The Bernie Sanders far-left wing of the Democratic Party – including some candidates who proudly label themselves democratic socialists – has scored some big primary victories in recent months, but ran out of luck Thursday in tiny Delaware, when voters nominated U.S. Sen. Tom Carper for another term.
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The victory was good news for Democrats, who hope to capture control of the Senate and House in the November midterm elections with centrist candidates who can draw support from Democratic moderates, independents, and even some Republicans disenchanted with President Trump and the controversies surrounding him.
But Carper’s trouncing of challenger Kerri Evelyn Harris – he captured 65 percent of the vote to her 35 percent – was bad news for Republicans. GOP officials and candidates would like nothing better than the opportunity to run against candidates they can paint as leftist radicals who want to raise taxes, make Big Government a lot bigger, and replace America’s successful free market economy with the socialist model that has failed miserably across the world.
The GOP would like nothing better than to run against candidates they can paint as leftist radicals who want to raise taxes, make Big Government bigger, and replace the free-market economy with the socialist model that has failed across the world.
Carper is now the heavy favorite to win re-election in November when he faces Sussex County Councilman Robert Arlett, who defeated former PayPal executive Gene Truono by 67 to 28 percent to win the GOP Senate primary. Arlett chaired the Donald Trump presidential campaign in Delaware in 2016.
Carper, 71, has served in the Senate since 2001 and was governor for eight years before that. He previously spent a decade as Delaware’s only member of the U.S. House and earlier served as state treasurer of Delaware. He was endorsed by the Delaware Democratic Party and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a former Democratic senator representing Delaware.
Harris, 38, is a biracial community organizer and Air Force veteran. She was endorsed by democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who gained national attention with her surprise primary victory June 26 over veteran Democratic U.S. House member Joe Crowley in New York City.
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Harris’ left-wing platform included support for national health insurance, a bailout of student loan debt, a $15 minimum wage, and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
Those positions had limited appeal in Delaware, which does not have a large immigrant community and where voters are steeped in the so-called “Delaware Way” – a culture of bipartisanship and political compromise. Even though she had a strong volunteer network, Harris was only able to raise about $120,000 for her race, versus $3 million raised by Carper.
While the radical left is pushing to move the Democratic Party in its direction, Harris’ big loss to Carper shows the ability the ability of leftist extremists to succeed is limited.
While few thought Harris had a chance of defeating Carper, her supporters hoped she could pull of a political miracle like some other far-left candidates have done.
In addition to Ocasio-Cortez’s win in New York in June, Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley scored an upset victory Tuesday when she easily defeated 10-term U.S. Rep. Mike Capuano in the Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat representing Massachusetts.
Pressley is another far-left candidate and she will become the first African-American woman representing Massachusetts in Congress because she faces no Republican opponent in November.
In Delaware, Harris brought in so many outside activist veterans of the campaigns of Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley that Carper was overheard complaining about it on an Amtrak train Thursday.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, Carper told the person he was speaking to on a cell phone: "There are a lot of people coming from out of state, socialists coming in, trying to defeat me." The senator then went on to say socialists are ruining the Democratic Party, the Free Beacon reported.
In the end, Carper need not have worried quite so much. Even though Delaware played a leading role in the American Revolution it’s hardly a bastion of socialist revolutionaries today. The state’s economy is benefiting from low corporate tax rates and business-friendly bank regulations. It has a history of electing moderate Democrats such as Biden and Chris Coons, Carper’s Senate colleague.
The lesson of recent primaries is that while the left wing is on the rise, its biggest impact will be in scaring Democratic incumbents to do its bidding rather than actually winning a lot of elections on its own.
Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley both won in districts where Democratic primaries are dominated by minority voters.
In Florida, liberal Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, and African-American, was able to win his crowded primary with 33 percent of the vote. But would probably have failed if he faced a single moderate candidate.
But while the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party is not going to take over the party, it’s certainly capable having a major influence, especially in primary campaigns, pushing candidates further left than they might otherwise go.
Just think back to 2010, when tea party conservatives dominated the GOP primaries and set the stage for the rise of Donald Trump. Many far-left Democrats want to play a similar role in electing candidates to their liking in November and again in 2020.