Twenty-three million people cast ballots for Democrats in the 2018 midterm primary season, and more than 50 million voted for Democrats on Tuesday in the general election. As the political focus now immediately turns to the 2020 presidential race, what should the legions of Democrats seeking to defeat Trump conclude from all of that voting? Despite all the talk about how “all the energy is on the left,” progressive populism and democratic socialism underwhelmed in the primaries and were close to shut out in competitive general elections. The actual voting energy in the midterms propelled mostly mainstream Democrats who closely matched their purple and red districts or states.
To start, despite some electric wins by ultra-progressives in cobalt-blue House districts, the real story is how well mainstream and pragmatic progressive Democrats fared in both the primaries and general election contests. The moderate New Democratic caucus in the U.S. House endorsed 37 candidates in primary races, and 32 earned the nomination — an 86 percent win rate. By contrast, Our Revolution, the grass-roots organization founded and run by Bernie Sanders’s backers, had a win rate under 40 percent in the primaries. Once the general election rolled around, 23 New Democrat-backed candidates flipped House seats to help gain the majority, while not a single Our Revolution-endorsed candidate captured a red seat. Zero.