Conor Lamb’s stunning showing in the Pennsylvania special election showed the blue wave building as the November midterms approach. But will the debate over what the Democratic Party is for undermine the unity needed to stop Donald Trump and take back the Congress?
Lamb’s remarkable surge in a district that favored Donald Trump by twenty points proves the “Resistance” is real. Republicans outspent Lamb and his allies by a five-to-one margin, and threw their entire playbook at him. None of it worked. Over 100 Republican-held districts more more competitive than the one Lamb now represents, and the panic in Republican circles is surely real.
House Speaker Paul Ryan sought to dismiss the result by arguing Lamb masqueraded as a conservative. In a somewhat similar vein, some pundits and Democratic party officials suggested Lamb’s victory validates the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s strategy of finding candidates that “fit their districts,” which is often code for finding more conservative or corporate Democrats.
While Lamb said he wouldn’t vote for Nancy Pelosi to lead the party and was personally pro-gun and opposed to abortion, the notion that he ran as a conservative is fanciful. Jon Favreau, Obama’s former speech writer, demolished it in one tweet, noting that Lamb campaigned for universal health care, against Trump’s tax cut, for expanded background checks, for stronger unions, against cuts to Social Security, for a woman’s right to choose and for medical marijuana.
Lamb ran as a champion of working people. He railed against House Speaker Paul Ryan for passing tax cuts for the rich and corporations while pushing to deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare. He supported Trump’s tariffs while campaigning against our failed corporate trade policies. He championed unions against an opponent who favored right-to-work legislation.
Lamb’s campaign was fueled by small donations and a field operation bolstered by unions. The DCCC largely stayed out of the race until late, and it’s possible it raised more money off the race than it actually put into it. Turnout in the race showed not only that liberal voters are mobilized against Trump and Republicans, but that a Democrat with a strong, progressive economic message can cut into the long-established Republican support.
The annual Progressive Caucus Center Strategy Summit last weekend showcased the growing capacity and confidence of progressive movements and leaders in driving the demand for fundamental change. The gathering showcased the movements and the leadership that are lifting the blue wave.