The primary contests on August 4th were a major boon for down-ballot Leftists, and a much needed lift for the progressive movement. Following Jamaal Bowman’s decisive upset victory over incumbent Eliot Engel in New York’s 16th Congressional District primary on June 23, the spotlight turned to St. Louis, where Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush was looking to unseat 10-term incumbent William “Lacy” Clay, Jr..
This was a long shot for sure, as Clay essentially inherited the seat from his father, who represented the District since 1969 and co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus. To call Lacy Clay a machine politician would be an understatement. Alas, however, in the wee hours of the morning of August 5, the race was called for Cori Bush, who, by a slim 3.1 point margin, defeated her establishment opponent. Clay had the support of party leaders, particularly the Congressional Black Caucus, which has staunchly opposed progressive primary challengers not just to their members, but, to Congressmen like Eliot Engel as well. The CBC has singled out Justice Democrats by name, suggesting, absurdly, that these challenges are somehow racially motivated. And so, the odds were stacked against Cori Bush from the start. Her shocking victory is a testament not only to her vigorous and well-organized campaign, but to the strength and power of the Black Lives Matter movement which she played an integral role in building six years ago when she took to the streets of Ferguson to protest the killing of Michael Brown. Her win is an exercise in the power of grassroots organizing and campaigning.
Bush’s upset over Clay was certainly the biggest story of the night, but it was hardly the only story of the night. Rashida Tlaib won a landslide victory over her primary challenger, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, in a rematch of 2018’s primary contest which Tlaib won narrowly by 900 votes. The widespread media narrative was that Tlaib’s seat was in danger this time, seeing as she’s often portrayed as too “divisive” and “controversial” for mainstream Midwestern voters. Much ado was made when she booed Hillary Clinton at a Bernie Sanders campaign rally, a cardinal sin in corporate media world and Blue MAGA Twitter. She’s come under fire repeatedly from her own party’s leadership for her stance on Palestinian rights (Tlaib is a Palestinian herself). In the third poorest Congressional District in the country, however, these media narratives weren’t able to distract voters from Tlaib’s progressive platform and substantive advocacy for her constituents on issues both national and local. She trounced her opponent by 35,000 votes, a 66-34% margin.
In Tennessee, DSA-backed candidate Marquita Bradshaw scored a truly stunning victory in her Senate primary against Army pilot James Mackler, who raised $2.1 million to her $25,000. She faces an extremely difficult general election battle against Trump-backed Republican Bill Hagerty, but her primary win is undoubtedly a show of strength for the Left in the most unlikely of states.
What do these victories mean for the progressive movement? How did they happen? Is the coronavirus accelerating the rise of Left politics? Why is the Congressional Black Caucus so hostile to progressive insurgents?
We discuss these topics and more on episode 81 of the Due Dissidence podcast. Listen to our full conversation by clicking the player below:
Photo: Michael B. Thomas, Getty Images