During the 2016 presidential election, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, made a now-infamous claim.
"For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania," he said, "we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio, and Illinois, and Wisconsin."
This centrist strategy of trying to win over moderate Republicans, to say the least, has backfired miserably for Democrats. And in many ways, the 2018 midterm elections will be a referendum on this entire approach--with a rising tide of progressive candidates who stand to make substantial gains in Congress and state legislatures.
Frustration and a wide dislike of President Donald Trump and Republicans in power have fueled anticipation of a so-called Blue Wave in the November 6 elections. Powering this wave is a progressive movement pulling the Democratic Party to the left and scoring historic victories in communities the party's establishment has traditionally ignored.
In Pennsylvania, despite Schumer's prediction, a group of democratic socialists are demonstrating that Democratic candidates need to run unapologetically progressive campaigns in order to win.
"Buying into this polarizing narrative of us and them, but thinking success is mimicking everything the Republicans do has definitely been the heart of the problem in my district," says Kristin Seale, the Democratic candidate for state representative in Delaware County, a suburb of Philadelphia where Republicans have historically dominated.
Seale is one of twenty-six candidates in the United States formally endorsed by the national chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). She joined Philly DSA, the Philadelphia chapter, due to its ties to the labor movement and what she saw as their shared values.
"As a candidate, I'm working full time because my family depends on my income," Seale tells The Progressive. T can't afford to take nine months off to campaign, but I'm set on proving working people can do this. If public office, even at the state legislative level, is only for the wealthy, then we're in a lot of trouble."
In 2016, Seale represented Pennsylvania's Seventh Congressional District as a labor delegate for the Bernie Sanders campaign at the Democratic National Convention. The next year she was elected with three other Democrats to her local Rose Tree Media School Board; Democrats swept all four seats in the race. If elected as state representative, Seale would be the first woman to hold the seat in a district where the population is 52 percent women.
Her platform, in a Democratic landscape that has quickly veered left, is starting to sound familiar...