Local Peace Economy

Progressive U.S. Senate Candidates Are in Short Supply in the Midterm Elections

It wasn't easy, but we found three promising candidates to pay attention to during the primaries.

Photo Credit: Niyazz / Shutterstock

I had an idea for an article earlier this week: I would look at some of the candidates challenging incumbents for U.S. Senate, who are peace-loving progressives who would work to end America’s incessant wars at home and abroad.

Then I started researching the story. And I discovered even Our Revolution hasn’t endorsed a single candidate for U.S. Senate.

Sure, there are races to watch. Politico and USA Today have conventional, slightly outdated, lightweight guides, if you care to read them. But what seems to be boiling down in all of those races (and what mainstream media seems to be missing) is that the Democratic incumbents have failed at this season’s catch phrase, “resist,” and the challengers to Republican and Democratic incumbents alike seem to be in a race for helping special interest groups who are, without a doubt, working to put them, and their parties, into a higher office. After all, if you’re, for example, Lockheed Martin, does it matter which party is in power, if you’re the one who got them there?

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Of course there are exceptions, especially in the primaries. And there are plenty of local races to watch in the heartland. Here are three to pay attention to:

1. The West Virginia Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate, May 8: Paula Jean Swearengin or Incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III.

A cardinal sin in Democratic Party politics is taking on an incumbent—unless you’re running with party approval to facilitate the illusion of choice. Then you’re there to lose to their bestowed winner, and richly rewarded with a plum position for following directions.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case in West Virginia, a state boiling over in frustration with politics as usual. Paula Jean Swearengin is challenging Dem incumbent Joe Manchin, and she seems to be making a dent in his establishment stranglehold: Manchin’s popularity has fallen more than any other senator in the first quarter of 2018. While it seems pundits are pairing him with the Republican most likely to beat him, given the awareness of how coal and big business have harmed the state, those seeking change are hoping Swearengin will be able to unseat him in the primary.

2. Arizona Primaries for U.S. Senate, August 28. Filing deadline, May 30.

Arizona tilts Republican, but given incumbent Jeff Flake won’t be seeking reelection, the Democrats might stand a chance. At least, that’s what they’re hoping. In an already crowded political pool, candidates on both sides of the aisle aren’t done throwing hats in the ring. The Dems “have the candidate they want” in U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema, whose donors include war-mongering Lockheed Martin. But the Justice Democrats endorsed Muslim activist and attorney Deedra Abboud, whose “campaign [is] focused on getting special interests and lobbying money out of politics. She champions health care for all, quality and affordable public education, protecting net neutrality, and the separation of religion and state.”

3. The Oklahoma Democratic Primary for Governor, June 26: Connie Johnson or Drew Edmondson.

Connie Johnson is the African-American former state senator famous for her “semen” amendment, attaching it to an Oklahoma bill that said a person’s rights began at conception. She simply took the idea further, reasoning if killing a zygote is murder, so is killing sperm—the very precursor to life. Her amendment would have outlawed placing sperm anywhere but in a woman’s vagina. The personhood bill didn’t pass, but it inspired a lot of men to say “Hey! You can’t do that!” Connie is endorsed by Our Revolution, and she’s all about regulating and using medical marijuana and hemp taxes to pay for state services—like giving teachers a raise and funding the starving public education system. Drew Edmondson is famous for the state execution of nearly 100 Oklahomans while he was state Attorney General. It might be helpful to keep in mind that Bernie won the primary easily here, and received more votes than Trump in the primary too.

But—can you guess which candidate has the biggest campaign coffer? Or whom the national Democratic Party itself favors?

It is a hard reality show to watch. The “resistance” isn’t, well, resisting, and the establishment, it seems, has the country in a bipartisan headlock. It’s going to take a super level of commitment, awareness, and work, of all Americans, to break free from the politics as usual that have brought us to this moment. And there is simply too much at stake to wait until the general election to just vote Democrat.

 

 

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Valerie Vande Panne is an Independent Media Institute writing fellow who contributes to Columbia Journalism Review and Reuters news service, among other outlets. She is the former editor-in-chief of Detroit's alt-weekly, the Metro Times, and the former news editor of High Times magazine. She is the founder of Blackbird Literacy, an organization providing books to residents and literacy programs in Detroit. Connect with her on Twitter @asktheduchess.