Conventional wisdom has it that extreme progressives have taken over the Democratic Party and now call all the shots. The party has shifted leftward, but the first special election for a congressional seat since Joe Biden was elected shows that progressives aren’t invincible and there’s no need for the party to follow them off an electoral cliff.
Two Democrats competed on Saturday in a runoff for a heavily African-American congressional seat that stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and that voted 75 percent for Joe Biden. Candidates from other parties were eliminated in the first round after they failed to capture the top two spots.
Karen Carter Peterson, a former vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, had all the left-wing firepower you could want in the race. Peterson was endorsed by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, self-proclaimed voting-rights leader Stacey Abrams, Elizabeth Warren, the pro-abortion group Emily’s List, the Black Lives Matter PAC, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Emily’s List alone poured $1.2 million in ads into the race.
But it all flopped. Troy Carter, a Louisiana state senator, won 55 percent of the vote on Saturday. He had been endorsed by Cedric Richmond, who had vacated the seat to take a job in the Biden White House. Richmond’s backing looked like a sign that Biden preferred Carter to Peterson.
Peterson tried hard to slam Carter as a moderate who was too cozy with Republicans. She cited his ties to the oil and gas industry and his support for a bill imposing harsh penalties on protesters who trespass at private energy facilities. Peterson, by contrast, embraced the Green New Deal along with a $20-an-hour minimum wage.
When some independent conservative groups took out ads attacking Peterson’s extreme views, her allies pounced. Peterson’s campaign sent out mailers pasting a photo of Donald Trump next to one of Carter — implying that Carter is a Trump-backed candidate. “Troy Carter & his Trump supporters, Not for Us!” one mailer read.
Carter quickly had a one-word response: “Foolishness.” He pointed out that he was backed by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and that he had served as leader of his party’s caucus in the Louisiana state senate.
Carter’s victory should alert Democratic moderates that voters can distinguish between candidates, and many are repelled by rabidly “woke” views. The Democratic Party is in danger of a progressive takeover, but not yet dominance by the Loony Left.
That makes it unfortunate that so many House Democrats are subservient to whatever AOC and her progressive allies want. Such kowtowing is a dangerous abandonment of the working-class voters and independents that Democrats will need to hold the House in 2022.
The Carter victory in Louisiana may be a sign that, if Democratic moderates fight back, progressives can’t deliver on their promises to rub them out.