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The Democratic Leadership is Musty and Weary

It seems fair to conclude that the opinion of the Democratic establishment — black, white, or otherwise — is carrying increasingly little weight with voters

Look no further than Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley's surprise upset win in the primary race for Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District — knocking off 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano. (Photo: Illustrated | Alex Wong/Getty Images, Tatomm/iStock)

Look no further than Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley's surprise upset win in the primary race for Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District — knocking off 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano. (Photo: Illustrated | Alex Wong/Getty Images, Tatomm/iStock)

The Democratic Party leadership is like a heavy, sodden blanket, dragging down its own coalition of voters and young candidates as they struggle to rise up against the Trump presidency. But that blanket is slowly being cast off.

Look no further than Boston City Council member Ayanna Pressley's surprise upset win in the primary race for Massachusetts' 7th Congressional District — knocking off 10-term incumbent Michael Capuano.

Now, unlike centrist Rep. Joe Crowley, who was toppled by democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York earlier this summer, Capuano has been a longstanding and firm left-wing voice, particularly on foreign policy. There were actually few differences between Capuano and Pressley on policy. She notably refused to take any corporate PAC money, and did not support a "blue lives matter" bill to make it a federal crime to attack a police officer, as Capuano did. But on the other hand, she was skeptical of Medicare-for-all as recently as 2016, while Capuano has supported it since 2005.

Capuano, who is white, also got wide support from the African-American Democratic establishment. Black Massachusetts Democrats reportedly urged Pressley, who is black, not to run, while civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) held an event for Capuano earlier this year. But Pressley stomped Capuano nonetheless, largely on the strength of huge black turnout.

So what happened here? It seems fair to conclude that the opinion of the Democratic establishment — black, white, or otherwise — is carrying increasingly little weight with voters. Of course, establishment-backed Democrats are still winning elections. But voters are less and less convinced of elite wisdom. Lawmakers who have wandered the halls of power for two decades are viewed with skepticism. Candidates who are simply different — particularly when it comes to younger minority women taking on old white guys — seem worth a shot. Thus Pressley's slogan: "Change Can't Wait."

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

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