Amidst the Chaos, a Progressive Reminder About Perseverance

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Hey, let’s talk about something unrelated to the virus for a second. If you don’t know who Marie Newman is, this is for you.

Some elections went forward yesterday as scheduled. (People are having good conversations about the fact that that was probably unwise, and the fact that vote by mail should be the norm rather than an exception.) Not only are we voting for our presidential candidate, though; in many of these states, the downballot primaries are happening simultaneously.

About six weeks ago, I asked folks to pay attention to the progressives running in these races. As a lead-in to my typical yelling about state legislatures, I said the following:

“Do you know that there are two safely blue House seats where progressive women are running against conservative, pro-life Democratic incumbents? Marie Newman and Jessica Cisneros have been placed at a disadvantage because the DCCC is blacklisting vendors who work with primary challengers such as them. I am donating to them this evening. You should consider doing the same.”

Cisneros’s primary, against Henry Cuellar in TX-28, happened on Super Tuesday. You’d be forgiven for missing the results given how many other things happened that night, but Cisneros, a young and unapologetic immigration lawyer with a lot of energy behind her campaign, came up just three points short.

I was far more excited about the prospect of Cisneros in the House than Newman, so this really affected me. But part of the reason for that was that Newman had run and lost in the same primary in 2018. Newman got an unusually high amount of traditional backing for her primary challenge in 2018, including endorsements from Kirsten Gillibrand, Luis Gutierrez, and Jan Schakowsky (as well as Emily’s List and a number of similar groups).

And yet, she still lost. Only by two points, but she lost.

The endorsements flooded in this time, more than in 2018. Not just Gillibrand but Warren, Castro, Sanders, Pressley, Inslee, Booker, AOC. But even still, even though I knew that Newman’s platform was good, I worried that her professional-class background was a poor fit for her message and her district, which sprawled from the outer suburbs all the way in to the Loop. I was having a hard time motivating myself for somebody described on Wikipedia as “an American entrepreneur, marketing consultant, nonprofit executive and political candidate.”

But Newman, it turns out, benefited from the extra cycle of putting herself out there. She won last night, and by a larger margin than she lost in 2018.

To be clear: Getting Lipinski out of the House is the bare minimum. Somebody who is anti-choice (and voted against Obamacare for that reason), who refused to endorse Barack Obama for reelection in 2012, who opposed gay marriage and supported DOMA until 2015, who supports the Patriot Act, and who voted against the DREAM Act is NOT somebody who should have the same party label as me. (And indeed, I know many people who shun the party label because people like Lipinski are using it.) Not even in a district that’s 40 points redder than the national average. And certainly not in a safe Democratic seat in Chicago.

Even if the biggest nominating contest isn’t likely to go our way, Newman’s victory leaves progressives with a path forward. She shows us that Cisneros could easily win in 2022, if she wants to try again. (Cisneros does not owe us that race.) She shows us, more broadly, that the fight isn’t always linear and that results are going to vary. She shows us that sometimes we have to leave everything out there in a losing effort in order to get where we’re going.

Newman will be one out of 435, but she’s an additional vote for the Green New Deal, for Medicare for All, for guaranteed paid family leave, for codifying Roe, for canceling student loan debt, and for needed criminal justice reforms. And if she can get there after a frustrating and bitter defeat, we can too.

Let’s go do this.

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