September 17, 2018


Identity, Not Ideology, Driving the Democratic Party: White progressives badly underachieved in Democratic primaries for governor. African-American progressives dominated. (Josh Kraushaar,  Sept. 16, 2018, National Journal)

For an illustration of the power of identity over ideology in politics, look at the divergent results in two of the biggest Democratic governors' primaries in the country. Actress Cynthia Nixon, who received national attention for her insurgent campaign against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, performed dismally even though her opponent was reviled by the Left. Meanwhile: Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who barely had enough campaign cash to air television advertisements in Florida, achieved one of the most dramatic upsets in the 2018 cycle.

White progressive candidates performed dismally in Democratic gubernatorial primaries this year. Nixon, despite her celebrity, barely won one-third of the vote in New York against Cuomo. Progressive stalwarts like Chris Giunchigliani in Nevada, Dennis Kucinich in Ohio, and Daniel Biss in Illinois were crushed by more-pragmatic challengers. The cycle began when former Rep. Tom Perriello, a favorite of inside-the-Beltway liberals, lost badly to the more moderate Ralph Northam in Virginia.

But African-American candidates, all running to the left, greatly exceeded expectations in statewide contests. Gillum surged in the Florida primary's final days to overtake more moderate former congresswoman Gwen Graham, despite being badly outspent by his competition. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams cruised past a centrist challenger in a race that originally looked to be highly competitive. Former NAACP president Ben Jealous scored a decisive victory in Maryland's Democratic primary, exceeding early expectations. All three candidates benefited from a surge in black turnout in a midterm-election year.

The demographic patterns in these races are clear. African-American candidates were able to build an energized Democratic coalition of black voters, white liberals, and younger voters to swamp more-established candidates in primaries. But white liberal candidates struggled to expand their support beyond the most predictable precincts, unable to build racially diverse coalitions for their progressive messages.

In fairness, it seems pertinent that Mr. Cuomo is the not unpopular incumbent.

Posted by at September 17, 2018 4:02 AM