Campus Democrats encouraged by dialogue of Senate primary
As the sun set outside on Friday, Bailey Weatherbee sat in the office of her developmental genetics lab where she researches cellular and molecular biology.
Weatherbee, president of Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA), said she believes that while the sun has set on progressive Kerri Evelyn Harris’s losing campaign to be one of Delaware’s senators, the sun has not yet set on the progressive movement in Delaware.
“Because [the progressive movement is a national one] it is never one race, so when you lose one race, that’s fine, but did the movement get a little further?” Weatherbee, a senior biology major, said. “Did you push Tom Carper a little bit to the left? And they did.”
This dialogue between the traditional, centric democrats and the more socially liberal progressives was one of the central points of debate during the Democratic primary.
Harris ran on the platform of expanding medicare to include all American citizens, funding universal, public prekindergarten and raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Carper campaigned for amending the existing Affordable Care Act, which he voted for in 2009, fighting for a clean environment and holding President Donald Trump accountable.
While the two sides of the party have different priorities and different plans of execution, campus Democrats do not believe this split will be detrimental to the party.
Alexa Adams, director of communication for the College Democrats, said she thinks it is healthy for progressives and more moderate, centrist Democrats to have conversations about these differences.
“If one state elects a more moderate Democrat and another state elects a more progressive Democrat, that’s not to say that they completely hate each other and the party is going to be polarized,” Adams, a sophomore political science major, said. “The voters of those states are picking the candidate that they feel is going to suit their needs for the state.”
Weatherbee said she believes having these differing beliefs does not mean that progressives are unwilling to work with their political counterparts.
“I think that it’s a false narrative that progressives aren’t willing to work with centrists and aren’t willing to work with Republicans,” Weatherbee said. “I think that is a scare tactic that’s used to say ‘Oh , if you vote for this progressive, they’re not going to stack up against a Republican, and they won’t be able to beat them.’ I think that progressives are very happy to reach across the aisle, true, inclusive progressives.”
Neither the YPDA nor the College Democrats endorsed a candidate during the election, but both said they hoped Carper learned from this primary.
Weatherbee said she hoped Carper learned that he could not vote for legislation that his Democratic base tends to oppose.
She cited her displeasure with Carper’s votes to build the Keystone XL Pipeline and to confirm Trump’s current Supreme Court Justice-nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a United States circuit judge for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006.
Although Carper now opposes appointing Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, both of his aforementioned votes did not align with Democrats’ values at the time he cast them.
Weatherbee said she believes Carper’s 17 years as senator led him to create deep relationships which he is allegiant to. Weatherbee said she hopes this year’s primary taught him to remain loyal to his Democratic base.
“No one cares about the old boys club anymore,” Weatherbee said. “No one is happy with the old boys club. We want real representation.”
Adams said she hopes Carper realizes the significance of his victory of 64.58 percent of the Democratic vote.
“I hope he realizes he still has the support from his Delawareans,” Adams said. “It’s going to be his job in the coming time to listen to his voters, to their concerns and to make sure he is doing what’s best for the state and for the party.”
To win the general election on Nov. 6, Adams said Carper needs to continue to talk to Delawareans and encourage them to vote.
“The more you reach … to your voters and you explain your views and what you stand for … the more likely they are going to be to vote for you,” Adams said.
Both the College Democrats and the YPDA look to the future as the general election nears.
Adams said the College Democrats will work with a variety of people who represent the Democratic Party, including moderates, progressives and activists.
Weatherbee said the YPDA will focus on working with political activists to develop its members’ grassroots advocacy. She also said she believes the progressive movement is still in its early stages, but there is more on the horizon.
“There’s going to be a lot of trial and error,” Weatherbee said. “In my mind, 2018 is the year of getting the ideas out there and getting them kind of acclimated to the mainstream.”