How progressive democrats running for the house performed: The view from the day after.

(Now with comparison to establishment democrats.)

Status- I wrote something on this yesterday, but I wanted to update it in the light of day.

Already a false narrative is forming that progressive democrats running for the house performed poorly. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we’ll see below, comparing like to like, progressive democrats did as well as their establishment counterparts.

By ‘progressive democrats’ I mean democrats endorsed by ‘Our Revolution’ running for a seat in the US house of representative as featured in this list. I’m not claiming this is an exhaustive list, but I needed some kind of neutral repository of progressive candidates.

Best I can tell, there were really two different sorts of progressive candidates running for the house in 2018:

  1. Candidates in shoe-in districts, like: Debra Haaland, Raul Grijalva, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Chu Garcia, Jamie Raskin, Veronica Escobar, Tulsi Gabbard, and Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. These people were always going to win.
  2. Candidates in districts where winning was, based on the results from 2016, all but impossible (districts where democrats had previously garnered 41% of the vote or less).

In other words, there were no progressive democrats running in swing seats. All thirty progressive democrats running for the house in the 2018 midterms were either going up against nearly insurmountable odds, or certain to succeed. One dramatic way to illustrate this is as follows. All seats progressive democrats were running in either voted <41% for Democrats in 2016, or >61%. There’s a huge gap in the distribution. I’m pretty sure this isn’t down to chance either- I suspect that either the DNC and local parties took special care to make sure progressive candidates didn’t win in such districts (where they could ‘do some damage’), or the primary voters themselves were not willing to risk progressive candidates if they might jeopardise a swing seat.

Ideally in looking at how electable progressive Democrats are in the house we’d consider swing seats, but they weren’t running in any! In my view, our best remaining guide to the electoral potential of progressive democrats is to look at their performance in seats previously unheld by the democrats, and look at how much closer they inched towards 50%.

On average, progressive democrats in previously unheld seats were running in districts where Democrats won 35.3% of the vote in 2016. They won, on average, 40.7% of the vote- about a 5.4% percent swing their way collectively. The median swing their way was 5.85%. Meanwhile, democrats not endorsed by ‘Our Revolution’ in the same range of 2016 results (27%-41%) scored a median swing of 6.17% -neither a practically nor statistically significant difference.

I would suggest four things:

  1. These are, at their face, very good numbers for a movement many hold to be electoral poison. This is all the more astonishing for the barriers this movement faced, viz:
  2. Because this is a new movement, with many politically less experienced candidates, these results were secured despite probably having less name recognition than the typical Dem house candidate.
  3. It was also achieved with presumably far less DNC support and funds than establishment friendly candidates in a similar position (although this is speculation on my part because I haven’t run the numbers).
  4. As progressives get better at building national mutually supporting electoral platforms, exchanging resources, building talent etc. these numbers will continue to improve.

In my view the house results support the view that progressive democrats are electable- indeed given the systematic barriers they faced (barriers that can and will be overcome), their performance was extraordinary.