The 2021 elections should be a reality check for democrats and their progressive wing. The Democratic Party suffered big losses across the nation with progressive democrats losing the momentum that they had built over the last 10 years. India Walton, a socialist democrat who won the democratic primary against incumbent Byron Brown, was beaten by her own team when Brown launched a successful write-in campaign. New York City voted for former New York Police Department Captain Eric Adams over progressive and socialist candidates in the primary. Democratic socialist Nina Turner was defeated by President Joe Biden-backed Shontel Brown in Ohio during the democratic primaries. In Jersey City, the race for City Council in Ward C is still undetermined as incumbent Rich Boggiano, a former Jersey City police officer who has held the office since 2013, is set to go against progressive Kevin Bing in a runoff election, after the vote was split between progressives Kevin Bing and Tom Zuppa and moderate democrat Boggiano. Zuppa, who received the least votes, officially endorsed Boggiano in the runoff election on Dec. 7 in the latest of incidents where democrats are scoring against their own team, costing progressive democrats seats and splintering votes.
One of the biggest strategizing points for the Democratic Party heading into 2024 should be how close the New Jersey gubernatorial race was between democratic incumbent Phil Murphy and republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli. While democratic incumbents have historically lost their bid for re-election in New Jersey 83.34% of the time since 1981, none of the prior elections have occurred within the same year as a republican-led attack on the United States Capitol. In this respect, it is important to note that the republican frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli, a vocal advocate for Donald Trump, headlined a “Stop the Steal” rally for the former president a few weeks prior to the attack.
Ciattarelli’s loss in New Jersey might be a strong signal to democrats that New Jersey will vote blue in 2024. If a democratic governor wins in a state where their party historically loses re-election bids for Governor, it’s a good sign that New Jersey will remain blue in the next presidential election. However, failure to provide a progressive platform that embraces positive change and pushes back against insurrectionists and radicalization could turn New Jersey into a battleground over the next few years.
The polarization of American politics is pushing voters to the extreme and only one party seems to be acknowledging this. While republicans, like Ciattarelli, are leaning towards extreme and regressive policies surrounding sexuality, abortion, immigration, taxes and human rights, democrats have steadily shifted their policies to reflect a more moderate party. This shift ostracizes the typically young progressive faction of democrats which, prior to 2021, had seen success in major elections and policies through candidates such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib and Bernie Sanders.
If democrats want to secure the presidency in 2024 and beyond, they must meet their more liberal factions halfway or risk ostracizing voters who move further to the fringes.