But it’s happening on a different part of the ballot that doesn’t get enough coverage.
t looks to be a big night for the two presidential frontrunners, which leaves next week’s ‘do in Indiana as the last possible chance for anything to shift at that level. But tonight’s action is enlivened because there are a number of critical down-ballot races, especially as regards the Democratic chances of regaining the Senate this fall. In Maryland, Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards, both incumbent congresspeople, are locked up in a serious hooley that could go either way, Edwards being the choice of what can loosely be called the Sanders/Warren wing of the party, and a darling of the Netroots. Also in Maryland, there’s an expensive three-way congressional race between a wealthy dilettante, a very promising young Democratic neophyte, and the wife of Chris Matthews. There also is a vigorous primary campaign for mayor of Baltimore.
In Pennsylvania, there’s quite the brawl to run against incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, who is seen as one of the more vulnerable Republican incumbents. Katie McGinty has the White House and most of the Democratic establishment and donor class behind her. She was supposed to walk in. But, at the moment, she’s running behind now-perennial candidate Joe Sestak, a former admiral who has consistently told the Democratic Party hierarchy to go whistle over the past three election cycles. Here, also, is the rare race in which the populist S/W wing is genuinely divided. Sestak is running as an outsider, based almost entirely on the number of famous Democrats he’s alienated, but there’s also the clamorous presence of John Fetterman, the eccentric mayor of Braddock, who is much closer to Sanders on the issues, and is quite the piece of work besides.
“We’ve lost 90 percent of our population and 90 percent of our buildings,” he said. “Ninety percent of our town is in a landfill. So we took a two-pronged approach. We created the first art gallery in the four-town region, with artists’ studios. We did public art installations. And, I don’t know if you consider it arts, exactly, but I consider growing organic vegetables in the shadow of a steel mill an art…”
Can’t argue with that.
Anyway, these elections represent the first serious stirrings at the ballot box of the efforts to reform the Democratic Party that began outside the party structure, in Zuccotti Park and in the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore, and that provided the energy to campaigns like the one that put Warren in the Senate and the one that Sanders has kept rolling throughout the spring. This is not simply the Democratic Party demonstrating its admirably diverse inability to get out of its own way. There is power behind what’s happening here; neither as formidable as it may become, nor particularly well-focused, this power is nonetheless real and its issues and concerns must be addressed. The party must have room for Donna Edwards, Joe Sestak, and John Fetterman, and for their constituents and supporters. Otherwise, a very big opportunity already is lost.