Progressive Democrats disappointed by loss in 2022 primary

Less than two months before the mid-term elections, progressive democrats face the test of their power.

His party enters the final phase of the campaign with a solid set of legislative achievements that include long-term progressive priorities on issues ranging from drug prices to climate change. But the left also faced a number of disappointments as Democratic voters from Ohio to Illinois to Texas turned down moderate or progressive senior challengers to current members of Congress during the session. primary.

Frustration is particularly acute in New York, where Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated one of the highest Democrats in Congress four years ago, injecting new energy among the party’s most liberal voters. This year, however, the New York Democrats chose Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who is more of a centrist on several progressive rivals, including new representative Mondaire Jones. About 30 miles north in the Hudson River Valley, Rep Sean Patrick Maloney, a strong establishment candidate, defeated a state legislator running to his left and backed by Ocasio-Cortez.

These shocks have raised new questions about the position of the progressive movement among the Democrats. Progressive leaders have urged not to over-interpret these losses, especially in New York, where the re-election this summer after a battle for redistribution has left some voters disenchanted or upset.

“New York was just a mess,” said Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “They were like the days of shuffling the cards. I mean, it’s not a situation that repeats itself very often.

Progressives have recorded notable victories this year. In Oregon, Jamie McLeod-Skinner ousted Liberal Representative Kurt Schrader. Maxwell activist Alejandro Frost has dominated the crowded Democratic scrum in Florida and is set to become the youngest member of Congress. And job organizer Summer Lee picked an establishment-backed candidate in Pennsylvania.

But they run the risk of becoming the exception rather than the rule, as moderates have repeatedly asserted their power in recent years. President Joe Biden won his party nomination in 2020 after overcoming the challenges of more liberal candidates, including Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

In New York last year, Eric Adams beat several left-wing rivals for the party mayor nomination in apparent criticism of progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez. And New York Governor Kathy Hochul easily eliminated a more liberal opponent in this summer’s primary.

“Progressive” has long been a squishy label for the Democrats. It typically refers to the left side of the party, but to grassroots liberals and the far left of the spectrum, including self-styled Democratic Socialists like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.

The word “progressive” was even the subject of the first Democratic presidential debate of 2016 between Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with Sanders suggesting that Clinton was not progressive enough and Clinton contesting the issue and defining ” the self-proclaimed guardian of progressivism “.”,

Some progressive candidates have struggled with the label this year.

“No, I’m just a Democrat,” left Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman said in an interview with NBC in May when asked if he was a progressive. He said that six years ago his position was considered progressive, but “now there is not a single Democrat in this race or any race that I know is racing on anything else. So he’s really progressive. No. It’s just a party here.

Texas Representative Jasmine Crockett, who won the Democratic Congressional primary in May and was approved by the Progressive Congressional Committee, told Politico she is called progressive but knows most Democratic voters in the polling station. she from the Dallas area where she continues to identify as a liberal or conservative. .

Crockett said this meant he would not make an alliance with members of the left-wing progressive subgroup in the House, known as the “Squad,” which included Ocasio-Cortez and continued. contest the founding of the party. it goes.

“I have to be very aware. To be honest, I like a lot of members of the “Squad” and I think they do well based on their districts, “Crockett said.” I think in my district, even if they don’t identify as progressive, they like the things they do. I represent “.

“There is a difference between a socialist machine and traditional progress,” said New York Rep Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jeffries, speaking to reporters at a panel discussion days before the August primary in New York, said Democrats whose legislative past is “deeply progressive” are still being targeted by “flags of virtue online.” Because they haven’t survived. more. Hey.

“There are forces of the left who want to define themselves as ‘progressive’, you kneel and we tell you what to do, and if you don’t respect you are a democratic machine or a corporate betrayal. Eh. ‘ It’s a joke, “she said.

Jeffries said the left managed to oust more traditional Democrats in 2018 and 2020, with democratic frustrations for President Donald Trump translating into energy for rebel campaigns. But Jeffries said that once Biden won the White House and his Democrat-controlled Congress began passing laws, Democratic voters no longer sought extremism.

“At some point, voters want results, especially when Democrats are given a majority,” he said. “And that’s what we offer.”

Bill Neidhardt, a progressive Democratic strategist who worked for former liberal New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said recent contests have seen significant losses but have seen bright spots on the Democratic Party’s left.

“It’s not a perfect record, but it’s never in the polls. I challenge anyone to show me one, “Neidhardt said.

Neidhardt said progressives in Congress could point to a political surge, such as Biden’s recent plan to cancel student loans or Democrats’ new legislation, the Cut Inflation Act, to combat change. climate change and containment of drug costs.

“It has the footprints of progressives,” he said.

Though Fetterman shook off the progressive label, Neidhardt said Republicans who oppose Mehmet Oz can help Pennsylvania progressives see one of their biggest coups. Fetterman and Wisconsin Senate candidate Mandela Barnes are vying for two seats in the United States Senate that the Democrats hope to overthrow by keeping their narrow majority in that chamber.

“Who will beat Ron Johnson? Who will beat Dr. Oz? He will be progressive, “he told him.

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Associated Press writer Farnoush Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.

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