How the left fell short in Illinois race

Dave Weigel reports on last week’s Democratic primary in Illinois’ third congressional district. The seat is held by Daniel Lipinski.

He’s a pro-life Democrat and a moderate, at least in the eyes of progressives. TPM, the left-wing website, says Lipinski “has spent his career sticking his fingers in the eyes of progressives, vocally bucking his party on everything from abortion to Obamacare to gay rights.”

The district encompasses much of the southwest side of Chicago and several nearby suburbs. It’s safely Democratic. Donald Trump won only 40 percent of its vote.

Accordingly, the left-wing anti-Trump resistance made the reasonable decision heavily to back a lefty challenger, Marie Newman, this year. As Weigel puts it, “an army of liberal groups and activists. . .converged on the Chicago suburbs to engineer the primary defeat” of Lipinski.

They came up short. 2,124 votes short.

Why? Weigel cites several factors. First, Newman apparently ran a poor race. According to her critics within the progressive ranks, she was too strident.

David Axelrod, who knows a thing or two about putting a smiley face on left-liberalism, complained that “Newman was trying to galvanize the progressive vote in the district and I think her judgment was that stridency was the way to effect that.” “I wouldn’t make that a template for moving forward,” he added.

Stridency aside, Newman might have been too left-wing. An organizer who canvassed for Newman was surprised by how “personally conservative” some Democrats remain. It didn’t help that the district contains lots of Catholics and that key unions backed Lipinski.

Lipinski prevailed thanks to the Chicago vote. Newman would have defeated Lipinski in a purely suburban district. But such a district wouldn’t be represented by Lipinski in the first place. There isn’t much low-hanging fruit within the Democratic congressional caucus for leftist’s to pick.

The campaign featured a true “pass the popcorn” moment. Days before the election, with early voting already under way, Newman’s campaign staff formed a union. As Weigel observes, the time spent organizing a union was time not spent getting out the vote.

They’re a strident, quarrelsome lot, these progressives. They may yet manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this year, perhaps by showing too much of their impeachment hand.

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