on display across the country: They cast about 100,000 more ballots than Republicans in Pennsylvania. In northwest Pennsylvania’s Erie County, a linchpin of Trump’s narrow 2016 victory in the state, 5,000 more Democrats voted than Republicans. In the race for Dent’s open seat in the Lehigh Valley, there were about 42,000 votes in the Democratic primary and 29,000 in the also competitive Republican contest.
Second, we don't know what's acceptable and unacceptable to voters anymore. Heartlanders have been conditioned not to like people they regard as effete liberal elitists -- but it's also clear from most polling that heartlanders are worried about health care and other kitchen-table issues, and aren't exactly head over heels in love with capitalism these days. I think it's possible that you can win even in a not very liberal district if you have progressive economic ideas, as long as you seem like regular folks to the voters. Tell me, does this look like an ivory-tower coastal elitist to you?

There are going to be mismatches. Some Democratic candidates will be too progressive for their states or districts. But some centrist Democrats are uninspiring and lose anyway. In this political climate, we can't be sure of the right fit.

I still say you should absolutely vote Democratic in a general election if a centrist won the primary -- the Republican Party is so vile and toxic right now that any opportunity to weaken its grip on power must be seized. And even the most disappointing Democrat centrists have better voting records than, say, supposed moderate Susan Collins, who votes with President Trump 81% of the time. I wish Joe Manchin's number were a lot lower than 61%, but I'll take that 20%, and remember that the number for his potential GOP replacement would be close to 100% -- and that replacement would also vote to keep Mitch McConnell as majority leader.

Beating Republicans is good. Progressive ideas are also good. Let's just keep fighting.

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