Election Day 2021 certainly didn’t appear to excite your average American as much as a midterm or presidential election would – yet it provided a window into the minds of voters in the lead up to 2022. Even the mainstream news apparatus could not keep its hands off the political shockers in Virginia and New Jersey. Republican contenders Glenn Youngkin and Jack Ciattarelli may have stolen the show on Nov. 2, but the many victories of moderate Dems in smaller races from coast to coast demonstrate that the radical wing of the Democratic Party is on the ropes.
Following the Virginia gubernatorial election, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) claimed that moderates, not progressives, were spelling the downfall for Democrats across the nation. The leftward turn of the party has often forced moderate members into indefensible positions that they might not have supported in the first place. However, the recent election outcomes may have the opposite effect leading up to the midterms. By the night’s conclusion, it became clear that initial results indicated a complete humiliation of radical left-wing campaigns across the nation.
Socialists Fail to Impress in New York
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), likely tired of their favorite congresswomen going turncoat and abandoning socialist ideals to win favor with the Democratic establishment, had planned municipal takeovers of the American political system. Metropolitan areas like Boston, New York City, Minneapolis, Buffalo, and Seattle were targeted by the DSA as potential centers to produce crude imitations of the 19th-century political machines that once controlled blocs of diverse voters in Democratic cities. The DSA hoped that a wave of young, woke, white millennials held the keys to electoral success. They were horribly mistaken.
Just months ago, radical news organizations like Jacobin argued that a socialist climate was beginning to take over the Empire State in places like New York City and Buffalo. The evidence for such claims was limited to India Walton’s win over establishment Democrat Byron Brown in the party primary for the Buffalo mayoral race, as well as Maya Wiley’s initial popularity in the primary for New York mayor. Both candidates were endorsed by AOC, who stumped for the left-wing hopefuls on the campaign trail – yet both were ultimately beaten by moderate Democrats.
In Buffalo, Walton’s defeat to a write-in campaign from Brown appeared almost comical after the smug chest-beating that DSA members and supporters had performed upon her initial victory in the primary. Look to Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) years in the Senate as an example of just how popular write-in candidates can be with their voters even if they can’t survive party primaries. Wiley, of course, lost the primary to law-and-order Democrat Eric Adams, who now stands victorious as mayor-elect of New York.
Coast to Coast Victories for Moderates
In Minneapolis, one of the most radical voter initiatives in modern times, which sought to abolish the city’s police department, was soundly defeated. Incumbent Democrat Mayor Jacob Frey, who oversaw the city’s protests and riots last May and who ran a re-election campaign that highlighted public safety, edged out a Nov. 2 victory against candidates who supported abolishing the city’s police department and who held the support of state Attorney General Keith Ellison and AOC.
In Seattle, incumbent mayor Bruce Harrell (D) fended off a challenge from self-described progressive Lorena Gonzalez, who had supported defunding the police by more than 50% on the campaign trail. Anti-racism activist Nikkita Oliver lost out against business owner Sara Nelson in a bid for a spot on the city council, and police abolitionist Nicole Thomas-Kennedy lost to Republican Ann Davison for the position of city attorney.
The only partial success for DSA ideologues occurred in the Boston area, where former Boston City Council member Michelle Wu won a term as mayor on promises of a Green New Deal for Boston and demilitarization of the police.
Ultimately, the night was a resounding failure for progressives across the country. If the famous statement that “all politics is local” actually plays out, progressives are in for a world of hurt by the time the 2022 midterm elections approach. After claiming victory for so long, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party may already be facing its end.
~ Read more from Jose Backer.