OPINION: House candidate Nina Turner outperformed over-organized and spent opponent Shontel Brown, and yet she still fell short.
Conventional wisdom about the Ohio 11th Congressional District Democratic primary was still wrong. After Marcia Fudge left the seat to become president Joe bidenthe HUD secretary, the race to replace her did not suddenly become a battle between Progressive and the Establishment or a proxy battle.
I understand that framing the race in these terms generates clicks and allows Democratic flacks and Washington pundits to prolong the Cold War they have waged ever since. Hillary Clinton blame Bernie sanders for his loss in 2016, but that doesn’t mean the framing is accurate.
The reality of the Ohio primary is that Nina TurnerWhether someone wants to admit it or not, was the Establishment in this race. She had more money, more notoriety, and tons of celebrity mentions in her pocket. His opponent Brown Shontel was a local chairman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, whom no one could have chosen from training four months ago. And yet, Turner always lost.
Hopefully Democrats and the media will learn a lesson from this, but I doubt it.
I lived in Northeast Ohio for a decade, so let me put this race in local terms that will make sense. On June 1, Turner led the race 50% to 15% over Brown, but two months later, on August 3, Turner lost 51% to 44% to Brown. Turner was the Golden State Warriors giving the Brown Cavaliers a 3-1 lead, although both have the field advantage. I saw this run through the eyes of old friends and former students in the area, a Muslim woman wearing the hijab who works in public relations, a 40 year old black woman and something that kills ETSY, a lawyer millennial white that leans conservative, among others.
Do you know what word I never heard any of them use? Establishment. I’m talking about it because campaign postmortems will desperately try to force this narrative even though it has little to no resonance on the ground.
The Establishment is no longer old white men in a smoky room playing kingmaker. Not in the age of social media, Wild West campaign fundraising, and national organizers who can descend on a district like political flash mobs after just one tweet. Did Shontel Brown receive institutional support? Sure. She was president of the local party and was supervised by the outgoing incumbent.
However, Nina Turner was a former national surrogate mother of a presidential campaign, former elected official, television expert, college professor, director of SuperPAC and lobbyist, which was supported by the major local newspaper Cleveland Plain Dealer, had the backing of Hollywood and could raise thousands of dollars with just one mass text. There is no more Establishment than that, which is ultimately why Turner lost the election.
Here are the kinds of conversations and messages I received from the people of Cleveland during the campaign:
“You can’t say voting for Biden is like eating shit. I mean, a lot of people thought that way, I wanted to vote for Pete Buttigieg, but you can’t say that then run for Congress.
“My sister went to school with Shontel, and I just don’t like that ‘hello someone’ thing, [From Turner] it looks forced!
“The guy in the white Nina Turner van with the speakers?” He was parked near my house and I spoke to him, it turns out he’s not even from here, he’s from Seattle and went to Cleveland to help Turner.
Nina Turner burned many bridges in local Cleveland politics years ago, and voters remember long. That’s not to say that Shontel Brown didn’t have his critics; his handling of the Cuyahoga County Democrats was seen as one-sided, and a local organizer told me that Shontel’s campaign was trafficking colorism and classism. I heard a number of people complain that Brown’s only political position was to “support Joe Biden” and they wanted more.
However, in the minds of the majority of non-aligned voters, Turner, not Brown, was the great establishment politician. This initially helped Turner when she started the campaign as a political prodigal returning to save her hometown. Unfortunately, in June, after taking a huge lead, his campaign went national, attracting an activist and a rapper. Killer Mike who insulted the democratic power broker James clyburn and go too far with attack ads portraying Shontel Brown as a corrupt politician. The Clevelanders have a long history of corrupt politicians and Shontel Brown does not do the job.
It is no coincidence that Turner’s attacks had the dual effect of raising Brown’s profile and opening the door to outside advertising groups, including other Democrats, and yes, even some Republicans in s ‘involve in the primary. (The Sanders team openly wooed Republicans in the 2020 primary, so it’s hypocritical to claim that GOP support somehow delegitimizes Brown’s victory.)
Nina Turner raised $ 4.5 million in campaign funds for Brown’s $ 2 million and while outside groups spent a bit more on pro-Brown advertising, Turner had been on the air for much longer, so the air warfare was essentially a wash. The truth is, if Turner had kept up the crime race in Ohio City and the P3 loans for failing businesses in Tower City, Jim Clyburn would never have driven to Cleveland in a trailer like a Democratic King Jaffe Joffer with all the the CBC in tow.
Turner didn’t lose because of ‘black money’, she lost because local voters don’t live their lives on Twitter, don’t read the puff pieces in The New York Times and didn’t want the progressive establishment to go to town and tell people how to vote. Not to mention the fact that Shontel Brown is actually a damn good public servant.
If you could liquefy the schadenfreude and inject it straight into your veins, I know a lot of Democrats who would be kite-high right now after Turner’s defeat, but dabbling on Turner or the progressive establishment doesn’t do any good. to no one. The incremental model of success, finding a local activist or politician, training them and funding them to run against a disconnected or inactive incumbent is a good model. It’s like that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to beat Joe crowley and Jamal Bowman to beat Eliot Engel At New York; It shows Cori bush to beat Clay William Lacy in Missouri, and how Ayanna pressley to beat Michel Capuano in Massachusetts.
The progressive establishment model has not worked in Ohio because Turner was not an outsider and had not been in the district recently, but also because the Main Democrats ignore the progressives at their own risk and perils. At the same time, progressives shouldn’t call black Ohio voters stupid or blame outside money when they simply put forward a candidate who had all the technical advantages but couldn’t reconcile half a decade of attack by the Democratic Party with a strong Democratic candidacy. district.
More than 72,000 voters turned out for a special election primary in a slack year when both campaigns privately estimated turnout would be in the 40,000 range. This should be something all Democrats do. can get excited and is expected to reverse engineer as we approach the mid-term of 2022.
Despite the post-primary racism, vitriol, and recriminations I see online, Democrats have less than a year to organize against the onslaught of suppressing GOP voters in 2022. You can’t win when you are in a progressive, moderate circular establishment. firing squad.
Dr Jason Johnson is Professor of Politics and Journalism at Morgan State University, Political Contributor to MSNBC and SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. Notorious comic book and sportsman with dual nationality Wakandan and Zamundan.
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