Progressive Insurgents Endorsed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Lost to Moderate Opponents In Tuesday's Primaries

The Democratic Party's socialist takeover is on hold for the moment.


The impending socialist takeover of the Democratic Party might be on hold for a while after a string of populist, left-wing primary candidates lost big against more moderate and incumbent contenders.

Leading up to Tuesday's primaries in Kansas, Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising socialist star and the Democratic nominee for New York's Fourth Congressional District, attempted to transfer some of the momentum from her victory over 10-term Rep. Joe Crowley (D–New York) to like-minded revolutionaries outside the famously liberal bastion of New York City.

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for Michigan gubernatorial candidate Adbul El-Sayed, as well as Fayrouz Saad, Kaniela Ing, and Cori Bush, running in Democratic congressional primaries in Michigan, Hawaii, and Missouri respectively.

Every single one of these candidates that had their primaries yesterday (Ing's isn't until Saturday) failed to get their party's nomination.

Sayed lost big against the more established former prosecutor and state legislator Gretchen Whitmer, earning 30 percent of the vote compared to Whitmer's 52 percent. It was a similar result for Bush, who lost by some 20 points to eight-term incumbent Rep. William Lacy Clay (D–Mo.) Saad was the only candidate to even come close to victory last night, earning 19 percent of the vote for a fourth-place finish in a crowded five-way contest, where first-place finisher Haley Stevens only managed to attract support from 26 percent of voters.

Conservative commenters were quick to rejoice at the string of defeats.

"Every Candidate Ocasio-Cortez Endorsed Lost in The Primaries" shouted the not-too-accurate original headline of a Daily Caller article. "Socialist star Ocasio-Cortez strikes out: All endorsed candidates lose Tuesday primaries" proclaimed the American Mirror. Carl Higbie, director of the pro-Trump America First Priorities Center, tweeted out similar sentiments.

Ocasio-Cortez herself was quick to point out that two candidates she endorsed actually did win their primaries, James Thompson of Kansas and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, both of whom she campaigned for.

That it was these candidates that managed to win their primaries, and not Bush, Sayeed, or Saad, is telling. It suggests the things that made Ocasio-Cortez's victory in June exciting for many on the left—a younger, explicitly socialist, woman of color, defeating a powerful, moderate, incumbent white male—was more a product of local circumstances than some national progressive wave.

Thompson, though not having held elected office before, was not a political neophyte either. He was the Democratic nominee for Kansas' Fourth Congressional District in the 2017 special election to fill the seat left vacant by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The Wichita Eagle notes that the biggest policy difference between him and primary opponent Laura Lombard, a business consultant, came down to gun control. Lombard favored a ban on "assault rifles," while Thompson did not.

Tlaib's win over main primary challenger Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, is more impressive, but still a close affair. Tlaib pulled 33 percent of the vote compared to Jones' 29 percent. Jones did herself no favors by running a lackluster campaign that saw the candidate hold zero scheduled events or rallies in the days leading up to Tuesday's primary.

Indeed, the race that most resembled Ocasio-Cortez's own was the face-off in Missouri's First Congressional District. There, the left-wing Bush, a community organizer running on a platform of "Jobs, Justice, and Medicare-For-All" lost badly to Clay, a more moderate candidate who served as a state legislator for 15 years before taking over his father's seat in 2000.

This is not to say the Democratic Party as a whole is not moving left, because it definitely is. But last night's mixed results suggest the party is far more insulated from a grassroots socialist takeover than Ocasio-Cortez and her boosters would care to admit.