How far left Democrats are willing to go was one of the questions answered in Tuesday’s primaries held in Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon. It wasn’t a good night for moderate Democrats.
In Pennsylvania, my home state, several far-left candidates emerged as victors in balloting among Democrats. These are not garden-variety liberals. They are self-proclaimed socialists who ran on platforms harshly critical of their merely liberal Democrat opponents.
Getting to the left of Tom Wolf isn’t easy, but his new running mate now occupies that space. Here’s how it happened:
Wolf was never comfortable with his lieutenant governor, Mike Stack, who came from a long line of Philadelphia pols, including his paternal grandfather, a congressman for whom he was named.
Stack allegedly mistreated his official staff, prompting official investigations. Rumors of other scandals swirled around him. Democrats began looking for alternatives. Wolf publicly remained neutral during the campaign but his lack of support for his former running mate was obvious.
When the dust settled, Stack had been defeated, the first time a sitting lieutenant governor lost a Pennsylvania primary. Despite having a million dollars to wage his campaign, he managed to finish fourth in a five-person field.
Nina Ahmad, also of Philadelphia, had $800,000 to challenge Stack (she finished second). None of the other candidates was able to keep pace with Stack’s fundraising — including the nominee, John Fetterman.
Fetterman is the mayor of Braddock, a small, economically blighted borough near Pittsburgh, with a population of less than 3,000. Fetterman was endorsed by Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE, a reciprocation of the early endorsement Fetterman gave the Vermont senator two years ago.
Standing 6 feet, 8 inches with tattoos covering both arms, Fetterman looks more like the doorman at a biker bar than the Harvard-educated mayor he is. He’s done a lot for his town. He’s as honest as the day is long, bright, charismatic and charming (and a personal friend of mine). There’s nothing not to like about him — except most of his public policy pronouncements.
Fetterman, for all of his self-avowed socialism, wasn’t the farthest left candidate to win a Democrat primary in Pennsylvania.
In his own neighborhood, one of the races that saw hard-core leftists defeat more moderate Democrat legislators was playing out.
Summer Lee, a card-carrying member of the radical Democratic Socialists of America, whose activities include Marxist reading sessions, wound up taking two-thirds of the vote in her race against incumbent Democratic state Rep. Paul Costa.
Not far away, another Costa, cousin Dom, was defeated by Sara Innamorato by nearly the same margin. Innamorato, too, is part of the Democratic Socialists of America.
The left tilt wasn’t limited to the left side of the state. In South Philly, Elizabeth Fiedler, campaigning on Medicare-for-all, took a state legislature nomination over a party- and union-favored candidate. Fiedler, too, had the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists.
Up in the Lehigh Valley, another far-left Democrat won the congressional primary for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentTuesday election results raise questions about Biden agenda The Memo: Never Trumpers sink into gloom as Gonzalez bows out The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE. There, several outside groups, including one led by left-wing billionaire Tom Steyer, spent heavily to untrack District Attorney John Morganelli, a moderate Democrat.
They managed to take out Morganelli and with him the Democrats’ best shot at winning the swing seat. A Muhlenberg College poll had shown Morganelli with double-digit leads over either of the two Republicans vying for the seat.
Similar results were seen in the other states that held primaries this week.
In Nebraska, Kara Eastman, another Medicare-for-all candidate, bested a former Democratic congressman for the chance to take on incumbent Don Bacon. This is a seat Democrats thought they could win back with the right candidate. Now they’re left to wonder and hope.
In Oregon, the left defeated one of their own, state Sen. Rod Monroe, by a whopping margin.
The Washington Post observed, “The far-left is winning the Democratic civil war.” The far-left won some important battles in Democratic primaries this week. But what about the war?
The state legislative slots in Pennsylvania were in the darkest blue districts. There wasn’t a Republican on the ballot for those seats. The socialist candidates followed the advice of Summer Lee’s campaign manager, who wrote in a far-left wing newspaper, “Want to elect Socialists? Run them in Democratic primaries.”
That strategy has very limited effect. The repercussions are potentially enormous. The base for socialist insurgency is very limited.
Democrats only need to flip a couple dozen seats to control the U.S. House of Representatives. They believe they can pick up several in Pennsylvania, especially with new districts drawn by a Democratic Party-controlled state Supreme Court.
They’re a lot less likely to do that with candidates from the far-left and the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE wing of the party than with standard-bearers from the near-left, such as Rep. Conor Lamb, who won a recent special election that garnered national attention.
The swing voters who ultimately decide these contests in November aren’t likely to vote for exponentially higher taxes and bigger bureaucracies. They’re much more pragmatic than dogmatic.
The “civil war” being waged by hard-core left wingers in the Democratic Party seriously threatens to reduce their much ballyhooed “Blue Wave” to a ripple.
Charlie Gerow, first vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, has held national leadership positions in several Republican presidential campaigns. He began his career on the campaign staff of Ronald Reagan. A nationally recognized expert in strategic communications, he is CEO of Quantum Communications, a Pennsylvania-based media relations and issue advocacy firm.