There are many ways to evaluate a member of Congress. For starters, their voting records are important. Andy Levin (D-MI) is the only member with a 100% ProgressivePunch crucial vote score. Jamie Raskin's (D-MD) is 99.13%. AOC's in "only" 95.29%. But AOC is serving as an inspiration and a beacon of hope and a fount of ideas for the country. Does that count. Damn straight. Some members-- take Ted Lieu (D-CA)-- are active on the media, pushing progressive messaging clearly and powerfully. Pramila Jayapal may be thought of primarily as a strategist but she's also a prodigious writer of cutting edge legislation. Like Medicare-for-All. Why aren't all the members of Congress as good as Levin, Raskin, AOC, Lieu and Jayapal?
One reason is that there is very little accountability for members. The vast majority of them can sit on the phone fundraising all day and ignore their duties without having to worry about a challenger because the vast majority of House seats are designed to not change hands. Take New York City. There are 14 seats that are in or partially in NYC. Only one has a Republican lean-- NY-11 (Staten Island and South Brooklyn) with a PVI of R+3. It swings back and forth between the parties. But that's the exception. The rest of the districts are pretty solidly blue. NY-13 (Harlem and Washington Heights) has a D+43. Trump took 5.4% of the vote there in 2016 and Adriano Espaillat was elected with 95% of the vote. NY-15 (the South Bronx) has a PVI of D+44. In 2016 Trump took 4.9% of the vote and this year Jose Serrano retired and the Democratic nominee, Ritchie Torres, beat his Republican opponent 169,533 (88.9%) to 21,221 (11.1%). With months of right-wing propaganda blaring across every medium and $11 million spent against her, AOC was reelected with 71.6%.
Conversely, the state of Louisiana packed virtually all their Democrats areas into one super-Democratic district which left 5 Republican districts where Republicans were elected with between 60.4% and 72.2%. There is only one way to hold these members accountable: primaries.
Virginia has 11 congressional districts, 7 held by Democrats and 4 by Republicans. These are the 11 members of Congress with their 2020 election totals:
VA-01- Rob Wittman- (R)-- 58.2% to 41.8%
VA-02- Elaine Luria (New Dem)-- 51.6% to 45.9%
VA-03- Bobby Scott (D)-- 68.5% to 31.5%
VA-04- Donald McEachin (New Dem)-- 61.7% to 38.3%
VA-05- Bob Good (R)-- 52.6% to 47.4%
VA-06- Ben Cline (R)-- 64.7% to 35.3%
VA-07- Abigail Spanberger (Blue Dog)-- 50.9% to 49.1%
VA-08- Don Beyer (New Dem)-- 76.0% to 24.0%
VA-09- Morgan Griffith (R)-- no opponent
VA-10- Jennifer Wexton (New Dem)-- 56.6% to 43.4%
VA-11- Gerry Connolly (New Dem)-- 71.6% to 28.4%
There were only 3 contestable districts.
Let's take a look at VA-11, where Biden beat Trump 70.3% to 28.3%. Most of the voters live in Fairfax County although there's a significant chunk of Prince William County as well. The incumbent, Jerry Connolly is a right-of-center New Dem who was first elected in 2008. Connolly has been an advocate for federal workers, basically the Democratic base in the DC suburbs. That's what he's got going for him. Other than that, he's just a garden variety, status-quo supporting, establishment Democrat. His ProgressivePunch grade is a solid "F."
This year, his primary opponent, an Afghan refugee named Zainab Mohsini, spent $27,911 and took 22.4% of the vote. In 2018 he had no primary opponent. In 2016 he had no primary opponent and no general election opponent. He had no primary opponent in 2010, 2012 and 2014. And yet, he's a major ally of the military-industrial complex and defense contractors have played a major role in financing his political career in return. He voted for the USA Freedom Reauthorization Act of 2020, HR 6172, with allows surveillance programs of dubious constitutionality without changes to protect civil liberties.
Connolly doesn't support Medicare-for-All, which in itself is a good reason to dump him and replace him with a better Democrat. A couple of days ago Kyle Dalsimer wrote a guest post for us, Why I Want My Mom In Congress-- Thoughts FromA 20 Year Old Progressive. His mother, Ally Dalsimer, may not have made a final decision, but she seems to be leaning towards mounting a primary challenge to Connolly. That's a good idea and I've become more and more convinced that every Democrat in a safe seat who doesn't support a solid working family agenda should face primaries every single year.