On Tuesday, June 26, primaries held in seven states illustrated just how the political landscape is shifting across the nation. The primaries, held in Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Utah, set the stage for the midterm elections with rising support for progressive Democrats and Trump-endorsed Republicans.
Arguably the biggest winner on Tuesday was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat out 20-year incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley of New York. Crowley is a top Democrat in the House and was expected to be the eventual successor of Rep. Nancy Pelosi on the House leadership team. With a campaign that outraised Ocasio-Cortez ten times over, Crowley’s defeat was a stunning wakeup call to the Democratic establishment: people want change.
Ocasio-Cortez is a 28-year-old woman of color who grew up in the Bronx and was raised by working class parents. She is a first-time candidate who, until just nine months ago was working as a server while running her own campaign. A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Ocasio-Cortez’s agenda includes items like Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, and abolishing ICE.
Civics Lesson: Democratic Socialists of America
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its primary goal is to weaken the power of money in politics, empower working-class people, and restructure gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable. While DSA does not run its own candidates, it has endorsed some Democratic candidates in the past, including John Kerry, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Ralph Nader (Green Party).
DSA has grown profoundly in the past several years, rising from about 6,000 members to 32,000 members in 2017—largely as a youth-led movement responding to the election of President Donald Trump. As of April 2018, DSA reported over 37,000 members. For a primer on the differences between democratic socialism, socialism, communism, and capitalism, check out this article.
Photo: The Democratic Socialists of America march in the 2018 Minneapolis May Day parade. Attribution: Nic Neufeld / Shutterstock
“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” her two-minute campaign video opens. “I wasn’t born into a wealthy or powerful family—mother from Puerto Rico, father from the South Bronx. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny.”
It’s time for a New York that works for all of us.
On June 26th, we can make it happen – but only if we have the #CourageToChange.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) May 30, 2018
Also in New York, Dana Balter, a local progressive professor and activist, beat out the party-backed Juanita Perez Williams. But New York wasn’t the only place where the Democratic establishment lost to progressive newcomers. Ben Jealous, former NAACP president won his hotly-contested primary in Maryland and will face off against incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this fall. In Colorado, Rep. Jared Polis also came up with a win and will now move on to the state’s gubernatorial race. If elected, Polis would be the first openly gay man to become a U.S. governor.
In what appears to be the polar opposite of Democrats’ against-the-establishment candidates, Republican loyalists were the biggest winners for the party. In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster won his primary against John Warren after President Trump held a rally for him on Monday night. Also endorsed by President Trump and the Republican party, Rep. Don Donovan defeated former representative and felon Michael Grimm.
Mitt Romney—who just two years ago warned that President Trump was a threat to America’s future, “a phony, a fraud”—published an op-ed just a few days before his primary victory in Utah declaring that “the first year of [Trump’s] administration has exceeded my expectations.” Romney will almost certainly win the general election in the heavily red state. The president, too, seemed to have a reversal opinion of Romney, tweeting his congratulations on Wednesday morning.
Many question the stance Romney will take when it comes to President Trump and his policies—friend or foe—with Romney himself saying that he will reserve his commentary for matters of “substantial significance.”
“I appreciate the argument made by those who believe we should stay silent,” he wrote, “but I cannot subscribe to it. I know that any criticism may lessen the president’s flexibility to enact policy with which I agree, but that end does not justify my silence in the face of things that matter.”
Romney seems to be making good on this promise thus far, condemning the administration’s separation of migrant families in the days leading up to the primary, calling it “heartbreaking, heart-wrenching, and simply wrong.”