2010 fast becoming the year of the progressive, not the tea party, primary challenge

by: Chris Bowers

Thu May 06, 2010 at 17:48



On Tuesday in North Carolina, two Democratic House incumbents fared surprisingly poorly against left-wing primary challengers.  From Public Policy Polling (emphasis mine):

The biggest story out of Tuesday's election results in North Carolina was not anything related to the US Senate race, but the surprisingly weak performances by Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler in their primaries. Kissell received 63% and Shuler only 62% against candidates who did not have the resources to mount really serious campaigns.

The poor performances by Kissell and Shuler and where they did poorly- the most liberal parts of their districts- are a clear indication that there is significant unhappiness with them on the left. The question now is how that unhappiness will manifest itself this fall.

The candidates Kissell and Shuler faced, Nancy Shakir and Alixa Wilson, had raised a combined total of zero dollars as of March 31. Not even a single dollar.

These results suggest that there is a larger pool Democrats who are disgruntled at the incumbents in their own party than previously imagined.  In fact, this pool of disgruntled Democrats might well be larger than the much more publicized tea party.

Some evidence to support this thesis comes from Senate primaries.  Of the five Senate incumbents facing serious threats to their renomination this year, three are Democrats.  Further, not only are there more Democratic incumbents in danger, but they poll worse than their Republican counterparts.  On the Democratic side, Arlen Specter only leads Joe Sestak by 5%; Michael Bennet only leads Andrew Romanoff by 6%, and Blanche Lincoln only leads Bill Halter by 7.5%.  By way of comparison, John McCain leads his primary by 16.5%, and Bob Bennett leads his by 23% (Bennet is in danger in the activist-dominated caucus, however).

The surprising strength of the North Carolina primary challengers who didn't even run real campaigns, combined with the very real danger facing the three Democratic Senators listed above, suggests that other Democratic incumbents are in more danger against primary challengers than most election watchers have thought.  Marcy Winograd's challenge against Jane Harman in  CA-36 is a glaring example. Winograd received 38% of the vote in 2006, and has built a real campaign (raising nearly a quarter of a million). if the base of anti-inccumbent, disgruntled, mainly left-wing Democrats has grown in her district as well, then Jane Harman may well be toast.  Check out Marcy's website, and get involved with her campaign.

May 18th will do a long way to determining just how strong the disgruntled, anti-incumbent, progressive constituency really is in the Democratic Party in 2010.  This is not  just because the headlining primary challenges by Bill Halter and Joe Sestak take place on that day, but also because of the results in North Carolina will have a chance to replicate themselves in Pennsylvania's 17th congressional district.  Like Shuler and Kissell, incumbent Tim Holden is a Democrat who voted against health care reform, and some other major Democratic legislative priorities.  Like Shuler and Kissell, he occupies a lean-red district and faces a progressive primary challenger, Shelia Dow Ford, who had raised exactly zero dollars as of March 31.

If Halter and Sestak both win, and the results of Shuler and Kissell's districts are repeated by Dow Ford receiving over 35% of the vote without being able to run anything resembling a full-fledged campaign, then it will be pretty clear that progressives have more opportunities in primary challenges than tea partiers.  It would be ironic indeed that the year when progressives finally surpassed conservatives in their ability to run successful, or at least threatening, primary challenges was the electoral cycle when the tea party emerged. The right-wing has long dominated the left in their ability to keep members of Congress in line through real and threatened primary challenges.  It took the rise of the tea party, which was supposed to threaten so many incumbents in primaries, for conservatives to fall off that perch.

Chris Bowers :: 2010 fast becoming the year of the progressive, not the tea party, primary challenge

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Are carpetbaggers better than tea baggers? (0.00 / 0)
In the wake of the tea baggers weak showing, it would be interesting to see a compare and contrast.
From Wiki:
In United States history, "carpetbaggers" was a negative term Southerners gave to opportunistic Northerners who moved to the South during the Reconstruction era, between 1865 and 1877. They often formed alliances with freed slaves and scalawags (southern whites who were Republicans). Together they are said to have politically manipulated and controlled former Confederate states for varying periods for their own financial and power gains. In sum, carpetbaggers were seen as insidious Northern outsiders with questionable objectives meddling in local politics, buying up plantations at fire-sale prices, taking advantage of poor Southerners and pushing their alien Northern ways on Southern politics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C...

Sounds better to have carpetbaggers come to town than tea baggers.
At any rate, tea baggers and carpetbaggers seem to have more of a relationship than the tea baggers and the original Boston Tea Party.


Progressive Populists, (0.00 / 0)
not "Carpetbaggers."  And we want a Presidential Primary for Obama too. We will not re-elect him.

[ Parent ]
Harman Is Definitely Running Scared (4.00 / 3)
As I noted in quick hits recently, Harman refused to be interviewed by Random Lengths.  She's hoping she can simply avoid certain questions from being raised.  She has a lot to answer for, but Winograd is primarily running a positive campaign based on solving problems now and for the future, rather than focusing on Harman's failures in the past.  Appealing to both labor and environmentalists with her call for a New Green Deal is typical of this approach.  Apparently, Winograd figures that people either know (or in the case of low-info voters sense) enough about Harman's part failings already, and what they really want to know about is fixing things.

Bottom line: Winograd is another example of how pragmatism equates to being more progressive, not less so.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


It would be nice (0.00 / 0)
to see the liberal establishment get this message, and mobilize in some more races the way they have in the Halter-Lincoln race.

I appreciate that resources are limited, and the difficulties involved in challenging the Democratic establishment, but it will take more than one pseudo-Dem getting knocked off by a progressive challenge to make a difference.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.


Toomey and Rubio... (4.00 / 1)
...have already driven out establishment candidates. They're about to deny Bennett renomination in Utah. That's two for sure (and likely three) successful primary/nomination challenges for the Club For Growth/Tea Party wing of the GOP. Even with all Halter and Sestak have done and the momentum they may have right now, I'd rather have the winger's two closed deals and a third looking good than have none closed and two behind but gaining.


Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

Progressives (0.00 / 0)
Well maybe this means that 2010 will be more like 1934, rather than 1994.  That is, President Obama might be faced with a more radical Congress.  Will he then, like FDR, allow himself to be pushed leftward?  One hopes so.

One hopes (0.00 / 0)
that he will be pushed out by a Progressive Populist in a Democratic Primary.  Otherwise, hopefully an Independent Progressive Populist will have to do.  I will NEVER vote for the lying Obama again.

[ Parent ]
Then you will get (0.00 / 0)
a Sarah Palin or worse. Then be prepared to lose most progressive programs (and protections) for generations.
This notion that a "Progressive Populist" can win a presidential nomination, much less oust a sitting progressive President, is nonsense.
Otherwise, you'd now be criticizing a President Nader or President Kucinich for somehow letting you down (or "lying").
In the real world, we should keep pushing more progressive Congressional nominees, and pushing Obama as well. But he's the best we've got or are likely to get, and he's accomplished a lot, disappointments not withstanding.

[ Parent ]
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