Progressives And Democratic Primaries

How should progressives react when a Democratic primary election results in a centrist Democratic beating a far more progressive candidate? That question is being posed in Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, where progressive Democrat Ilya Sheyman lost the March 20 primary election to the more centrist Brad Schneider. And we believe the answer in Illinois’ 10th and almost every other case is for progressives to actively support the centrist Democrat, rather than sitting on our hands or backing a third party.

As regular readers of this blog know, Winning Progressive was a strong supporter of Sheyman’s Congressional campaign. We were impressed with Sheyman’s willingness to strongly advocate for progressive positions such as Medicare-for-all health insurance and his belief in a campaign based on grassroots organizing and small donors rather. We also had concerns about Schneider’s past donations to Republicans and his support from the “moderate, pro-business” New Democrat Coalition.


That being said, the primary is behind us and Schneider is the Democratic nominee. And working with Schneider to defeat Robert Dold, the current Republican Congressman in Illinois’ 10th, is what all progressives should do. As Sheyman said in conceding the election:

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“Brad has run a spirited campaign over these past 12 months, and will need all our help to defeat Congressman Dold in November,” said Sheyman. “I’ll stand strongly behind him to take back the 10th Congressional District for the Democrats for the first time in 32 years.”

There is no doubt that Schneider is far better on progressive issues than Dold. For example, Dold voted to abolish Medicare and replace it with an inadequate voucher system that would leave seniors to the mercy of the private insurance market. Schneider opposes that GOP plan. Dold actively opposes ObamaCare, while Schneider supports it as a sensible way to achieve significant improvements in our broken health insurance system. Schneider supports marriage equality, while Dold opposes it. Dold supports extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, while Schneider wants to replace them with a “more fair, equitable, and reasonable tax policy.” And, of course, Schneider would be a vote for a Democratic Speaker of the House and control of House committees, while Dold would be a vote for having the House continue to be ruled by John Boehner or whoever the GOP decides to replace Boehner with.

Now, for progressive supporters of Sheyman, switching one’s support to Schneider may be difficult. Schneider is certainly not in the mold of a progressive grassroots activist who could bring a much-needed new perspectives to Congress. And Schneider will likely not be the aggressive fighter for progressive values that Sheyman could have been in Congress. But as we’ve explained previously, progressive change is not achieved through all or nothing victories. Instead, progressive change is almost always the culmination of a long, hard battle that builds on previous victories and fights through setbacks. That means not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. And in the context of electoral politics, it means voting for and supporting the most progressive viable candidate that is running in any election cycle, and then holding their feet to the fire after they are elected. In the general election for Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, that candidate is clearly Brad Schneider.

If you would like to help turn Illinois’ 10th Congressional District blue for the first time in 32 years, here are ways to support Brad Schneider’s campaign to unseat Rep. Robert Dold:

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