Lessons to be Learned From Ed Markey’s Re-Election.
In months full of nothing but chaos, it was nice to have some good news.
Of all the campaigns that have taken place over the course of what feels like an endless 2020 election cycle, one that certainly piqued my interest was that between incumbent Senator Ed Markey, and a primary challenge coming from congressman Joe Kennedy. As I have said before, perhaps what caught my attention the most was the fact that the race ultimately seemed to boil down to a battle between the two opposing forces within the democratic party: the corporate guard versus the left, legacy versus policy, and Nancy Pelosi versus AOC. With both opposing forces investing a significant amount of political capital in the race, it felt particularly satisfying to see Ed Markey and the left actually come out on top.
While of course some might brush this defeat off as no surprise considering that Senator Markey was the incumbent, it’s worth noting that he actually made history by doing so. Considering how no Kennedy has ever been defeated in the state of Massachusetts, the fact that he managed to defeat one who also happened to have the full fledged support of the corporate democratic “establishment” behind him is no small feat. After months of the left being told to be gracious in their defeat, put aside our pride and policy goals, and just work towards broader democratic electoral success, it was nice to see the candidate who had co-authored the green new deal beat his opponent who had to sell off his million dollar fossil fuel industry investments. At the end of the day it felt nice to have a reason for faith in the electoral process, and the left certainly earned and should celebrate this historic victory.
When taking a moment to reflect on the outcome of this one Senate election alone, the democratic party — if it chose to — could actually learn a number of incredibly important and meaningful lessons about lasting electoral success in the future.
The thing is, while Ed Markey’s legislative record is far from the worst in the Senate, in all honesty its not exactly stellar, either. Some inexcusable skeletons in his closet that stand out for me personally are his past vote for the Iraq war, and fairly recent opposition to the legalization of marijuana. But at the end of the day, the left rallied in overwhelming force around him anyways, because he actively sought our support not just with lip-service and labelling himself as a “progressive”, but by actually embracing our goals, showing he understood our value by courting our support, and becoming an enthusiastic champion of and actively fighting for some of our most important policy issues.
For years, the democratic party’s more right wing factions have railed against the new emerging left, calling us unreasonable purists who demand nothing less than perfection from our legislators. The thing is, if the democratic party would just take a moment to reflect, they might realize that we really don’t ask for much at all. Ed Markey’s victory is arguably one of the best examples of just how significant of a force the left has become in recent years. A seventy four year old career politician with a far from perfect record just defeated one of the most powerful dynasties in democratic party’s history, and all it took was the Green New Deal and support for Medicare for All to do it. All it took to get the grassroots, people driven movement behind him was showing that he actually cares about our children and grandchildren having a habitable planet to live on, and that he believes an insurance company shouldn’t get to dictate whether we live or die based on whether or not we can afford to pay them.
The pundit class and lawmakers alike might not think so, but is that really anything more than the absolute bare minimum?
If the democratic party wants any chance whatsoever of success in the future, they are going to rely on the votes of the ever-growing left. They would be wise to learn from the victories of AOC, Cori Bush, and Ed Markey that in more ways than one, their old, tired ways of doing “politics as usual” are existing on borrowed time. The days of blind party loyalty, dynasty candidates, and demanding votes as opposed to earning them are coming to an end. The days of platitudes as opposed to policy, legacy as opposed to substance are over. The longer the democratic party pushes off coming to terms with this new reality, the more likely it becomes that the party simply breaks because it has refused to bend. I will relish in this victory, but I will not allow myself to lose sight of the fact that with each of these victories, opposing forces only become more bound and determined to stop them from happening again.