As a young progressive, much of my experience with politics has been being told that my beliefs are not realistic, not pragmatic, and not popular. “How can you expect to get elected being such a radical?” Of these critiques, the last is the most frustrating. We are progressives because we hold core beliefs, if you’re going to throw those away to get elected, why even bother getting elected? More importantly, recent elections show not only that progressive values can get you elected, but also that they can get you elected (or close to it) even in the most “red” districts in the country — running to the center actually hurts more than it helps electorally.
In Georgia, Democrats spent record amounts of money on a moderate candidate and still lost. The special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in June 2017 was the most expensive congressional campaign in American History, with a total of $50 million spent by both sides. The Democratic candidate, Jon Ossoff, after having spent nearly $30 million, and receiving national press and support from the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and the national and state Democratic parties, still was unable to win the seat.
While national Democrats were all-in for Ossoff’s campaign in Georgia, they largely ignored two other special elections that could have given them much better results. In April of 2017, the special election in Kansas’ 4th congressional district showed that a policy-oriented progressive, such as James Thompson, can close a 30 point lead from previous elections, down to only 7 points, in one of the reddest districts in the country. Unlike the campaign in Georgia, national and state Democrats abandoned Thompson, and yet, he still managed to close a seemingly insurmountable gap.
National Democrats also abandoned Rob Quist in Montana’s at-large congressional district. The DCCC pledged $2 million more dollars to Ossoff’s campaign on the same day that DCCC chair Ben Ray Lujan called the Montana race “a tough road.”
Time and time again, national Democratic organizations have not only shown a lack of support of progressives, but also a disdain for progressives. Just recently, the DCCC attacked Laura Moser, a candidate for a contested primary in Texas, as a "Washington insider". In this case, the DCCC was not unevenly distributing funds or support to candidates, they were picking sides in a Democratic primary, something far worse.
Democrats need to adopt progressive policies to win back the house and senate in 2018. Many red-state progressives, such as Rob Quist and James Thompson, were abandoned by the national Democratic machine in 2017, in favor of moderates, such as Jon Ossoff. This is unacceptable; at the very least, Democrats should have given somewhat equal support to each candidate, not disproportionate amounts to their favorite. In many red districts, by promoting progressive principles, not only will Democrats be able to bring some self-identifying conservatives to their side, but many disheartened potential voters (especially millennials and minorities) will regain their faith in the Democratic Party: give those groups a reason to go out and vote Democrat.