James Hohmann's descriptive lede (in the Washington Post) is also a haunting spectre: "Tuesday was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Democratic moderates." It's a familiar one, too. Based on assorted readings, I thought the activist base had, since 2016, somewhat matured in its strategic thinking. If yesterday was an indication of what's to come nationally, however, then retaking the House will be more of an uphill ordeal than the heretofore predicted stroll.
"The success of very liberal candidates in primaries across four states [Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Idaho]," writes Hohmann, "is causing a new bout of heartburn among party strategists in Washington, who worry about unelectable activists thwarting their drive for the House majority. But," he flatly continues, "it also reflects a broader leftward lurch among Democrats across the country since President Trump took office." I'm skeptical that the party is experiencing an ideological leftward lurch. What yesterday's results demonstrated is rather that old story of activists voting in primaries, and moderates staying home.
A representative case was that of Kara Eastman (right), in Nebraska's 2nd congressional district. She's "a liberal social worker and political neophyte" who beat former congressman Brad Ashford, who "had the full-throated support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which must now reevaluate whether to invest in the race," notes Hohmann. That's a tough call, for in this conservative district Eastman campaigned on the progressive chestnuts of "universal background checks to buy guns, raising taxes and decriminalizing marijuana [and enacting universal health care]."
FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich observes that Mitt Romney won the district by 7 points in 2012, and Trump by 2 points. "All in all, the 2nd is 6 percentage points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric." Then comes Rakich's spookiest observation: "Although Eastman could certainly still win in a strong Democratic year, we may also look back on her nomination as Democrats’ first 'tea party' moment: a general-election opportunity squandered in the primary (or, at least, made more difficult)."
Protested Eastman in one of her television ads, "I’m tired of hearing Democrats don’t have a backbone, that we don’t stand for anything. That changes now!" I can't say to whom she'd been listening, but my consistent complaint has been that too many Democrats don't have a brain. This progressive victory over a moderate Democrat in a conservative district simply validated my gripe.