Democrat Rob Quist was defeated by Republican Greg Gianforte Thursday night in a special election for Montana’s at-large congressional seat, a state President Donald Trump won by 20 points in November. A progressive movement largely inspired by Bernie Sanders, however, rallied to bring Thursday's race within single digits.
Montana is considered a deep red state. Yet Quist ran as a progressive endorsed by Sen. Sanders and campaigned on positions to the left of the Democratic Party. He only lost by 6 points. That is a silver lining for progressives.
Is Bernie's Bottom-Up Strategy Working?
Democrats flipped two red districts in state house races last week. School teacher Christine Pellegrino upset Republican challenger Tom Gargiulo in a special election for the 9th Assembly District in New York. Pellegrino was a Bernie Sanders delegate during the Democratic presidential primary and ran on a progressive platform.
Her win marks a huge turn around in the Long Island district that voted for Trump by twenty-three points last fall. Republican Joseph Saladino, the last occupier of the Assembly seat, won his last re-election over his Democratic opponent, 69-31.
Pellegrino carried the district last Tuesday, 58-42. The newly elected Democrat told Newsday, “This is for all the supporters and voters who understand a strong progressive agenda is the way forward in New York.”
That same night, in New Hampshire, Democrat Edie DesMarais pulled off a huge upset victory in Carroll County District 6 over Republican Matthew Plache. Trump won the same district in November by 7 points, and Mitt Romney won the district by 13 points in 2012.
According to the local Democratic Party, DesMarais is the first Democrat to ever be elected in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. DesMarais, running on a progressive platform, stated that she believes in “affordable, universal health care,” as well as raising the minimum wage so that full-time workers can “earn a livable wage.”
The Revolution Continues
While the Democrats are yet to win a national race since Trump's election, narrowly losing special elections in Kansas and Montana, these two local races provide hope for progressives looking to capitalize on President Trump's low approval ratings.
Many attribute these races to simply being part of an anti-Trump backlash. Yet polling indicates that there is a strong appetite among the public for progressive policies.
According to a Gallup poll, 58% of Americans support a federally funded, single-payer health care system. Sixty-two percent support tuition free college. A strong majority of Americans also favor raising the minimum wage, with 59% supporting a $12 minimum wage, and almost half supporting a $15 minimum.
Culminating all that, a recent Harvard-Harris poll found that Bernie Sanders is the most popular active politician. While the Democratic establishment seeks to rebuild after last November’s shocking loss to Donald Trump, the progressive grassroots movement is gaining plenty of momentum at the local level.
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