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Washington Post - December 3, 2019

"There’s an old saying often misattributed to Mohandas Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” A rising progressive movement is vying for power with the corporate class inside the Democratic Party and outside of it. Collectively, progressives are creating a muscular political constituency that would have seemed impossible even a decade ago. And even as those groups and leaders don’t always perfectly align, they’re all, as Ocasio-Cortez said of Sanders and Warren, “on the same team.”

Just when you thought the Democratic presidential field couldn’t get any more crowded, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has swooped in with a $37 million ad blitz.

His motives for intervening at this late hour are hardly mysterious. If he were focused on the vital issues he has championed, such as gun safety or climate change legislation, he could just spend those millions in support of the Democratic nominee and/or on helping to take back the Senate. The fact is Bloomberg disdains those on the left in the Democratic primary—and perhaps fears that none of the other moderates in the field can win. With the idea of a wealth tax backed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—and strikingly popular among Democrats, independents and even many Republicans—Bloomberg has billions of reasons to flex his financial muscle.

It’s like clockwork. When progressives are gaining ground, the big-money wing of the Democratic Party often chooses to turn its fire on the left—as if progressives represented the real threat, and not President Trump, the GOP and their billionaire backers. It’s why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has chosen to blacklist vendors who work for progressive primary challengers such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) instead of, for example, vendors who also work for corporate polluters or union busters.

This dynamic is particularly stark in blue states where Democrats control the levers of power and political machines are strong. In the past month, several local Democratic machines have declared war on the Working Families Party for backing progressive candidates and causes.

In Philadelphia last month, the city’s Democratic Chairman Bob Brady threatened Democratic elected officials and city committee members who dared to endorse Working Families Party City Council candidate Kendra Brooks, who was running to unseat a Republican. Despite the crackdown, Brooks won her seat, becoming the first elected official in Philadelphia’s history to win on the WFP ballot line.

In New Jersey, the Democratic machine literally had the WFP’s state director, Sue Altman, dragged from a committee room floor by state troopers for her dogged opposition to the corrupt pay-to-play schemes that have enriched Democratic party boss George Norcross and his friends with $1 billion in corporate welfare. The overreach backfired — and brought yet more attention to Norcross.

But perhaps the most glaring example is New York state, site of the latest chapter in the years-long war between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his opponents in the WFP. Until 2018, a group of breakaway Democrats in the state Senate called the “Independent Democratic Caucus” propped up Republican control of the chamber. The arrangement benefited Cuomo, as he could move forward legislation he favored while sidelining anything that threatened his real estate and Wall Street donors. In the 2018 primaries, the WFP and its allies defeated six corporate-backed Democrats in the state Senate, nominating insurgents who ran pledging not to take a penny from the real estate industry. And in the general election, progressives picked up even more seats, helping to flip the state Senate to Democratic control. ...
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