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Word to Democrats: Fight to Win

Every action has a reaction. I suspect that’s something far too many Washington politicians have forgotten. As the Trump administration barrels on to fight for it all, progressives are fighting back… But do Democratic leaders have their back?

Now may be a good time for the Democratic Party to figure out how to fight to win.

New York state of mind
Photo by Andrew Davey

On Tuesday the D.C. political world was stunned to see Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York), Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, lose to political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not only was Ocasio-Cortez running against “the establishment”, which means the old-school New York City Democratic machine, but she also ran on an unabashedly progressive platform that includes abolishing ICE, ending private prisons, passing single-payer health care (also known as “Medicare for All”), and implementing a federal jobs guarantee.

Crowley had local and national Democratic Party leaders on his side. Ocasio-Cortez had the Democratic Socialists of America and a handful of other progressive groups on her side. Crowley was so confident of his victory that he didn’t even attend his own debate, yet he lost to Ocasio-Cortez 57.5-42.5%.

Are the leaders actually leading?
Photo by Andrew Davey

Though a number of issues played heavily in Crowley’s defeat, one that’s gotten plenty more attention lately (locally and nationally) is immigration. While Crowley faithfully stuck to mainstream Democratic positions on protecting DACA recipients, preserving the family-based immigration system, and keeping avenues to legalization open for refugees, Ocasio-Cortez excited local Democratic voters and progressive activists nationwide with her call to abolish ICE.

ICE has been around for over 15 years, and during Donald Trump’s presidency it’s become the most glaring symbol of his anti-immigrant agenda. As more and more reports surface of ICE’s systematic abuse of immigrants across the nation, we’ve seen a steadily growing chorus of progressive activists call for scrapping the controversial agency entirely. This chorus was finally answered by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin), who introduced legislation this week to abolish ICE.

Yet even with this budding national movement demanding that Democrats be more proactive in defending immigrant communities, Democratic leaders have steered clear of even entertaining the idea. Not only has Crowley talked it down, but even Senate progressive stalwarts like Kamala Harris (D-California) have as well. Before this week, it sounded like “the center was holding” as Democratic leaders were tampering down the revolutionary fervor that’s sparked their base into fiery resolve. But now, it feels like these very Democratic leaders are stuck in the middle of nowhere as their base demands they pick a lane and stick to it.

But the SCOTUS Showdown has changed everything… Right?
Photo by Jeff Kubina, licensed under Creative Commons, and made available by Wikimedia

Less than 12 hours after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was declared the winner in the New York’s 14th Congressional District Democratic Primary, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) was declared the winner of the race to the Supreme Court. Two years ago, McConnell rolled the dice on keeping a Supreme Court seat vacant after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Despite his flouting of “historic norms” and “Senate tradition”, he was rewarded with President Donald Trump’s selection to Neil Gorsuch to fill that seat.

Now, McConnell has the opportunity to rush another Trump nominee onto the bench. Trust and believe, he’s taking it. And how are Senate Democrats responding? First, there was this…

Then, after Senator Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Connecticut) accommodationist tack invited a shit-ton of blowback, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) went much harder.

Fight to win
Photo by Andrew Davey

And really, this is more along the lines of what Democrats need to do if they want to keep up base enthusiasm and motivate more progressive voters to turn out and choose Democratic candidates. With so much on the line, from immigrant rights to LGBTQ+ equality and economic fairness, the progressive base wants to see Democrats fight. We’ve seen this dynamic play out repeatedly in primaries across the nation, including here in Nevada. Even though “the establishment” candidates won, they did so by appealing to progressives’ demand to put up more of a fight.

If Democratic Party leaders learn nothing else this week, they need to learn this: If you don’t even try to fight, don’t expect to win. This goes for policies, and for politics. All too often, the most important things are worth fighting for. And sometimes, all one can do is figure out how to fight to win.

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