Since last year’s presidential election, progressives have consistently stated that President Donald Trump’s election was not a victory for right-wing politics over progressive politics, but a victory for populism over the status quo. This, many have argued, is the key takeaway from 2016, which saw the Democratic Party lose control of all three branches of government, along with the majority of state legislatures and governorships.
Not surprisingly, the party establishment has yet to fully accept this verdict, and there remains an obstinate resistance to populism within the Democratic Party’s ranks. Indeed, many continue to insist that the 2016 election was a disaster because Democrats were too progressive, rather than being too much in line with the Establishment.
This perspective was dealt yet another blow this week, however, when two relatively minor elections in the Northeast provided further confirmation that populism is the pragmatic way forward for Democrats.
The first was in New York’s Long Island, where Christine Pellegrino, a progressive and Bernie Sanders delegate at last year’s Democratic National Convention, was elected to the New York State Assembly on Tuesday. The significance here is that just six months ago, Donald Trump won by a whopping 23 points in this Republican-leaning suburban district, where Pellegrino becomes the first Democrat to hold the Assembly seat, according to Newsday. In the Nation, John Nichols summed up this “Berniecrat” candidate and her successful populist campaign:
Pellegrino, a founding member of the group Long Island Activists, which was “born out of the Bernie Sanders movement,” ran an edgy anti-corruption campaign that recognized the mood of voters who are frustrated with politicians of both major parties. [And] it worked. The progressive won 58 percent of the vote her conservative foe’s 42 percent