Unsurprisingly, the calls for civility didn’t go over well with many Democrats. And now, that discontent within the party shows that we could see a very different freshmen class of Democrats taking the oath in January 2019.
While much of the focus this midterms season has been on Democrats voting their own into Republican seats, the Democratic base is smartening up to the fact that this November’s blue wave doesn’t just have to be about overriding Republicans. It can also be about making sure that the larger Democratic machine isn’t doing the same-old, same-old if they were to take back either or both chambers of Congress, as well as positions across all 50 states. Last night’s primary election results prove it.
There’s no doubt that the most jaw-dropping moment of the night came when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez trounced 20-year incumbent Joe Crowley by 15 points to take home the nomination in New York’s 14th congressional district. Ocasio-Cortez ran an unabashedly progressive platform anchored in her decision not to take corporate PAC money and to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. She’s also a dues-paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America and is widely favored to win in November.
And she’s not the only candidate we saw taking on the larger Democratic machine.
In Brooklyn, New York, there was almost another upset, where Yvette Clarke, a decade-long incumbent who had run unopposed since 2012, came within four points of losing to Adem Bunkeddeko, a political newcomer who received the New York Times’ endorsement over Clarke. In contrast, when she faced a primary challenger six years ago, she won by 76 points.
Meanwhile on Long Island in New York’s 2nd congressional district, first-time candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, who made headlines after she successfully requested that the Federal Election Commission allow her to use campaign funds for childcare, beat out Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory for the Democratic nomination.
And in another big moment, Ben Jealous, the former head of the NAACP who was endorsed by progressive groups, overtook Rushern Baker for Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination and bested him by 10 points. Baker had political experience and endorsements from all of the major Democratic leaders in the state and yet still came up short.
What’s now more than abundantly clear is that the formal Democratic party itself needs to understand that this isn’t the time for politeness — including when it comes to midterms. It’s not about waiting your turn or moving as the winds blow or holding off until the higher-ups say otherwise. In her bizarre tweet scolding Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi wrote that “we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea.” Well, it seems like lots of Democrats are in fact unifying; they’re just not unifying around every single one of the candidates Pelosi and Democratic leadership want.
And here’s a shocker: That’s how politics should work. As I mentioned several weeks ago, not every candidate we see people rallying around comes from the same background or has the exact same pitch. But that’s because they’re not running in the same places, nor are they talking to the same swaths of voters.
The fact is, it’s time the Democratic machine lets its base lead the way. From sea to shining sea.