20 March 2018

Conor Lamb, Marie Newman, and the big tent

The recent victory in PA-18 and today's primary in IL-03 illustrate well how ideological divisions within the Democratic party should be handled.  They represent opposite ends of the spectrum of possible electoral situations.

In IL-03, incumbent Congressman Dan Lipinski is facing a primary challenge.  Despite being a Democrat, Lipinski is not a liberal; he's outspokenly opposed to abortion and gay rights, and has voted against the ACA and Planned Parenthood funding.  (The only positive thing about him seems to be his support for science.)  His primary opponent, Marie Newman, is a solid liberal.  Whichever of them wins the primary is guaranteed to win the general election; IL-03 is a solidly Democratic district and the Republican candidate is an anti-Semitic crackpot who got the nomination by default because no other Republican bothered trying for it.  Every real liberal or progressive should hope that Newman wins today.

In PA-18, Conor Lamb won a district which has been Republican-held for 14 years and which went for Trump in 2016 by a 20-point margin.  The margin of victory was only about 600 votes.  Lamb is too conservative for some Democrats' taste, mostly due to being "personally opposed" to abortion.  He is, however, pro-choice since he doesn't support laws restricting access to abortion -- laws most Republicans do support.  In practical terms, what matters about a politician is what legislation he would vote for.

A candidate like Newman couldn't have won in PA-18; if such a candidate had been the Democratic nominee instead of Lamb, the seat would have remained Republican.  The same primary challenge that will (if successful) move the IL-03 seat to the left would have moved it to the right if done in PA-18.

There is no single formula for success that can be applied everywhere.  We need to support the most liberal candidate that can actually win in a given race.  That means supporting challengers like Newman in liberal districts, while opposing them in conservative ones.  In more mixed districts the balancing point between policy positions and electability will be somewhere in between.  Other factors that affect electability, such as incumbency, charisma, ability to appeal to voters on ethnic grounds, etc., also need to be taken into account.

Bizarrely, Pelosi and the Democratic establishment are backing Lipinski.  This may reflect an institutional bias in favor of incumbents.  Pelosi has also said that the party should not have a "litmus test" on abortion.  In fact, if there's one issue it should have a litmus test on, that's probably it.  The right to abortion is the most fundamental personal-freedom issue that's being seriously contested in the US in our time, and as the Republican party becomes steadily more theocratic, its attacks on that right will only increase.

Lamb and Newman are both the right candidates for their respective districts.  That's what we always need to find -- the right candidate.

7 Comments:

Blogger Adam said...

Dan Lipinski would of been a good Democrat in 1856, but not so much in 2018

21 March, 2018 07:11  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

A twist to the Lipinski win -- it's an open primary in Illinois, and Public Policy Polling found that, since there was a Republican/ literal Nazi running unopposed in that district, Trumpers crossed over to give Lipinski the narrow win. A good argument for closed primaries.

21 March, 2018 14:58  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

P.S. Congratulations on the new job. Hope everything works out fine!

21 March, 2018 15:41  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Adam: Especially not today, with progressives so fired up. He's still better than the Republican, but it hurts that Newman won't get a chance.

Hackwhacker: Very good point, especially since the primary vote was so close. We shouldn't let Trumpanzees choose our candidates.

Thanks! The job is working out pretty good so far.

21 March, 2018 18:23  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

Lamb and Newman are both the right candidates for their respective districts. That's what we always need to find -- the right candidate.

This needs to be repeated over and over again, because, sadly, there are people who still do not get it.

And congrats on the new job--hope things work out well!

21 March, 2018 20:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks! Fortunately, those who don't get it seem to me to be a fairly small minority, despite how noisy they can be. Hopefully the November tsunami will render them irrelevant.

22 March, 2018 18:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep this going please, great job!

16 May, 2018 04:06  

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