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Don’t Count the Left Out Just Yet

Repeatedly throughout this election cycle, mainstream corporate media outlets have declared the insurgent left wing of the Democratic Party dead.

These insurgent candidates, often self-identified as democratic socialists, are exemplified by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and groups like the Justice Democrats and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

All of these have campaigned hard for progressive primary candidates throughout the U.S. And corporate media outlets have again and again focused on their supposed inability to defeat Democratic incumbents.

For instance, following the August 7 primary defeats of high-profile progressive candidates Abdul El-Sayed (running for Michigan governor), Brent Welder (Kansas’ 2nd district) and Cori Bush (Missouri’s 1st district), outlets like the Washington Post, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal were quick to declare the Democratic Party’s left wing dead in the water.

“Down goes socialism,” declared Politico.

Despite these eager obituaries, there were plenty of wins for insurgent progressives in those same primaries.

James Thompson won in Kansas’ 4th district. Sarah Smith placed second in the top-two primary in Washington’s 9th district. And Rashida Tlaib handily won the nomination in Michigan’s 13th district, which will likely make her the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress.

The following week brought more victories.

Randy Bryce triumphed in Wisconsin’s 1st district, to contest the seat soon to be vacated by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ilhan Omar, a Somali refugee, won in Minnesota’s 5th district.

Christine Hallquist won the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Vermont, making her the first trans woman nominated for a major political office. And Jahana Hayes won in Connecticut’s 5th district and is now expected to be the state’s first black woman in Congress.

In neighboring Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley defeated a long-time Democratic incumbent in the state’s 7th district, likely making her that state’s first female African-American in Congress.

Finally, although the progressive Cynthia Nixon failed to unseat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in September, progressive challengers toppled six right-wing Democrats in the state senate.

These wins made the premature obituaries look like wishful reporting. While, progressive challengers haven’t won every underdog primary race against well-funded centrists, the left is clearly winning the battle of ideas within the party.

Policies often referred to as “socialist” — such as Medicare for All, free college, student loan forgiveness, and jobs guarantees — are now expected to be litmus tests in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.

Countless hit pieces on the perceived dangers of socialism have appeared in virtually every mainstream publication. Yet “socialist” policies are becoming quite popular with voters: A recent Reuters poll showed that Medicare for All has support from 70 percent of the U.S. electorate, including 52 percent of Republicans. Another 60 percent of the electorate supports free college tuition.

A Gallup poll revealed further that 57 percent of Democrats have a positive view of socialism, compared to 47 percent who view capitalism favorably.

It’s not necessarily clear what “socialism” means to those who like it, with possibilities ranging from New Deal-style social programs to worker-controlled production. Still, it’s safe to say that there’s a growing political base to empower the working class and minorities against the rich.

Whether left-leaning Democrats fall flat in the midterms or not, their ideas have persuaded America that socialism is a legitimate and popular political movement, and will likely have a substantial voting bloc in the next Congress.

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