Almost all the primaries are behind us now, and the outlook is still grim for the midterm elections this fall. The semi-fascist Republican Party is 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.
One important congressional primary remains — the battle for an open seat in Rhode Island — where renowned progressive activist David Segal is waging an uphill campaign against two well-funded corporate Democrats, Seth Magaziner and Sarah Morgenthau. For 20 years, Segal has been a highly talented organizer, from the local level to federal policy victories in Washington.
A recent profile in the American Prospect accurately described Segal as a “populist coalition builder.” After stints on the Providence City Council (where he won election at age 22) and in the state legislature (elected at 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 Monica De La Cruz, 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 Rep. Kurt Schrader, one of the worst corporate Democrats now in Congress.
McLeod-Skinner is facing a tough race against Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer, 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.”
Then there’s the Senate, where 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 Trump-selected ex-football star Herschel Walker, thanks to the latter’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 Sen. Ron Johnson. Partly thanks to his serious messaging mishap at a supermarket in a campaign video, Trump-endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz is running behind populist Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for Pennsylvania’s open Senate 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, even if much of it is viewed unfavorably by the corporatized Democratic establishment.
The dismal performance of the Democrats running the House and Senate should not be denied — but also should not be 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 defeating them, even with often-deplorable Democrats. To pretend otherwise would be foolish in the 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 co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.”