Can progressives govern?
Democrats must vote for electable candidates to win big in November
Last Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans held contentious congressional primaries in Pennsylvania, Idaho, Nebraska and Oregon. The results were certainly revealing, and arguably provided insight into what we can expect in this year's midterms. For the Democrats, the most significant primary races were concentrated in Pennsylvania, a notorious swing-state and home to several Republican-held congressional districts considered vulnerable enough to flip come November.
Pennsylvania's electoral composition was reformed earlier this year following a court decision that mandated a redrawing of the state's congressional districting map. This shake-up has many important consequences for this year's midterms, including pitting current Congressmen Conor Lamb and Keith Rothfus, incumbents from the former 18th and 12th districts, respectively, against each other to represent the new 17th district.
A fresh face in Congress, Lamb won a special election in March to represent a district that President Trump won by 20 points in 2016. As a 33-year-old Marine veteran and former federal prosecutor, Lamb is a part of a wave of veteran political newcomers that also includes Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, as well as candidates like Dan McCready of North Carolina.
The success of these candidates - all of whom have disavowed Nancy Pelosi and the party establishment, advocating for new leadership - demonstrates the appeal of new voices and fresh ideas. Ultimately, the success of these more moderate Democratic candidates should instruct the party's nominations and agenda leading up to November.
Nonetheless, Tuesday's primary results revealed that the party still tends to favor more progressive candidates, and thus those who will inevitably be weaker candidates in a general election. For instance, in Pennsylvania's 1st district, Scott Wallace, a 66-year-old businessman and grandson of former Vice President Henry Wallace, defeated moderate 33-year-old Navy veteran Rachel Reddick in this month's primary.
Shortly after his victory, it was revealed that Wallace, who is a prolific philanthropist, has donated to several groups in favor of the BDS movement, which has proposed boycotts, sanctions, and other actions against Israel and has been dubbed an anti-Israel organization. This association complicates Wallace's chances of winning the seat in the November race against Republican incumbent Brian Fitzpatrick.
"It might cost him the election," said Burt Siegel, the former leader of the Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council. The district is widely considered a toss-up already, making it imperative that the Democrats to do all they can to hold on to the seat, and Wallace's win certainly does nothing to help the cause.
In Nebraska, meanwhile, nonprofit executive Kara Eastman defeated Brad Ashford for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd district. She will face incumbent Republican Don Bacon, who unseated Ashford in 2016. Indeed, Eastman is another bad choice for Democrats. Before the primaries, the race in Nebraska's 2nd district was considered to be one of the few winnable districts for Democrats in the state. However, Eastman has run on a far-left platform, promoting tired, unappealing messages like repealing the Republican tax bill and establishing "Medicare for All."
While this platform may appeal to a sect of liberal Democratic voters, it will repel moderates in the general election, ensuring that Bacon's seat remains in the hands of the GOP. Progressives with more narrow appeal significantly weaken the Democratic Party's opportunities to flip seats like Nebraska's 2nd district and hold onto districts like Pennsylvania's 1st district.
To be sure, Democrats still have a full slate of primaries to come. When heading to the ballot boxes for these races, it is essential that Democratic voters think not just of their progressive dreams, but think most intently about November, making it a priority to select candidates with the broadest possible constituencies and compete most effectively against their Republican opponents.
There is palpable energy on the left right now, and Democrats have an opportunity to make a significant comeback in this year's midterms. Ultimately, it is now up to the voters to take advantage of this chance, and to do so by making wise choices in the primaries.
Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including "Putin's Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence."