On February 16, Clinton campaign surrogate, Sen. Claire McCaskill complained that she will likely face a primary challenger in her 2018 re-election campaign. “I may have a primary because there is, in our party now, some of the same kind of enthusiasm at the base that the Republican party had with the Tea Party,” she said in an interview. “We are seeing that same—and many of those people are very impatient with me because they don’t think I’m pure. For example, they think I should be voting against all of Trump’s nominees and of course I’m judging each nominee on its own merit.”
McCaskill’s tone-deaf response illuminates how clueless she and the Democratic Party are with regards to why primary challengers are running against them. It’s not about purity; it’s about serving the public, especially the working, middle class, and low income Americans. The weak opposition to President Donald Trump’s nominees—McCaskill claimed that “some of Trump’s cabinet picks have been good”—is just one example of the Democratic Party’s ineptitude.
Democrats are increasingly resistant to primary elections, and many share McCaskill’s sentiment that voters should support incumbents and establishment candidates. In 2016, the Democratic Party anointed Hillary Clinton as the presidential nominee before the primaries even began. Except for independent candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, no Democrats challenged Clinton—a stark contrast from the diverse field of candidates who ran in 2008. The party’s super delegates coalesced around Clinton before votes were cast, sending a message to mainstream media and the Democratic Party voters that she had already won the primary. In truth, the Party favors their political power over the wishes of voters, and, when it comes to their primaries, holds democracy in little regard.
Politico reported on February 17 that Democrats were trying to lure former Attorney General Sally Yates to run for governor of Georgia in 2018. In response, The Intercept’s Zaid Jilani tweeted, “they always try to anoint one person while GOP has vibrant competitive primary. No wonder GOP always wins GA.”
DCCC memos that were leaked in 2016 revealed that the Democratic Party anointed a preferred candidate in many congressional races, pouring resources into those campaigns in order to help them win their primary races.
In Florida, during the closely contested Democratic primary races in 2016, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi intervened by campaigning on behalf of former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in her race against Tim Canova. Similarly, Obama and Biden endorsed Patrick Murphy, who was running against a fellow congressman in the Democratic primaries for one of Florida’s Senate seats. Sen. Marco Rubio easily defeated Murphy in the general election, which likely contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss in Florida against Trump.
Primaries offer the opportunity for a party to broaden its base, discuss new ideas, and provide an outlet for new politicians to gain public recognition. However, the Democratic Party rigs their primaries by selecting candidates. This tactic may serve the establishment by protecting it from formidable challengers, but it’s a losing strategy that repels voters and deflates their enthusiasm. If Democrats continue to manipulate their base into backing preferred candidates rather than win voters over in the primaries, the Democratic Party is doomed to repeat the losses that they have suffered throughout Obama’s presidency.