By Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon
Almost all the primaries are behind us now, and the current outlook is still grim for the midterm elections this fall. The semi-fascist Republican Party is very well-positioned to win control of the House and has a decent chance of also gaining a majority in the Senate. But demagoguery is not destiny. Progressives can help steer the future in a better direction over the next two months.
An important congressional primary remains — the battle for an open seat in Rhode Island — where the renowned progressive activist David Segal is waging an uphill campaign against corporate Democrats. For 20 years, Segal has been a highly talented organizer — from the local level to federal policy victories in Washington, DC.
A recent profile by The American Prospect was accurate when it headlined Segal as a “populist coalition builder.” After stints on the Providence City Council (elected at age 22) and in the state legislature (from age 26), Segal co-founded the stellar online activist group Demand Progress in 2010. It soon gained national acclaim after successful organizing to defend an open Internet against powerful corporate interests.
Whether in elected office or working as a determined activist, Segal has put together formidable grassroots efforts to expand economic justice, defend civil liberties, resist corporate greed and end destructive wars. We’ve worked with him in coalitions for nearly 20 years, and we’re fully confident that no one would be better at navigating the complexities and trapdoors of the House of Representatives. Election Day is Sept. 13.
Looking ahead to the fall, one race stands out in a “purple district” that could go either way. Progressive Michelle Vallejo narrowly won a Democratic primary in South Texas and is now running neck-and-neck against a lavishly funded, Trump-allied, anti-abortion-rights Republican.
Unlike many self-described progressive candidates this year, Vallejo has a campaign platform that includes forthright positions on foreign policy. “Combating climate change is very much dependent on changing our foreign policy to stop the disproportionate emission contributions from our military and trade deals,” she says. “And most importantly, enough with sending our young people to the frontlines fighting wars for defense contractors and big donors.”
Another notable candidate in a closely contested general election is Jamie McLeod-Skinner, running for a House seat in Oregon. She has already done the country a major service by delivering a primary defeat to Kurt Schrader, one of the worst corporate Democrats now in Congress.
McLeod-Skinner is facing a tough race against a Republican whose website devotes more space to one issue above all others: “Oppose Critical Race Theory.” In sharp contrast to McLeod-Skinner, an activist who has relied heavily on small donations, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that “the vast majority” of her opponent’s individual contributions “have been at or above $500 each.”
And then there’s the Senate, where the cunning Mitch McConnell is licking his chops at the prospect of regaining his role as majority leader so he can thwart any measures toward decency. The latest polling indicates that the most pivotal Senate races are in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock is running slightly ahead of a Trump-selected ex-football-star, thanks to the GOP candidate’s various scandals, missteps and lies. Another African American will join Democrats in the Senate if Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes can retire arch-reactionary Ron Johnson. Partly thanks to his serious messaging mishap at a supermarket in a campaign video, Trumpified Dr. Oz is running behind populist Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for Pennsylvania’s open seat.
As progressives look toward November and aim to help out in the most strategic races, two tasks are imperative — to push back against the racist, anti-democratic Republicans, and to push forward for the full progressive agenda that’s popular with the broad electorate, while much of it is not popular with the corporatized Democratic establishment.
The dismal performance of the Democrats running the House and Senate should not be denied — or used as an excuse to stay out of the upcoming midterm elections. If the Republican Party wins control of Congress, political realities will surely get much worse, moving the United States closer to fascism. Stopping unhinged Republicans will require that often-deplorable Democrats defeat them. Pretending otherwise would be foolish to an extreme.
Jeff Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org, a retired journalism professor at Ithaca College, and author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.” In 1986, he founded the media watch group FAIR.
Norman Solomon is the national director of RootsAction.org and the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.