As Michiganders headed to the polls in large numbers on Tuesday to decide who will advance to the general election in their state's gubernatorial race—which one observer described as a crucial "test for leftism in the Midwest"—supporters of progressive Democrat Abdul El-Sayed tirelessly worked the phones and urged their fellow citizens to turn out as they look to prove that "the progressive revolution has arrived" in Michigan.
"Michigan is ready. It's ready for good public schools. It's ready for universal healthcare. It's ready for clean water," declared the advocacy group People for Bernie, which has strongly supported El-Sayed's candidacy. "Today, we make history."
4 HOURS LEFT until polls close!
We can do this, Michigan. Let's keep the momentum going!
— Abdul El-Sayed (@AbdulElSayed) August 7, 2018
According to one expert, Michigan is on track to register "its highest primary voter turnout since 1978" in Tuesday's statewide elections. Early reports from Michigan polling stations on Tuesday indicated that turnout so far has greatly exceeded that of primaries over the past several years.
"What Abdul knows, what I know, what all of you know, is that real change never takes place from the top down. It is always from the grassroots on up."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
While the precise source of the turnout jump is unclear, El-Sayed has garnered a unique level of enthusiasm and national recognition over the past several weeks, thanks to his ambitiously progressive platform and support from prominent democratic socialists like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"What Abdul knows, what I know, what all of you know, is that real change never takes place from the top down. It is always from the grassroots on up," Sanders told a crowd of thousands during a rally in Detroit over the weekend. "You can run all of the TV ads that you want, and get all of the corporate money that you want, but at the end of the day, when we stand together, nothing is going to stop us from making change."
On Monday, the El-Sayed campaign released a video compilation of his weekend rallies with Sanders, offering a glimpse of the energy his bold and straightforward platform of Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and clean drinking water for Flint and the rest of his state has generated at the grassroots level:
Thousands joined @BernieSanders and I yesterday as we called for a government for the people, by the people.
We are #DoneWaiting for that to be a reality. Tomorrow, we make our voices heard.
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— Abdul El-Sayed (@AbdulElSayed) August 6, 2018
Polling data leading up to Tuesday's race has been sparce, but one recent survey showed El-Sayed just six points behind frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer, the former Michigan state Senate Democratic Leader who has declared that Medicare for All is currently "not realistic."
"We cannot continue to take money from the same corporations if we say that we're the party that works for the poor and working [people] of our country."
"Gretchen Whitmer was not only initially encouraged to run for office by an insurance industry CEO, but her campaign is entirely beholden to the health insurance industry," noted Current Affairs in its endorsement of El-Sayed. "Blue Cross Blue Shield even gave its employees a list of recommended donation levels prepared by the Whitmer campaign... This kind of corporate politician has been the cause of the Democratic Party's steady electoral suicide."
In an interview on MSNBC Monday evening, El-Sayed delivered a clear denunciation of this brand of Democratic politics that has placed the needs of big corporations over the public good.
"Unfortunately over the past 10, 20 years, I think the Democratic Party has gotten complacent about how we win elections and, more importantly, about who we serve," El-Sayed said. "We cannot continue to take money from the same corporations if we say that we're the party that works for the poor and working [people] of our country."
Great to be on @AllinwithChris tonight! Check out the interview if you didn't catch it live.
People across America are ready for a politics that dignifies all of us. Tomorrow, we make our voices heard. Get out and VOTE!
— Abdul El-Sayed (@AbdulElSayed) August 7, 2018
While Current Affairs editor-in-chief Nathan Robinson noted ahead of Tuesday's race that a loss for El-Sayed would be a "significant blow" to the "morale" of the burgeoning progressive movement that is sweeping the Midwest and the rest of the U.S., Axios pointed out that "the momentum behind this movement is undeniable."
"But if El-Sayed does win," Robinson concluded, "it could change the game in Democratic politics. He will offer unapologetic leftism in a professional package, and will have shown—like Ocasio-Cortez—that money isn't everything, and that with sufficient effort and organization, the party establishment can be defeated."