Incumbency is no longer an entitlement, no longer a guarantee of elected office.
By Miles Kampf-Lassin
In These Times (6/24/20)
Two years ago, New York City was the site of a stunning victory for the U.S. Left that propelled a transformative candidate into office. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her primary to represent New York’s 14th District in 2018, defeating longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, she shocked the political establishment by showing that a left-wing challenger can run on a bold agenda, lift up movement demands, and win.
After Tuesday night, it appears New York will again be home to an electoral upset jolting the Democratic Party’s centrist wing, as Jamaal Bowman holds a dominant lead over 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel in New York’s 16th District. Engel, the hawkish House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman who has held the seat since 1989 and saw mainstream Democrats rally around him in the waning days of the campaign, ended the night losing to Bowman by nearly 25 points. If Bowman holds onto his lead as mail-in and absentee ballots are counted in the coming days, he will almost assuredly be the next Congressional representative of the deep-blue district.
Jamaal Bowman and other progressive and democratic socialist challengers had a very good night, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cruised to victory—proving that the left wing is a force to be reckoned with.
Bowman, a Black former public school principal, had the backing of a broad array of progressive groups in the state, including Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party and the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), of which Bowman is a member. He was also endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez as well as Bernie Sanders, whom Bowman cites as first inspiring him to run for office.
With protests over the police killing of George Floyd spreading across New York in recent weeks, Bowman has embraced the growing movement for racial justice—including the demand to redistribute funding from police departments into social programs, telling In These Times earlier this month, “We need to end the militarization of the police and transfer significant portions of the funding funneled to police forces into our schools and our healthcare facilities.” In a speech to supporters Tuesday night, Bowman referenced President Trump’s antipathy toward the protests, saying “You know what Donald Trump is more afraid of than anything else? A Black man with power.”
A transformed way to campaign
Throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bowman transformed his campaign into a vehicle to help residents access food and services while calling on the federal government to cover workers’ wages and enact a moratorium on evictions, as well as mortgage, rent and debt payments during the crisis. His platform also includes key redistributive policies such as Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free college, cancelling student debt, a wealth tax and major investments in affordable housing and public education.
“I cannot wait to get to Congress and cause problems,” Bowman said Tuesday night, singling out “institutional racism and sexism and classism and xenophobia” as “what we designed this campaign to fight against.”
The remarks evoked Ocasio-Cortez’s entrance to Congress in 2018 when she famously participated in a sit-in protest outside of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office organized by the climate group Sunrise Movement to demand the passage of a Green New Deal. This confrontational approach to advocating for policies within Ocasio-Cortez’s own party has been criticized by some Democrats, including those such as former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill who’ve been upset by her endorsement of primary challengers.
But Tuesday showed that this strategy can work …
The Rise of the Left With Dem Congressional Primary Winner Mondaire Jones
“I think the energy in this party is on the left. And I hope that people who are in power in this party realize that and bring us into the fold.”
— Mondaire Jones, winner of the Democratic congressional primary in New York District 17.
By Mehdi Hasan
THIS WEEK’S DEMOCRATIC primaries in Kentucky, New York, and Virginia saw a number of progressive challengers defeating moderate or establishment rivals. Of particular note were the victories of two insurgent candidates in New York: Jamaal Bowman, who defeated 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel, and Mondaire Jones, who triumphed over a crowded field in the 17th District to become one of the first openly gay black men ever elected to Congress. Jones joins Mehdi Hasan to discuss his victory. Then, Intercept D.C. Bureau Chief Ryan Grim joins Mehdi to place this week’s elections in historical context.
Mondaire Jones: I think the energy in this party is on the left. And I hope that people who are in power in this party realize that and bring us into the fold.
Link To Story And 36-Minute Audio