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Big Primary Wins for Socialists and Progressives Who Ran on Popular Demands

”They said it wasn’t possible without institutional support.”

Clouds form a backdrop for a sign outside a polling station as a storm system moves in over Northwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 15, 2018. Voters showed out in spite of the looming rain to grant wins to progressive candidates.

Defying national and state-level Democratic establishment forces that have worked to crowd out left-wing candidates and demonstrating that there is a deep hunger among the American electorate for a bold progressive agenda, candidates running on platforms of Medicare for All, free college, and a living wage emerged victorious in several state primaries on Tuesday and tore through the boundaries of what is conventionally considered politically feasible.

“It feels like a monumental shift,” Arielle Cohen, co-chair of Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), told the Huffington Post after four DSA-backed candidates defeated establishment Democrats in Pennsylvania. “We won on popular demands that were deemed impossible. We won on healthcare for all; we won on free education.”

Running in Pennsylvania’s State House Districts 34 and 21 respectively, Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato — both running on platforms consisting of Medicare for All, strong environmental protection, and campaign finance reform — toppled what local news outlets described as a “political dynasty” by trouncing Democratic cousins Paul Costa and Dom Costa by a wide margin.

“They said it wasn’t possible without institutional support. That we couldn’t talk about Medicare for All, a living wage, about ending corruption in Harrisburg,” Innamorato said during her victory party Tuesday night. “And you know what we did instead? We built something.”

“The establishment’s scared,” Pittsburgh DSA wrote on Twitter in response to the upset victories, which also included wins by Elizabeth Fiedler and Kristin Seale over their establishment counterparts. “When we fight, we win.”

Signs of the grassroots progressive wave that some predicted will ultimately sweep across the country could also be seen in Idaho on Tuesday, where progressive Paulette Jordan handily defeated her establishment-backed Democratic opponent A.J. Balukoff in a bid to become the nation’s first Native American governor.

If she wins in November, Jordan — who ran on protecting public land from corporate plunder and criminal justice reform — would be Idaho’s first Democratic governor in over 20 years.

“Today’s elections prove movement politics candidates, who rely on people power, can win, and win powerfully,” Ryan Greenwood, director of Movement Politics for People’s Action, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Candidates for public office who commit to a racial and gender justice agenda that puts people and our planet before profits are winning.”

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