About Last Night: The Democrat Center Holds in Primary Results, For Now

About Last Night: The Democrat Center Holds in Primary Results, For Now

Earlier this week Mark Kruger wrote about the intramural contest within the Democrat party between the rising progressive left and the more established center-left.

But AOC’s success and the media attention it brings heightens the fissures within the Democratic party. The debate is over whether Dem’s should be more socialist. A young, idealistic faction within the party wants to wrestle it further to the left. They advocate big changes in healthcare, housing and education with a primary role for government. An aging “establishment” wing of the party supports incremental changes (or in some case the status quo). It wants to maintain a position nearer to the center.

Much ink and characters have been spilled about the topic, and last night with primaries in Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Kansas, and Washington we have some actual data and fresh results to add to the mix.

Washington Post:

The Democratic Party’s left-wing insurgency found its limits Tuesday night, with voters favoring establishment candidates over more liberal challengers in almost every closely watched race across several states.

In Michigan, former state senator Gretchen Whitmer easily won the Democratic nomination for governor over Abdul El-Sayed, a doctor backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who was vying to become the country’s first Muslim governor.

In suburban House districts across the Midwest, left-wing candidates lost to Democrats backed by party leaders, abortion rights groups and labor unions.

And in St. Louis, where party giant-slayer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez traveled to help another young insurgent candidate topple an incumbent, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) cruised to an easy primary win over challenger Cori Bush.

Six weeks after Ocasio-Cortez stunned Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), signs of a tea-party-like movement in the Democratic Party that would throw winnable races to far-left candidates appear to be fading. Instead, the party’s establishment has embraced ideas like expanding the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the space between its leaders and its disrupters.

“Trump has been the great doctor, stitching up our scars and healing us organically,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

The party’s centrists, who had bemoaned Crowley’s defeat, saw Tuesday night as a turning point. Whitmer, who ran on her record of expanding Medicaid in Michigan — and a memorable promise to “fix the damn roads” — will now lead an all-female ticket in a swing state that Hillary Clinton narrowly lost.

Vox drew mostly the same conclusion, adding “the left” to its column that was headed “losers” from last night along with the “moral victory” of coming close in OH-12.

The left has had a good 2018, don’t get me wrong. But Abdul El-Sayed’s second-place finish in the Michigan Democratic governor’s primary — even after a highly publicized appearance days before the election with superstar Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders — wasn’t its best moment.

Meanwhile, down south in Ohio, a moderate Democrat who explicitly rejects lefty priorities like Medicare-for-all, “Abolish ICE,” and tuition-free college, very nearly won a House district Republicans have held for 35 years. Progressives have made gains this year, compared to the past, but the moderate message still seems to have a place in certain areas.

Two establishment-backed candidates also beat self-styled Berniecrats in Michigan House primaries. The Kansas Second, with former Bernie Sanders staffer Brent Welder facing Sharice Davids, is too close to call, though Davids appears to be ahead.

Right now, it’s easy to imagine a House Freedom Caucus-size lefty caucus if things break right for Democrats. But that kind of support for the democratic socialist policies can have only so much effect, unless progressives start breaking through in more primaries.

At least for one night, any blue wave that might come will still be lead by the center. If the Democrats can manage to ride it.

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23 thoughts on “About Last Night: The Democrat Center Holds in Primary Results, For Now

  1. It does indeed seem that rumors of the center’s demise are at least premature. But the idea that specific policy movement to the left is:

    …shrinking the space between its leaders and its disruptors.

    Makes me wonder if the center itself is fraying. Moreover, will a shift in policy issues further left be enough to placate ardent “social democrats”?

    For 2018 I think the answer is yes. But they will need to deliver or I see trouble ahead. It’s not hard to imagine an insurgent 3rd party splinter group slicing off a portion of Dem support in 2020 – with GOP operatives standing by to fuel the flames.

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  2. One of your links talks about the challenge for the GOP of appealing to both “Romney/Clinton” voters and “Obama/Trump voters”…. which hit me not for its merits but because I don’t think I’ve ever thought about anti-Trump voters (despite having swayed a number of them to happen myself) as Romney/Clinton voters…

    Huh.

    Interesting piece of self-discovery there.

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  3. One of the reasons the center is winning is that it is co-opting the message of the insurgents, not opposing it.

    No one is going around trashing Ocasio-Cortez and none of the insurgents are defecting or sitting home.

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    • It’s like someone really wants to write about a civil war, and it just won’t happen.

      The usual political junkies on the fringe shout, but the masses of Democratic voters don’t really care that much. I mean if the far-left were running anti-vaxxing PETA members who throw rocks in masks at protests against plastic straws, maybe.

      Instead they’re running scary people who say things like “We’d like universal health care” and “Higher minimum wages”.

      As best I can tell, about 99.9% of the “fighting” between the left and the center of the Democratic party is basically normal political bargaining against a backdrop of some places being more liberal than others, and nobody seems terribly stressed about it.

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  4. No one in all the varied multiverses likes hyperbole more than I, and as much as I enjoy watching from a distance “superstar Ocasio-Cortez” I think it would benefit everyone to call her, Top Prospect, or exciting up-and-comer, or highly touted, or whatever other sports metaphor we want to employ before they’ve ever spent a day in the bigs. I mean, for everyone’s sake. Ok internet?

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  5. The center is winning is because supposed centrists like Connor Lamb are pro-Medicaid expansion, anti-Social Security cuts, pro-choice are centrists because they’re relatively pro-gun as opposed to the Blue Dogs of 2006-08 like Heath Shuler.

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    • And that’s a good thing, right? I mean, I know I want the center to shift, but after all I come from Canada where the center (pace Harper who was a polite Canadian prequel to Trump) is significantly further to the left to begin with.

      If we’re well to the left of center, don’t we *want* people to think of the Democratic Party as centrist? After all, everyone thinks of themselves as more or less the center of what’s *reasonable*….

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  6. Jesse, Chip, and Morat are right here. The media and pundits love them a Dems in Disarray narrative but the today’s center politicians are further to the left than yesterday’s center politicians. Some of them might dismiss Medicare for All as sloganeering but they are also running hard against entitlement cuts. Previous generations of “serious” and “centerist” Democrats flirted if not outright voted for entitlement cuts. The idea that government needs to be involved in ensuring and expanding health care access is a matter of necessity for any Democratic politician. And while not everyone is saying Abolish ICE, no Democrat is supporting Trump on immigration either.

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    • One particular thing that’s happened is that everybody seems to have come to the simultaneous (and I think obviously correct) conclusion that 98% of the stuff from the center-right about fiscal discipline and deficits is concern-trolling.

      “We want to provide people with free college!”
      “How are you going to pay for that, commie?”

      vs.

      “We’re going to give the richest people in the country a huge tax cut and spend a trillion bucks on a jet fighter made of spackle and old Atari cartridges!”
      “Cool, cool.”

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  7. I would like to observe, with no small amount of gratification, that the winning candidates were triangulating between the poles of what Trumpism actually is and what the Sanderistas are calling for.

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