It’s not much of a secret that Democrats have ceased even trying to be a truly national party anymore. Tacking ever further to the left, the party continues to distance itself from entire geographic regions of the United States – most notably the Heartland and the northwestern mountain states. The dire ramifications for an Electoral College race are plain to see. But another growing menace faces veteran Dem elected officials. With the party isolating its appeal to urban and coastal blue fortresses, these pols are at the mercy of a progressive base of voters that grows ever more extreme and unsatisfied as the confines of the party’s bubble become more tightly constricted.
As the Diversity Turns
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) is the latest example of a powerful congressional Democrat incumbent facing the very real threat of being hoisted on his own petard. The 16-term veteran, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, represents a heavily urbanized district in the Bronx. There are numerous reasons dense urban areas tend to be progressive havens: Leftist college-educated young professionals flock to large cities, urban living seems to induce a belief in big government providing solutions, and buzzwords such as “diversity” and “multiculturalism” are easily embraced in more cosmopolitan domains.
Like most large urban areas, Engel’s district has seen a steady uptick in immigration in recent decades. According to the state of New York, immigrants now make up 37% of the population in the Bronx, twice the rate of 1980. Engel has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump’s attempts to fight illegal immigration and secure the US southern border. Trump “continues to beat the same old xenophobic drum while trying to keep as many people out of the country as he can,” Engel said in a May statement condemning a Wall on the southern border, a merit-based immigration system, and opposition to blanket amnesty for Dreamers.
Although supporting one of the key forces driving the rise of progressivism in urban areas, Engel now finds himself facing a serious primary challenge from Democrats in the Bronx who consider him too establishment. A progressive PAC called the Justice Democrats, with the express goal of electing more leftist Dems in the mold of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), is backing Jamaal Bowman against Engel in 2020. And a new poll gives clear evidence that the incumbent may be in trouble. It should be noted that the survey was commissioned by progressive think tank Data for Progress, yet the results should still dismay the House veteran. Only 29% of those polled supported Engel while twice as many, 60%, stated they were undecided. That is a staggering show of indifference toward a man who has represented his district for more than 30 years.
Engel is being painted by his progressive rival as hawkish on foreign policy and too cozy with Wall Street. A sympathetic article at The Intercept site details how Bowman strongly backs iconic leftist positions such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and an end to “mass incarceration.”
Green Litmus Test
Climate change is indeed a key weapon progressives are unloading on unacceptable Dem incumbents. A “youth-led” climate-change political organization called the Sunrise Movement has endorsed 26-year-old Jessica Cisneros in her bid to unseat veteran Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX). Cuellar represents Laredo, which the credit finance website WalletHub named as one of the fastest-growing cities in America in 2018. Once again, changing demographics face an established Dem officeholder.
“The goal of this is to send a clear message to Democratic incumbents that they can’t take young people’s support for granted, and if they don’t get on board with the Green New Deal, they should expect vigorous primary challenges,” Sunrise spokesman Stephen O’Hanlon, cutting right to the chase, told E&E News, a site that covers environmental issues.
Cuellar is considered one of the most conservative Dems in the House. Highlighting the split in Dem ranks, he has been avidly supported by incumbency-loving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) while top-tier presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) already has endorsed challenger Cisneros.
No Party for Pro-Lifers
Cuellar is also one of the few dodo birds remaining on Capitol Hill – a pro-life Democrat. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), whose mostly suburban district includes parts of Chicago, is another of that rare breed, making him a progressive target as well. Liberal website Vox notes that Lipinski’s district once contained several “conservative pockets” but has become younger and more Latino in recent years. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) won the district over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Dem presidential primary.
Sanders has already endorsed Marie Newman, the Justice Democrats-backed progressive challenger to Lipinski, for 2020. As with Bowman in the Bronx, Newman has pledged her loyalty to a litany of leftist Dem policy goals, including Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, and the controversial LGBT legislation, the Equality Act. Staunchly pro-abortion, she has said US Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be “repealed and replaced,” Vox reports.
Lipinski has been in office since 2005, taking over the seat from his father. He barely held off Newman in a tough primary battle in 2018, winning by a razor-thin 2.2% margin. Ocasio-Cortez indicated just what the new progressives think of his type of Democrat when she said in 2018, “I think that an anti-choice position is a relic of our past and it is firmly in the Republican ideology, and I do not think that is what our party should be standing for.”
For years now, Democrat leadership at the highest levels has acquiesced to the progressive takeover of the party at the grassroots. In many cases, this was done for reasons of political expediency. In order to stay in their party positions and elected offices a bit longer, older Dems ceded more and more ground to the extremist usurpers.
Now the bill is due. Pelosi can talk all she wants about going after Trump in 2020, but she had best look out for flying arrows coming from her left. A gaze at the Electoral College map may show that radical progressivism is unable to win a national election at this point. But it is very capable of toppling many a long-entrenched Democratic member of Congress. They have no one to blame but themselves.
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