After winning in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, Bernie Sanders is the undisputed frontrunner in the 2020 Democratic Primary. Though he may experience his first loss tonight in South Carolina, the momentum of his movement is making waves in the party, and we’re already seeing the Democratic Old Guard beginning to fall as an insurgent class of new voices moves in.
Just as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez successfully primaried Joe Crowley in New York City’s 14 congressional district, other insurgent Progressives are making names for themselves across the county as they fight to represent their communities in Congress, fueled not by corporate PAC money, but by the small dollar donations of grassroots supporters. Several Progressives were able to make it to D.C. in the 2018 midterms–Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and of course A.O.C., but the 2020 crop of candidates has something working to their advantage that even The Squad did not: Bernie Sanders sitting at the top of the field and poised to win the party’s nomination in the concurrent Presidential primary.
Candidates like Shahhid Buttar, the proud Democratic Socialist primarying Nancy Pelosi in California’s 14 district, or Jessica Cisneros, a 26 year old immigration attorney challenging Henry Cuellar in Texas’s 28 district, who once would’ve been written off as leftist long-shots, now stand a formidable chance, in part because of their foresight to tie themselves to Bernie’s movement. Candidates like Buttar, Cisneros, and Cenk Uyger, the firebrand commentator and TYT founder hoping to win Katie Hill’s former seat, have a real home among the youthful, diverse coalition that has defined the Sanders campaign and propelled him to victory in the first three states, an unprecedented show of force for the Progressive strain of the Democratic party.
Also running are candidates like Cori Bush, who ran in 2018 but weren’t quite able to overcome the big money spending of their establishment-friendly opponents. Bush, a community organizer and St. Louis native, ran on a bold, progressive platform for Missouri’s 1st district in 2018, and like Bernie, she fell short of victory, but has spent the time since reaching out to voters and building name recognition. Assuming that Sanders keeps winning, it’s a safe bet that incoming Democrats like Bush, who have intentionally associated themselves with Bernie’s platform and brand of politics, will ride that wave into office along with him.
Despite myths from the corporate media that a Bernie nomination would spell bad news for down-the-ballot Democrats across the country, the only real victims of Bernie’s rise will be the neoliberals whom his message is explicitly structured against; candidates like Christy Smith in California’s 14th, candidates like current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who’s expressed scorn for the new guard of Democrats, even as their ideology takes over the party she still pretends to be the leader of. If Bernie’s politics continue to become mainstream in the Democratic party, the space for Pelosi and the other corporate tools who have sold out the party of working people will continue to shrink. Now that voters, especially of the working class, are realizing that there is a viable alternative to the corrupt, establishment Democrats they’ve learned to hate, it’s only a matter of time before the party is totally remade in the image of Bernie Sanders.