NEW YORK (AP) — With less than two months to go Mid-Term ElectionsProgressive Democrats are facing a test of their strength.
His party heads into the final stretch of the campaign with a strong set of legislative accomplishments that include long-term progressive priorities on issues ranging from prescription drug prices. Climate change. But the left has also suffered a series of disappointments as Democratic voters from Ohio to Illinois to Texas rejected high-profile progressive challengers to moderates or incumbent members of Congress during the primary season.
The frustration is particularly acute in New York, where Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO CORTEZ Defeated one of the top Democrats in Congress four years ago, reinvigorating the party’s most liberal voters. This year, however, New York City Democrats chose Dan Goldman, a former federal prosecutor who is largely centrist, over several progressive challengers, including freshman Rep. Mundair Jones. About 30 miles north in the Hudson River Valley, a powerful establishment candidate, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, defeated a state legislator running to his left and was backed by Ocasio-Cortez.
The setbacks have raised fresh questions about the progressive movement’s standing among Democrats. Progressive leaders urge against reading too much into those losses, particularly in New York, where a runoff election this summer after a redistricting battle left some voters disillusioned or disengaged.
“New York was just a mess,” said the Washington representative. Pramila Jaypal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “It was like the time of the redistricting maps. I mean, it’s not a situation that’s going to repeat itself very much.
Progressives have won notable victories this year. In Oregon, Jamie McLeod Skinner unseated moderate Rep. Kurt Schrader. Activist Maxwell Alejandro Frost is leading a crowded field of Democrats in Florida and is poised to become the youngest member of Congress. And labor organizer Summer Lee defeated an establishment-backed candidate in Pennsylvania.
But these wins risk becoming the exception rather than the rule as moderates have repeatedly asserted their strength in recent years. President Joe Biden Won his party’s nomination in 2020 after overcoming challenges from more liberal contenders, including Sens. Bernie Sanders Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
in New York City, Eric Adams Defeated several left-wing rivals for the party’s mayoral nomination last year, with outspoken criticism from progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez. And New York Gov. Cathy Hoechl easily dispatched a more independent challenger during this summer’s primary.
“Progressive” has long been a squishy label for Democrats. It usually refers to the left wing of the party but has been embraced by rank-and-file liberals as well as those far left on the spectrum, including self-proclaimed democratic socialists like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.
The term “progressive” was even a topic 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, to which Clinton disputed, calling her a progressive. Said to be a “self-made gatekeeper”. “
Some candidates championed by progressives have contested the label this year.
“No, I’m just a Democrat,” left-leaning Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman said. said in a May interview with NBC When asked if they are progressive? He said six years ago his positions would have been considered progressive but “now there’s not a single Democrat in this race or any race that I know of that’s running on anything different. So it’s Not really progressive. That’s just where the party is.”
Texas Representative Jasmine Crockett, who won the Democratic congressional primary in May and was endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus; He has been labeled a progressive, told Politico. But she knows most of the Democratic voters in the Dallas-area seat where she is running as moderates or conservatives.
Crockett said that meant she would not align with members of a more left-wing subset of progressives in the House known as “The Squad,” which includes Ocasio-Cortez, and challenge the party’s establishment. known to do.
“I have to be very conscious. Honestly, I love a lot of the members of ‘Squad’ and I think they do well in their districts,” Crockett said. , while they don’t consider themselves progressives, they like many of the things I stand for.”
Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said “there is a difference between the socialist machine and mainstream progressives.”
Jeffries, speaking to reporters in a roundtable interview days before New York’s August primary, said Democrats whose legislative records are “deeply progressive” are still viewed as “virtue beacons online.” There is criticism from the side because they no longer exist.
“There are forces on the left that want to define ‘progressive’ as ‘you bend the knee and we tell you what to do, and if you don’t fall in line, you’re a machine Democrat or a corporate sellout. are.’ It’s a joke,” he said.
Jeffries said the left had some success in ousting more traditional Democrats in 2018 and 2020 as Democratic disillusionment with President Donald Trump turned into energy for insurgent campaigns. But Jeffries said that once Biden won the White House and his Democratic-controlled Congress began passing legislation, Democratic voters were no longer looking for a coup.
“At a certain point in time, voters want results, especially when the Democrats have been handed the majority,” he said. “And that’s what we’re providing.”
Bill Neidhart, a progressive Democratic strategist who worked for former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, said losses have been noted in recent contests, but there have been bright spots on the left side of the Democratic Party.
“It’s not a perfect record, but it never happens in an election. I’d challenge anyone to show me one of those,” Neidhart said.
Neidhart said progressives in Congress can point to growing political power, such as Biden’s recent student loan forgiveness plan or Democrats’ new legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, on climate change and prescriptions. Limiting drug costs.
He said that it has the fingerprints of progressives on it.
Although Fetterman has left the progressive label behind, Neidhart said Pennsylvania Republican Mehmet Oz could help progressives see their biggest coup. Fetterman and Wisconsin Senate candidate Mandela Barnes are running in two hotly contested U.S. Senate seats that Democrats hope to flip while hanging on to their slim majority in that chamber.
“Who’s going to beat Ron Johnson? Who’s going to beat Dr. Oz? It’s going to be progressive,” he said.
Associated Press writer Farnoosh Amiri in Washington contributed to this report.
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