Last Tuesday there was a list of primary elections in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, critical states in the national battleground, as well as in Oregon, Idaho and Kentucky.
For progressives, it was a good day. They saw key victories in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and more. But Tuesday also highlighted some worrying trends on the horizon, including MAGA’s continued electoral capture of the GOP and the extent to which the pro-Israel government lobby will reach out to defeat progressives.
Here are some of the key headlines.
Progressives John Fetterman and Summer Lee win in Pennsylvania
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman won his Democratic Senate primary from a hospital room while recovering from a stroke caused by atrial fibrillation. He had a pacemaker placed earlier in the day.
More importantly, Fetterman defeated Rep. Conor Lamb, the archetypal centrist who was endorsed by Sen. Joe Manchin. Fetterman, who campaigns in Carhartt hoodies and gym shorts, supports Medicare for all, women’s right to choose, and union rights (although I disagree with some of her environmental positions: she opposes fracking bans). His victory represents a major adjustment in the arguments centrists have been making about how to win over blue-collar voters across the country. Instead of strictly coding political positions as “too far to the left,” voters are responding to who politicians implicitly say they represent in the way they present themselves. In short, vibrations matter. And John Fetterman is a man of few pretensions.
Fetterman offers an important counterpoint to James Carville and other centrist speaking leaders who argue that voters’ rejection of Democratic politicians at the polls is due to their progressive political positions. Rather, it is a reminder that voters elect politicians to do something. And the Conor Lamb-Joe Manchin wing of the party has too often put the interests of its corporate donors before achieving the political goals they ostensibly support, whether it be climate action, paid family leave, universal child care or student debt relief.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Summer Lee, a 34-year-old progressive organizer backed by Justice Democrats who was the first black woman to represent southwestern Pennsylvania in the state legislature, scored a primary victory for the House of Representatives. of the US pro-Israel super PACS to smear her. More on that later.
madison cawthorn lost
MAGA party boy Madison Cawthorn lost his seat in Congress after an all-out attack from his own party. His crime of him? It was not supporting the insurrection against our democracy or his colleagues in Congress. Nor was it his continued denial of the results of the 2020 presidential election. In the modern Republican Party, those are questions of dogma. Rather, it was his choice to accuse his fellow Republicans of inviting him to cocaine-fueled orgies. From the moment he made that claim, the Republican opposition’s investigative machinery manufactured scandal after scandal that dogged him throughout his campaign.
Cawthorn was one of the worst MAGA-lomaniacs in Congress. He is good for our democracy that he lost his seat. But the way he lost it is an indictment of the modern Republican Party.
Pro-Israeli Super PACs Spent Millions To Smear Progressives
The Democratic Majority for Israel, which spent millions of dollars to amass a special off-cycle election campaign by prominent Bernie Sanders replacement and former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, has flexed again in races across the country. They spent $2.3 million in an effort to defeat Summer Lee in Pennsylvania, as well as $2 million earmarked for Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam’s campaign for Congress in North Carolina. They were not alone. Another pro-Israel super PAC, the United Democracy Project, spent millions more.
Instead of specifically targeting these progressive young women of color in their stances on Palestinian rights, they ran ads supporting opponents or smeared them as if they were not democratic enough.
In Lee’s race, these Super PACs accounted for 75% of spending supporting his opponent, former Republican Senate staffer Steve Irwin. The publicity campaign was so effective that it took him from 29 points to within a few hundred votes of victory on election day.
What is emerging is that the pro-Israel group sees the progressive candidates as a deadly threat to the longstanding bipartisan consensus on Israel. And they are spending millions of dollars to try to defeat them.
Propharmaceutical Democrat Kurt Schrader is on the ropes
While the race is still too close to decide, Rep. Kurt Schrader, the Democratic congressman who led the effort to destroy Democrats’ prescription drug reform, could be on his way out. That’s despite receiving oodles of pharmaceutical donations and a $300,000 publicity blitz from a dark-money pharmaceutical lobby group before Election Day.
It’s a reminder that you probably shouldn’t be trying to keep your constituents’ prescription drug costs up in exchange for an industry’s campaign dollars, or at least not be so brazen about it (considering how many politicians on both sides of the aisle take this type of financing each cycle).
MAGA Gains Strength Among Republican Voters
Perhaps the most depressing story of the entire midterm is the role that the twice-indicted former insurrectionist president continues to play in his party’s future. Perhaps the most surprising result of all was the victory in the Republican primary for governor of Pennsylvania by Doug Mastriano, the sponsor of Donald Trump who was on Capitol Hill on January 6. Mastriano has compared Democrats to Nazis for opposing abortion rights.
In the GOP Senate primary, the race remains too close to call and will go to a recount. Although Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Trump-endorsed candidate, is narrowly ahead of the more traditional (if very MAGA) former hedge fund manager David McCormick, Oz was not helped by the recent rise of ultra-MAGA commentator Kathy Barnette, who stated that “MAGA does not belong to President Trump.”
The notion that the candidate endorsed by Donald Trump may lose just because he split votes with a candidate who is even more extremist than Trump does not bode well for a GOP that aspires to be a legitimate partner in government in the future.
In particular, Pennsylvania Democrats are using their tactical advantage. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro’s team ran ads that, while promoting Shapiro, went out of their way to specifically link Mastriano to Trump, negotiating that the more MAGA opposed him in the November general election, the easier it would be to beat them. Let’s hope the gamble pays off.
Originally published May 19 on The Incision. Learn more at abdulelsayed.substack.com.
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