Sen. Ed Markey, D-MA, defeated his opponent, Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-9th District, in the Democratic primary race for senator of Massachusetts on Tuesday. This particular election has received much attention from the media over the last couple months, perhaps in part due to the rather famous last name of Markey’s opponent.
In the end, the family name was not enough, and he lost the race to Markey, who garnered 55.4% of the vote.
While the victory should be celebrated, as Markey is a longtime, reliable proponent of many progressive policies, one should also look at this race from a different, more critical angle. This victory represents a shift in the Democratic party and also makes a statement about establishment Democratic leaders: their ideas are out of touch with many Democratic voters, particularly young voters.
Leading up to the race, both Markey and Kennedy received a number of endorsements from various Democrats, both moderates and progressives. Yet despite Markey’s fifty year tenure in office, as well as a record of supporting leftist policies such as Medicare For All, he was abandoned by many prominent Democrats.
Just a few weeks ago, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi endorsed Kennedy instead of Markey, a decision that caused a good deal of shock online. Given Pelosi’s opinion on progressive policies such as Markey’s signature idea, the Green New Deal, this is not particularly surprising.
This is not to say Kennedy is a reliable moderate. In fact, he has advocated for ideas such as Medicare For All. However, his record is still lacking in comparison to Markey’s, as the latter has a demonstrable history of supporting these policies in Congress, while Kennedy doesn't.
When it came down to the wire, a number of Democrats either backed Kennedy or stayed quiet. This shows just how out of touch establishment Democrats like Pelosi are when it comes to the shift in American opinion toward such left-leaning policies.
Even more shocking than this endorsement, perhaps, was the lack of an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, whose Medicare For All Act of 2017 was co-sponsored by Markey. The fact that even Sanders stayed silent for this race not only shows the influence of nepotism and familial influence on politics but also shows even our most progressive politicians may be dragging slightly behind.
There are a few prominent Democrats who did endorse Markey, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This particular endorsement is notable because Ocasio-Cortez is popular among young people, making it possible that her influence over the youth vote may have helped Markey defeat Kennedy.
Indeed, the future of the Democratic party rests on the shoulders of young people, many of whom took an interest in Markey’s campaign, especially online. Democrats ought to consider elections like these closely, learning from them and understanding why it is that young people gravitate toward politicians like Markey.
If they do this, they will begin to understand a truth that has become more and more clear as the years have gone by. In order to persuade young voters to the polls, Democrats have to accept the shift toward leftist ideas young voters support so strongly. Perhaps Democrats will even realize that in order to win such intense support from the youth, they will have to purify their own campaign finance methods and absolve themselves from the interests behind dark money.
Students and other young people should take the election of Markey as both a good sign and a warning. For one, it proves Democratic party values are shifting toward progressivism, and the youth vote does have influence on political races. It also proves establishment Democrats, many of whom abandoned Markey in his time of need, are out of touch when it comes to these ideas.
In the future, we need to make sure to get as involved as we can in races such as these. Though they may seem unimportant when compared to the presidency, senators and representatives play an incredibly vital role in our democracy. In helping to get progressive politicians in these offices, we can ensure a brighter future for our generation.