the current Democratic primary elections are largely presented as an ideological fight between
the Democratic party’s progressive and moderate wings. But the patterns of voting over the past
few weeks have challenged this story.
In marquee elections that took place in Pennsylvania and Oregon the progressive victories
resulted in declarations that the left-wing of the political party was increasing its popularity
however, certain moderate wins defied this idea.
The thing that is becoming apparent as the votes are counted it’s the fact that Democratic primary voters appear to be less concerned about who they believe the “progressive candidate” is and more about whether or not candidates are
promoting progressive agendas. The thing that a majority of Democrats who came out on top
of this week’s share is the fact that each supported progressive goals that were tailored to the area
the candidates were planning to run.
Perhaps no place encapsulated this truth more than the swing state of Pennsylvania in which a
comparatively popular and locally regarded candidate who consistently refused to be labeled
progressive — Lieutenant. Gov. John Fetterman — trounced the more moderate Washington
popular Rep. Conor Lamb, in the primary in the race for US Senate.
“Just being a centrist is no longer an option and isn’t enough to accomplish anything. There’s a
shrinking space left in the middle.” Mustafa Rashed, a Democratic strategist from Philadelphia I
spoke to about the state’s political dynamics.
In the state, candidates who offered clear and readable versions of progressive ideas were
successful, from more left-leaning politicians who were successful in races in heavily
Democratic regions for the state and federal legislatures to conservative incumbents who fought
off tough competition by the right. In the majority of the races, there was a general shift toward
the left was evident among the base of the party and its candidates.
The trend doesn’t have to be all-encompassing: A lot of traditional moderate Democrats were
elected within Ohio in addition to North Carolina. There’s a chance that upcoming races that will
be held in California, Illinois, Michigan, and Texas might alter the narrative. For the majority of
the time, the primary elections are so far proving that the ideas and activism of progressives
have altered what voters want, and what candidates have to offer.
Every team won on Tuesday
Both sides of the Democratic spectrum of political views could claim victories on Tuesday. In the
states from North Carolina to Oregon, there was no uniformity on who was victorious.
What ties several of Tuesday’s races is the fact that very few moderates ran candidly across the
middle spectrum without incorporating at least certain topics and terms progressives have
employed in the past races. This includes things like arguing for an increase in the minimum
wage as well as expanding access to health insurance and coverage, and more openly
accepting the right to control guns and abortion and, at a minimum, the issue of climate change.
A more moderate, established style prevailed in the state’s Third Congressional District, where
Rep. Dwight Evans beat the progressive challengers with a focus on affordable housing as well
as criminal justice reform. criminality, and gun violence. Similar trends can be observed in other
positions of the legislature in Pennsylvania as well, such as with long-time state senators.
Anthony Williams, who was a pro-life candidate who focused on access to abortion as well as
gun violence prevention and reforms to the criminal justice system for the first time was facing
serious opposition coming from the left. In the primary race for lieutenant governor, the
frontrunner Rep. Austin Davis defeated opponents to his left, running on the issue of abortion
and criminal justice reform. This trend was not just observed in Pennsylvania.
In Kentucky, the state of Kentucky, liberal State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey
defeated a lefty opponent to be in the city of Louisville’s Third Congressional District, which is
strongly Democratic and a supporter of the cancellation of student loans in part, single-payer
health care and announcing the concept of the idea of a Green New Deal.
In North Carolina, a similar picture emerged. A state senator who is centrist. Don Davis, backed
by the outgoing US Rep. GK Butterfield easily beat his opponent who was a progressive, former
state senator who was endorsed by US Senator. Elizabeth Warren and an assortment of
progressive organizations. Although Davis does not support the idea of a Green New Deal or
Medicare-for-all however, he campaigned for affordable health insurance as well as the right to
vote, reproductive rights, and a rise in his minimum wages.
There was a slight difference in the Democratic-dominated Oregon However, there were signs
that progressives were the dominant force. The incumbent, a centrist solidly Rep. Kurt Schrader,
who ran on pragmatism and consensus-building, is likely to be defeated by progressive activist
Jamie McLeod Skinner in the Fifth District, while crypto-backed lawyer Carrick Flynn, who had
no experience in politics and is trailing more progressive State Rep. Andrea Salinas.
After a long and difficult campaign, the ex-state House speaker Tina Kotek defeated a moderate
candidate, State Treasurer Tobias Read, in the primary to become Oregon governor. The results of Oregon, which showed voters’ sway towards the typical real progressives and genuine progressives, add an extra layer of complexity to the overall picture. However, the
races this week proved that Democratic candidates from every ideology feel pressured to
confront their left-wing.
The progressive ideas of the past have altered the way that candidates are elected
Much has changed from the last midterms of 2018 when progressives scored huge gains
however moderate Democrats played a key role in granting the party the majority within the
House. The primary elections of the party are revealing that voters are more inclined to take on
the populist and progressive(-ish) views than previously — a huge win for left-wing activists as
well as thought leaders who have been able to shift the party’s ideological center to their own.
Very few candidates have run openly as centrists and not at all giving lip service to progressive
values. If they didn’t make that commitment, like in the Schrader race, they were stung by a
shifting Democratic popular electorate.
“Ten years ago, blue-dog and corporate Democrats would run on that [centrist] message against
progressives,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee,
which has endorsed a number of progressive candidates this election season, said to me.
“These days, they’re more willing to use the language of progressives against progressives in
primaries — but Schrader was the exception to this rule.”
However, a moderate who uses progressive talk points is the best chance of success. Marcia
Wilson, the chair of Pennsylvania’s rural Adams County Democratic Party, said that Lamb’s
candidacy showed the way that some Democrats are afraid of electing a liberal who could be a
Joe Manchin-type Democrat.
“Democrats are feeling more galvanized and want to be known as Democrats, not because they
are unwilling to compromise but because we want to support Democratic ideals,” she explained.
Wilson said to me that this is the reason Lamb’s appeal to the voters didn’t work because his
less conservative platform and background from previous races made his move to the left
during the Senate primary appear unauthentic.
But, Lamb attempted some ideological changes. Similar to what was seen in the earlier
Democratic primary elections in Ohio and Ohio, where moderate candidates such as Tim Ryan
(in the state’s Democratic Senate race), Nan Whaley (in the governor’s race for governor) as
well as Shontel Brown (in the 11th Congressional District) were forced towards the right. The
next elections will be a test of the trend but to date, it seems that Democratic voters are looking
for their candidates to sound like progressives even if they’re not really progressive.
The general election could affect the way that candidates speak about their goals. People who
usually go to the polls in November are typically more religious and politically affiliated than
those who are voting in primary elections. and the progressive ideals adored by the hardcore
Democrats are not equally well-liked by moderates and centrists when it comes to general
If progressives — and their progressive ideas win in the battles for power in these districts that
swing, However, Democrats may end up with an increasingly powerful left-wing and causing the
political division Americans have been conditioned to expect from their governments.