First, a Frank Bruni piece on New York's 19th Congressional District, which covers the Hudson Valley between the NYC suburbs and Albany. Democratic insiders think they could have won this district in 2016 if primary voters had not gone for a progressive outsider, Manhattan transplant Zephyr Teachout. Those primary voters didn't care that Teachout had no real roots in the district and no knowledge of local issues, just that she was the most passionately progressive candidate. But general elections voters did care, and she lost badly in this swing district. The same party insiders tell Bruni that the district should be winnable in the 2018 midterms, so long as primary voters don't go for another left-wing outsider.
The second piece has a nationwide perspective and draws a contrast between Bernie Sanders and John Ossoff, the Democrat running in the special election in the Atlanta suburbs. Ossoff has decided that to win in Georgia he has to come across as a moderate, and he has mostly stayed away from Sanders-style rhetoric and refrained from attacking the president by name.
It's the old story of two-party politics in America: the energy and passion are on the left and the right, but elections are won in the center. In the long run this is true even in single-party states, as the situation in Kansas reminds us: true-believing conservatives have been outvoted and outmaneuvered by centrists, leading to a dramatic reversal of the governor's signature tax cuts.
The real political masters – FDR, Reagan – sense how far the electorate will let them go and stay within those limits. Right now Democrats are divided precisely about the assessment of the national mood. Many on the left follow Bernie Sanders in believing that Hillary lost because she was not progressive enough, and that to win Democrats need candidates fully committed to national health care and higher taxes on the rich. Others, like Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, say things like
We are going to lose every possible winnable seat, in a year where there are many winnable seats, if we come across as inflexible left-wingers. I respect Bernie — I just don’t think we can become the party of Bernie.A lot will depend on who is right.