The Democratic Party establishment is celebrating how well they did— except for the Democratic Party establishment that is blaming their losses on progressives. I had to check those two election results boxes up top again before I went on with this post. It shows that AOC, a champion of working Americans was reelected and that DCCC chair Sean Patrick Maloney, an inveterate Wall Street whore, lost his seat. AOC’s crazy MAGA opponent, Tina Forte, spent $1,031,791 against her. Mike Lawler, the Republican running against Maloney spent $936,665. AOC won with 70.6%— a landslide. Maloney lost, a safe blue district he had big-footed into, with 49.6%. Between his bad decisions about which races to invest in and which messaging to use to his disastrous role in NY redistricting that cost the party at least 4 seats, Maloney, more than anyone, is responsible for losing the House for the Democrats.
He should slink off to Wall Street or K Street and never be heard from again. Instead, he’s running around spinning his sick and twisted narrative about how progressives— particularly AOC— cost the Democrats suburban voters— presumably like the suburban voters, who had supported Biden in 2022 and then rejected him last week.
Reporting for NBC, Democratic strategist Max Burns noted that “even facing those tough maps, Democrats could have prevailed had their state party— which was busy deflecting progressive criticism of their conduct— marshaled better infrastructure and financial support for swing-district candidates. The maps were a problem; the party’s malpractice was fatal. Facing challenging new maps, Maloney and his moderate allies panicked that many of the popular progressives who had already announced their candidacies simply could not win. That pessimism is part of a larger progressive versus moderate mindset the New York Democratic Party struggles with, best emphasized by the constant internal criticism of one of its most popular lawmakers: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”
But Ocasio-Cortez is not the sole target of machine Democrats’ ire. During the hotly contested race for mayor of Buffalo, democratic socialist India Walton won her primary, only for moderate party leaders to back her defeated opponent. New York State Democratic Committee Chair Jay Jacobs drew heavy criticism for a ham-fisted analogy in which he compared supporting Walton, who is Black, to backing white supremacist David Duke.
Democrats like Maloney then went about undercutting established progressives. Maloney pushed incumbent Rep. Mondaire Jones to abandon his re-election bid in New York’s 17th District and instead run as a representative of New York City’s new 10th District, where he finished a distant third in the primary.
Maloney’s gamble— that he himself would perform better in a district that included many of Jones’ old voters than in his own territory— succeeded in robbing Congress of not one but two able Democratic lawmakers. That prominent voices, including MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and many Democratic experts, loudly warned Maloney against his deck-shuffling gambit only made last Tuesday’s results more depressing.
In a moment of exceptional self-unawareness that only underscored the broader myopia of establishment New York Democrats, Maloney took the news of his loss Tuesday as an opportunity to swipe at Ocasio-Cortez. In an interview with the NY Times published a few days later, Maloney gloated about beating her endorsed candidates in state primaries— no doubt in part to vent his frustration at such an embarrassing defeat— and argued the progressive congresswoman had “almost nothing to do with” previous efforts to protect Democratic legislative majorities.
Maloney even went so far as to argue that Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive messaging alienated voters, and that “suburban voters have clearly rejected” her policies. Maloney chose not to acknowledge that those suburban voters rejected his own candidacy.
Between interparty bad blood and challenging electoral maps, the Democratic Party machine also appeared uninterested or unable to translate Democratic enthusiasm into meaningful on-the-ground organizing. Or, as Ocasio-Cortez put it in her own post-election interview with the New York Times, a “calcified machine-style politics that creates a very anemic voting base.”
Now over 1,100 Democratic officials have issued an extraordinary public rebuke calling for the ouster of Jacobs, the state party’s chair, because he “failed to commit the time, energy and resources necessary to maintain our deep-blue status.” (Unfortunately, Gov. Kathy Hochul recently reiterated her strong support of Jacobs remaining in the role.)
According to Democrats including Ocasio-Cortez, the party could have avoided competing on such unpalatable ground simply by embracing 2021’s Ballot Proposal 1, which would have created an alternate set of guidelines for drawing this year’s maps. That proposal had strong support from progressive Democrats throughout the state, but none that I came across from state party leadership, who viewed the plan as another progressive advance that would alienate voters. AOC pointed out that conservative organizations across the state spent over $3 million to defeat the measure, while the Democratic Party did little— leaving the measure to fail 45% to 54%.
Ballot Proposal 1 included popular progressive proposals such as ending “prison gerrymandering” by counting incarcerated New Yorkers at their last place of residence instead of at their place of incarceration — since prisons are often located in more rural districts where Democratic votes from prisoners are diluted.
In a statement, Jacobs deflected blame for the party’s struggles. “I’m not going to take responsibility for, or blame, if you will, for the losses we had here,” he wrote. “I think it’s more the Democratic brand in New York that had difficulty in some of these tough… districts.”
On a fundamental level, New York’s Democratic officials are locked in a deep and often nasty philosophical disagreement about what the party should be doing to promote Democratic candidates and values. As The Intercept’s Akela Lacey writes, Jacobs has no problem raising and spending money, including a $100,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee this year. But for progressives who often felt they were campaigning alone against Republican headwinds, the ability to clear checks is secondary to building a party infrastructure that can actually project power in key swing races.
The New York Democratic Party took devastating losses because of its failure to adapt to a changing political environment and the unwillingness of top leadership to hear criticism or incorporate feedback from progressive activists on the ground. If the party hopes to repair those problems and regain its competitiveness in future elections, they must completely restructure their ailing party machinery. To ignore this crisis means courting disaster in 2024.
NY-03, much of Nassau County and some of Queens, went red-- by a lot (8 points-- and to an insurrectionist)-- despite having a Democratic registration advantage and a PVI of D+2. You can't blame it all on Maloney and Hochul. The Democratic candidate was a born loser, a Hillary Clinton fundraiser with no coherent message for voters other than his own sickening careerism. His primary opponent, Melanie D'Arrigo, one of the best grassroots candidates in the state, was woefully outspent by Zimmerman and the other Republican-lite Establishment candidates. Yesterday, I asked her why Long Island had a red wave while so much of the rest of the country-- not Florida-- managed to stave it off.
"There is a huge Democratic registration advantage in the two congressional districts that flipped from safe-Blue to Red on Long Island," she told me, "leaving so many here wondering how we ended up electing MAGA Republicans up and down the ballot. It's really very simple: MAGA played to their base. While their policies are vile and based in fear mongering— it rallies their base. Republicans have a party structure that organizes and supports their candidates. They are winning the yard sign wars, simplifying their messaging to control the narrative, and continually building a local bench. Long Island Democrats on the other hand, repeatedly fall victim to the same traps. They run candidates to the Right, legitimize their messaging by moderating ours instead of tackling it head on, and alienating our base in the process. We end up catering to non-existent swing voters instead of enfranchising the thousands of Democrats who have been left behind by our party as it continues to drift Right. When you give voters something to vote for, they vote. When you don't, they stay home. In my district, NY-03, we saw a 26 point swing in favor of Republicans, despite our district gaining an additional 5 point advantage from redistricting."
She concluded that "If Long Island Democrats want to fix its MAGA problem and win back the House in 2024, then Long Island needs to learn from the victories of 2022 and start supporting progressives, not fighting against them. Because let me be crystal clear-- it is only progressive policies that are animated voters and inspiring new voters to get involved."
This poll was released yesterday. It looks like voters very much agree with the progressive policies advocated by AOC.