New York (AFP) – With less than two months until midterm electionsProgressive Democrats face a test of their authority.
Their party is heading into the campaign’s final phase with a robust set of legislative achievements that include long-term progressive priorities on issues ranging from prescription drug prices to Climate change. But the left also faced a string of disappointments as Democratic voters from Ohio to Illinois to Texas rejected prominent progressive rivals of moderates or current members of Congress during the primary season.
Frustration is particularly acute in New York, where Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez He defeated a top Democrat in Congress four years ago, injecting new energy among the party’s more liberal voters. But this year, New York City Democrats chose Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who is more than centrist, over several progressive contenders, including First Representative Munder Jones. 30 miles north in the Hudson River Valley, powerful establishment candidate, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, defeated a state legislator who was running to his left and backed by Ocasio-Cortez.
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These setbacks have raised new questions about the place of the progressive movement among Democrats. Progressive leaders are urging not to think too much about those losses, particularly in New York, where repeated elections this summer after a redistricting battle have left some voters disoriented or withdrawing.
“New York was just a mess,” said the Washington representative. Pramila JayapalChairman of the Progressive Caucus in Congress. It was like timing redistricting maps. I mean, this is not a situation that will be repeated often.”
The Progressives scored notable victories this year. In Oregon, Jimmy MacLeod Skinner ousted moderate Representative Kurt Schrader. Activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost has fronted a crowded field of Democrats in Florida, and is on the cusp of becoming the youngest member of Congress. Labor Organization Summer Lee beat a foundation-supported candidate in Pennsylvania.
But these gains risk becoming the exception rather than the rule as moderates have repeatedly asserted their power in recent years. president Joe Biden He won his party’s nomination in 2020 after overcoming challenges from liberal contenders including Sens. Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts.
in New York City, Eric Adams He defeated several challengers from the left for the party’s mayoral nomination last year with outspoken criticism of the progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez. New York Governor Kathy Hochhol easily dispatched a more liberal contender during this summer’s primary.
The word “progressive” has always been a sponge label for Democrats. It generally refers to the party’s left wing, but has been embraced by mainstream liberals as well as those much further out in the spectrum, including self-described Social Democrats such as Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.
The term “progressive” was until the subject of the first 2016 Democratic presidential debate between Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with Sanders suggesting that Clinton wasn’t progressive enough and Clinton opposed it, calling him “an avowed gatekeeper to progressivism.”
Some of the candidates championed by progressives struggled for the nomination this year.
“No, I’m just a Democrat,” said Pennsylvania left-wing Senate candidate Jon Fetterman He said in a May interview with NBC When asked if it is progressive. He said his stances were considered progressive six years ago, but “right now there isn’t a single Democrat in this race or any race that I know is going on for anything different. So this isn’t really progressive. That’s just where the party is.”
Texas Representative Jasmine Crockett, who won the congressional primaries in May and was endorsed by the Progressive Caucus in Congress, She told Politico that she was described as progressive But she knows most Democratic voters in the Dallas-area seat where she’s running as moderate or conservative.
Crockett said that meant she would not align with members of the other left-wing group of progressives in the House known as the “Squad,” which includes Ocasio-Cortez and is known for challenging the founding of the party.
“I have to be very cognizant. Frankly, I like a lot of the ‘team’ members and I think they do it right according to their regions,” Crockett said. “
“There is a difference between a socialist machine and major progressives,” said New York Representative Hakim Jeffries, the House Democratic caucus leader and a member of the Progressive Caucus in Congress.
Jeffreys, speaking to reporters in a roundtable interview a few days before the New York primary in August, said Democrats whose legislative records are “too progressive” still faced criticism from “signals of online virtues” for not staying any longer.
“There are some forces on the left who want to define ‘progressive’ as ‘bend the knee and tell you what to do, and if you fail to comply, you are a robotic democrat or a selling company. “This is a joke,” he said.
Jeffries said the left had some success in driving out more traditional Democrats in 2018 and 2020 as Democrats’ frustrations with President Donald Trump turned into energy for insurgency campaigns. But Jeffries said that once Biden won the White House and the Democratic-controlled Congress began to pass the legislation, Democratic voters were no longer looking for rebellion.
“At a certain time, voters want results, especially when the Democrats are entrusted with a majority,” he said. “And that’s what we gave.”
While there have been notable losses in recent contests, the left wing of the Democratic Party has seen bright spots, said Bill Neidhart, a progressive Democrat strategist who worked with former New York Liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It’s not a perfect record, but it never happened in an election. “I challenge anyone to show me one of these,” Neidhart said.
Progressives in Congress could point to increased political power, Neidhardt said, such as Biden’s recent plan to forgive student debt or Democrats’ new law, the Inflation Reduction Act, which addresses climate change and ends prescription drug costs.
“This has got progressives’ fingerprints everywhere,” he said.
Although Fetterman ignored the progressive label, Neidhart said the opposition Pennsylvania Republican nominee Mehmet Oz might help the progressives see one of their biggest coups to date. Fetterman and Wisconsin Senate candidate Mandela Barnes are vying for two tightly contested Senate seats that Democrats hope to overturn while maintaining a slim majority in that room.
Who will defeat Ron Johnson? Who will defeat Dr. Oz? he said.
Associated Press writer Varnosh Amiri contributed to this report.
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