The spin sport is now in full swing. At first, it appeared the Blue Wave wasn’t fairly what was predicted. However with every passing day got here increasingly more excellent news for Democrats and progressives. The Washington Submit quoted a terrific quip making the rounds within the Home Democratic Caucus ― that this 12 months’s midterms had been extra like Hanukkah than Christmas ― a number of days of presents.
Nonetheless, to listen to conservatives and company Democrats inform it, Election Day was not a great day for progressives. Daily, The Wall Avenue Journal publishes one other opinion piece contending that the Democratic victory was lower than it appeared. Kimberley Strassel, cherry-picking a couple of high-profile losses in Friday’s WSJ, declared: “Largest Loser: Elizabeth Warren.”
On Saturday, in the identical house, political scientist Allen Guelzo invidiously in contrast Tuesday’s Democratic Home pickup of “solely” between 35 and 40 Home seats to the election of 1932, when the Democrats did a bit higher and flipped 46. FDR in 1932! I’d say that’s fairly good firm. In truth, this 12 months noticed the most important Democratic midterm beneficial properties because the post-Watergate blowout of 1974, when Dems took 49 Republican seats.
You type of count on this lame spinning from the Journal. Way more insidious is the company Democrat spin machine referred to as Third Means.
To listen to this band of Wall Avenue Democrats inform it, centrist Democrats had a terrific night time, whereas progressives had been losers. This selective use of statistics has all of the mental honesty of an providing prospectus for subprime derivatives. Third Means bragged that 23 of its endorsed candidates had been amongst those that flipped Republican seats. Sure, however actually a lot of these had been substantive progressives, together with Sharice Davids (Kansas), Jason Crow (Colorado), Anne Kirkpatrick (Arizona) and Abigail Spanberger (Virginia). As a Home member, even Beto O’Rourke (!) was a part of the supposedly centrist New Democrat Coalition.
To consider that “moderates” had been Tuesday’s huge winners, you’d need to redefine what it means to be a average. Most Democratic winners, even these backed by Third Means, had been advocates of expanded Medicare and Social Safety, higher minimal wage safety and extra management of prescription drug pricing.
Third Means is fast to level out that when you have a look at commonplace polls, you discover that extra People characterize themselves as moderates or conservatives than as liberals. However when you dig deeper, you discover that almost all of voters are substantive progressives. In truth, the share of Democrats who establish as liberal reasonably than average has risen steadily previously decade. By 2018, greater than half of all Democrats thought of themselves liberal.
Extra to the purpose, a big majority of People are substantively progressive as soon as we transcend superficial labels. Absolutely 70 p.c help Medicare for All, a determine that features 82 p.c of self-identified Democrats and even 52 p.c of Republicans in addition to a majority of independents. Massive majorities additionally help making greater training debt-free. Pew discovered that 58 p.c of People help a $15 minimal wage. In keeping with Gallup, 62 p.c of People approve of unions, a 15-year excessive. Gallup additionally discovered broad majority help for a big infrastructure program.
Progressive is the brand new average. And by clearly addressing pocketbook frustrations, progressive Democrats present the ability of that message to bridge over race.
In Florida, a flat-out financial progressive, Andrew Gillum, got here inside an ace of profitable the governorship (and should but win), as a black man in a state that’s solely about 19 p.c African-American. Identical story with Stacey Abrams in Georgia, the place the inhabitants is round 31 p.c black.
These candidates had been removed from Third Means-type centrists. Regardless of the legacy of racism in these two states, Gillum and Abrams turned in wonderful performances as pocketbook progressives, and received the help of numerous white voters. For years, centrist Democrats have tried to win these governorships, and have failed by wider margins.
In Newt Gingrich’s previous district, GA-6, which is simply 15 p.c black, Jon Ossoff narrowly misplaced a long-shot bid within the particular election of June 2017. However this time, a black girl, Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son was murdered at a gasoline station in 2012 by a racist white man, narrowly received the seat, which Republicans had held since 1978. McBath received within the Atlanta suburbs, extremely sufficient, calling for gun management, Medicare for everybody over age 55 and a better minimal wage.
Davids is Native American and overtly lesbian. Her district, KS-3, is suburban and 83 p.c white. Colin Allred, a black civil rights lawyer and former NFL participant, received his Dallas seat in an enormous upset, ousting Republican Pete Classes. The district is simply 11 p.c African-American. Former Rhodes scholar Antonio Delgado, who’s African-American, ousted John Faso in upstate New York, in a district that’s simply four p.c black and that backed Donald Trump two years earlier.
The truth that white Southerners and different non-urban voters in 2018 are prepared to vote for black financial progressives tells us that America is able to transfer past Trump’s message of tribal hate, and that pocketbook points are a key a part of the profitable technique. In all, eight African-American candidates picked up seats previously held by Republicans, all of them in majority-white districts, all operating as financial progressives.
Democrats made main beneficial properties not simply within the suburbs, however in Trump nation. Regardless of the standard knowledge that America is extra severely divided than ever between metro facilities that again Democrats and rural areas that vote Republican, in 2018 not solely had been cities and their suburbs extra intensively blue, however there was a 5 p.c swing again to Democrats in rural counties. That’s not big, however numerous elections are determined by a lot smaller margins.
In Virginia’s seventh District, which mixes Richmond suburbs and hardcore Trump nation to the agricultural north and south, Spanberger, a married mom of three and former CIA analyst, received a marquee race to oust one of many Home Freedom Caucus leaders, Dave Brat. Brat was a hero to the far proper for defeating the previous Republican Majority Chief, Eric Cantor, in a bitter 2014 major battle.
Spanberger emphasised well being care and prescription drug prices, calling for a Medicare public choice and patent reforms to scale back drug firm monopoly pricing energy, in addition to a change within the regulation to permit Medicare to barter bulk pricing reductions the way in which the VA is ready to. In 2016, Brat beat his Democratic opponent, Eileen Bedell, by 15 factors. In 2018, Spanberger beat him by 2 factors, gaining floor within the district’s rural areas in addition to the suburbs.
Third Means claimed Spanberger as certainly one of its personal. If that is the brand new centrism, let’s have extra of it.
And naturally, Beto O’Rourke carried out higher than any statewide Texas Democrat in a long time, operating as an unapologetic progressive. Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Jon Tester in Montana stored their Senate seats as financial populists. Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Claire McCaskill in Missouri misplaced theirs by pulling their punches.
If the Democrats can win in Trump nation by operating progressives, why on earth ought to they run Wall Avenue-friendly centrists, even when centrists may also generally win?
Donnelly ran assault advertisements distancing himself from the “radical left.” McCaskill ran a radio advert attacking “loopy Democrats”; she went on Fox Information to criticize Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Each solid votes to weaken financial institution regulation. In Tennessee, former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), the good average hope, declared that he would have voted to substantiate Brett Kavanaugh had he been within the Senate. He went on to lose his election by almost 11 factors.
In equity, it’s doable to cherry-pick examples both approach. There have been some Democrats who took Republican seats operating as Third Means-type centrists, equivalent to Max Rose in New York’s Staten Island. There have been others ― extra of them ― who flipped Republican seats as financial progressives. There have been additionally some Democrats who misplaced long-shot battles operating as populists, equivalent to Richard Ojeda in West Virginia and Randy Bryce in Paul Ryan’s former Wisconsin seat. Bernie Sanders’ spinoff group Our Revolution had a foul night time statistically, having put its power principally in long-shot candidates.
Right here’s the purpose. The grassroots power is clearly with progressives. And if the Democrats can win in Trump nation by operating progressives, why on earth ought to they run Wall Avenue-friendly centrists, even when centrists may also generally win? Progressives usually tend to win again Trump voters and extra more likely to deal with the deep-seated financial frustrations that incubate Trumpism, and extra more likely to bridge over schisms of race that in any other case fragment the Democratic coalition.
The 2018 midterms bode effectively for 2020, not only for an enormous Democratic victory however ― simply as importantly ― for a progressive victory.
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and a professor at Brandeis College’s Heller Faculty. His new guide is Can Democracy Survive World Capitalism? Comply with him on Twitter at @rkuttnerwrites.
- This text initially appeared on HuffPost.