Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Demanding the impossible

Reading up on yesterday’s primary in my home district of NY-19, I was struck by this remark:
Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield also congratulated Delgado, but said, quote, “In all ways, the Delgado victory illustrates the vacating of Democratic Party responsibility for offering experienced, locally sourced, politically progressive candidates to voters in New York's 19th District.”
I’ve been out of the country for the year, so I haven’t been following the Democratic primary race all that closely. My main lens on the race was the group “Sustainable Otsego,” and in that circle, Mr. Delgado was ranked at or near the bottom. There are concerns about his support for gas pipelines, and his lack of support for thorough reform in health insurance, such as a single-payer system.

Regarding the alternatives, it seems like three or four of the candidates had passionate support from people who consider themselves progressives and have better claim to being “locally sourced” and having political experience. So Mr. Greenfield would presumably have preferred one of them to have come out on top.

But I’m having trouble understanding what Mr. Greenfield thinks the Democratic Party should have done.

There were seven candidates in the field, ranging from “establishment” Democratic to various flavors that can credibly be called “progressive.” Mr. Delgado won with 21.9% of the vote.

Depending how you count “progressive,” you could argue that the other 78.1% of the votes went to people with some flavor of progressive cred. Even under a narrower definition of the term, progressive candidates still got 50%.

So how exactly did the Party “vacate” its responsibility to “offer” the kind of candidate Mr. Greenfield says he wants?

Was their sin in backing Mr. Delgado? The New York Times endorsed Gareth Rhodes, suggesting a degree of establishment support for the candidate who came in second, but who also had backing from some progressives.

And even if Mr. Delgado was their favored candidate, the results suggest their support wouldn’t have been enough in a less-crowded field: had there been only one or two progressive candidates on the ballot, the progressive energy so visible in the race wouldn’t have been split four or five ways, and Mr. Delgado wouldn’t have won.

So if the problem wasn’t the party’s backing of Delgado, what should it have done?

Should the Democratic Party have told some of the progressive candidates they couldn’t run, in order to give one of the remaining progressives a better chance to win? Then of course the complaint would be that the party was excluding the true progressives, tipping the balance toward a figure who could more easily be beaten by their chosen candidate.

Should the Party have told Delgado he couldn’t run? On what basis?

And what does Mr. Greenfield mean by the party having a responsibility to “offer” candidate? Don’t candidates offer themselves?

As I said, I’ve been out of town for a while, so it’s easy to think that there are dynamics here that I’m missing.

But I’m having trouble seeing the useful meaning in Mr. Greenfield’s complaint.