The Lesson Of The Dem’s Colorado Senate Primary Battle

The Democratic donor class does not want progressives anywhere near the levers of power — even in races where they could clearly win.

By David Sirota
Jacobin (6/19/20)

Whether Democrats win the US Senate — and whether their senators are progressive — could be the difference between life and death for millions of people. A Democratic Senate filled with proponents of a Green New Deal and Medicare for All is one that at least offers the slim possibility of averting climate and health care cataclysms. A Republican Senate — or a Senate run by corporate Democrats — will almost certainly make the climate and health care emergencies far worse, likely resulting in mass casualties and suffering.

In this life-or-death battle, winnable Senate seats in Democratic-leaning states are everything. If we’re going to have any chance to survive the crises in front of us, these Senate seats cannot be lost to Republicans. They also cannot be bequeathed to Democratic corporatists who will defend the status quo and behave in reckless ways that jeopardize the party’s prospects of winning a general election.

Big campaign contributors do not want Medicare for All. They do not want a Green New Deal. They do not want anything that might upset an economic status quo that is tearing America apart and that threatens the lives of millions of people — because that status quo does one thing really well: it enriches the donor class.

But that is what Democratic leaders in Washington are trying to do here in Colorado — the state that could end up deciding control of the Senate. They are now spending big to buy the June 30 primary for a candidate who has shilled for fossil fuel companies, opposed Medicare for All, violated anti-corruption laws, vilified progressives, and engulfed himself in high-profile scandals that could lose a general election. And they are doing this even though there is another Democrat who is not only far more progressive, but arguably better positioned to defeat the Republican incumbent.

For years, Democratic party leaders have publicly insisted they follow a “just win, baby” playbook that leads them to support any candidate — liberal or moderate — best positioned to win GOP seats. But activists have come to suspect that, in fact, party leaders are actually willing to prioritize crushing progressive candidates, even if that might risk losing general elections to Republicans.

Democratic leaders’ heavy-handed behavior in Colorado seems to confirm those suspicions — and it could now jeopardize the entire effort to take back Congress from Donald Trump’s party.

A Winnable Senate Race for Almost Any Democrat

olorado is now a Democratic stronghold — so much so that incumbent Republican senator Cory Gardner is Colorado’s only remaining statewide GOP elected official, and polls show he’s wildly unpopular. If Democrats put up literally any serviceable candidate, it’s a very good bet they will win back this seat that they lost six years ago in the national Republican wave of 2014.

This is a rare opportunity to put a real progressive in the Senate — or at least a lawmaker who would be as progressive as former Colorado Democratic senator Mark Udall, the liberal-leaning environmental champion who lost to Gardner. And that’s what the party has in former Colorado House speaker Andrew Romanoff.

He is a well-respected, grassroots-funded Democrat campaigning for Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Though he has lost two tough races in the last decade, Romanoff is no political amateur: in 2004 — a terrible year for Democrats — he led Colorado Democrats’ successful effort to win the state legislature for the first time in thirty years. While being disowned by national party support and rejecting PAC money, he has scratched and clawed his way to raising a respectable $3 million. He has also scooped up endorsements from hundreds of current and former Colorado elected officials and won a decisive victory at the Democratic State Assembly. And he made waves earlier this year with an envelope-pushing ad rightly sounding the alarm about climate change …

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