Democratic Leadership Sided With Corporatists to Fight Progressives in Primaries

We look at the Democratic Party’s opposition to progressive challengers such as Nina Turner, former Ohio state senator who earlier this month lost her congressional primary challenge after facing massive spending and attacks by super PACs. Turner says the corporate wing of the Democratic Party seeks to consolidate the existing leadership’s power while shutting down champions of progressive policies like Medicare for All. “The Democratic Party as a whole has to make a decision: Is it the party of the corporatists, or is it the party of the people?” says Turner.


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AMY GOODMAN: I also want to bring into this conversation Nina Turner, the progressive former Ohio state senator who earlier this month lost her race for Ohio’s 11th Congressional seat after facing massive spending and attacks by super PACs. She co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign.

Nina, welcome back Democracy Now! What was your take on yesterday’s primaries, and specifically the role of big-money and how you saw it unfolding? And then we’d like you to talk about what you saw happening in your own race.

NINA TURNER: Sure. Yes, I agree with David Sirota. But here is the caution here: that we know that these super PACs, along with the corporatist Dems and, as David laid out, the oligarchs — because that’s exactly what they are — when you have cryptocurrency billionaires, oil baronesses, other corporate interests infusing or injecting themselves into these local races, it is a problem, because what they do is they drown out the voices and the will. We don’t truly know what the will of the people would be if these super PACs would not jump in in the way that they do. And they seem to — not seem — they particularly target women of color and, going even deeper than that, Black women.

So, let’s take state Representative Summer Lee. Before they got in there, she had a 25-point advantage. This is very similar to the lead I had last year. These forces jumped in there and closed in. It was a squeaker. It’s still a squeaker even though the representative is claiming victory. Although it was hard fought but not that close, it is still a squeaker. Thank goodness there were some Democratic leaders in her state and in her cities that stood up for both of you. AIPAC DMFI I called it out and called the truth. I am so proud of her, and the hard work she and her team have done.

You know that in other races, whether a progressive wins or loses is not an indicator of how hard they worked. I should know. It’s a reflection of this super dark money. PAC Money that is brought in to influence the will of the voters. Amy adds one more point: These forces don’t care about the quality of life or lack thereof for the people who live, work, play, and/or visit these communities. They only care about buying elections. This caution is crucial for all those of us who believe in democracy regardless of which candidate you support. This is about ensuring that voices of people who actually live in these communities don’t get drowned out. It’s happening all over the country. It’s coming to a district near you.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Nina Turner, could we talk about the role played by AIPAC What is the Democratic Majority For Israel in your Race and why they felt it was important to defeat you?

NINA TURNER: Well, twice. I mean, they spent over — combined, between special election last year and the election this year, upwards of $6 million combined. Last year, in the special election, $12 million was spent — that’s between both campaigns and the super PACs who came in — very expensive race, for a seat that is a Democratic seat.

You know, sure, some of my allies and some of my friends who do the dance alongside the corporatist side from occasion to occasion, but they support me, asked me the question, you’ll know: Why are these people coming towards you like this? And I’m just talking about the alliance between corporatist Democrats and these super PACs. And that person was told I wasn’t the right type of Democrat. In that, they meant that I don’t bend, that I come from the Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm school of Democrats, and that is unsought and unbiased.

These people are putting in this amount of money to ensure they have control over the outcome at the congressional level. This is it. You don’t invest that kind of money without expecting a return. There is nothing spectacular about the people they endorsed and supported, regardless of whether it was me or other races. They want to see a return on the investment they made in corporatist-type Democrats.

Let’s look at the Iran deal. Many of us remember that that was one of the biggest foreign policy accomplishments of President Obama’s presidency. That was President Biden pushing for it. You have the person who has benefited from it. DMFI PAC Money and AIPAC money standing against, with other Democrats — I think it was about 18 in total — against that deal, one great example of them getting a return on their investment right away.

But what happens when you live in a district such as mine? Ohio is currently the most impoverished state in the nation. The poorest. One in two children goes to bed hungry every night. In Cleveland and the greater Cleveland region, there is suffering. But those PACs that come in here, they don’t care about that. You think cryptocurrency billionaires care if the children of Cleveland or Greater Cleveland have a chance to eat or if their parents make a living wage? No, they don’t care about that. They just wanted to buy the election. They rented it last summer. They bought it outright this year. So, elections are now being decided in boardrooms rather than ballot boxes.

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Turner, what does this say about the well-known progressives within Congress? You know that last year, when your special election was held, the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed you. Your opponent, Shontel Brown, was supported by them this year. What do you think the reason is? Then there are the many. CPC progressive members — Pramila Jayapal, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman — who didn’t endorse any candidate this year, though they did you last year.

NINA TURNER: Yeah, well, Amy, I don’t — can’t answer for the individuals. I mean, they must decide for themselves why. People have the right to endorse or reject a candidate, and that is something I understand. As a politician, I understand that. I will only say that the Congressional Progressive Caucus was wrong. And I’m really excited to see progressive leaders across the country — and I’m talking about leaders who lead caucuses, from California to Nevada to New Mexico to Iowa, people — those progressive leaders — it was about 11 of them in total, all across the country. Once the CPC They did what was right, they made it very clear who was the real freedom-fighting progressive in my race. I applaud them and I hope they keep doing these things.

The elected leadership of the progressive movement has to make a decision. Either they will side with corporatist Democrats, and not do anything that is significantly different from them, or they will be the difference. Either they’re going to complement the movement, or they are not.

I will say that Congresswoman Jayapal, in an article — I think it was in Punch Bowl — did say, after being pressed — because the movement pressed the CPC; they didn’t do this on their own — saying that they may have to rethink, or they should rethink, how they do endorsements, not to endorse people right away, and to also look at what type of entities are supporting these candidates, to determine whether or not they are truly progressive. Because she knew I was running again, the person in my race joined that caucus. It was all to cover.

But people are still suffering all across the country, not just in my area. We need the progressives in Congress to speak up and call it what is. This was not the case in my race. I want to thank Senator Bernie Sanders. He was there for me the first time, and again for the second. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez also came in. So, that’s what I appreciate.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Your thoughts, briefly, on what the prospects look like for progressive candidates heading into the November election and how you see a progressive agenda moving forward.

NINA TURNER: Yes, the agenda is strong. We know that the overwhelming of the American people, if you don’t put the label on it, they agree with that agenda. Gas in Ohio is $4.55. It is still rising. It’s going up all over the country. The minimum wage in the country is $8.80. It is slightly less than the federal minimum, which is $7.25. Juan, just look at the things people have to do to survive. They are barely surviving. So, the agenda that is being put forward by those on my side of this movement — Medicare for All, living wages, making sure people can unionize, protecting voting rights — the overwhelming majority of people believe in it.

The Democratic Party’s intestinal fortitude is what is lacking. The Democratic Party must decide if it is the party for the corporatists or the party for the people. It is failing so far and has been proven to be the party for the corporatists. The child tax credit, for example, expired [inaudible]The Biden administration made a huge policy push to reduce childhood poverty by half. Gone. So now those same children that were pulled out are now back in, at a critical moment where you’ve got the pandemic still waging — can’t be done with the pandemic, the pandemic is not done with us — and then you have inflation that is eating every little dollar that the poor and the working poor and the barely middle class have.

So I want to say to the progressive movement: Let’s stay. We’re going to keep on pushing for the policies that change material conditions. The Democratic Party now has to make a decision. And one more point on that: They will do — the corporatist wing —

AMY GOODMAN: We have ten seconds.

NINA TURNER: The Democratic Party’s corporatist wing is willing to do anything to defeat progressive candidates. This is unacceptable. We must fight on. We will.

AMY GOODMAN: Nina Turner, progressive former Ohio state senator, co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, and David Sirota, journalist and founder of The Lever, former adviser for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

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