Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) is a longstanding member of the Democrat establishment, having first won his congressional seat back in 1988.
But the fact that Engel has been in office for more than three decades is among the reasons the progressive wing of his party is targeting him for a primary defeat, Politico reports.
Looking for a win
Thus far, the new progressives in the Democratic Party have not been very successful in ousting old-guard party leaders.
While the so-called “Squad” gets a lot of press, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and company lack a lengthy record when it comes to successfully challenging incumbents to put a new breed of Democrat into office.
When Ocasio-Cortez defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Cowley in 2018, it was a monster upset and represented what many believed was a sign of things to come, but whether due to the Squad’s extreme policy positions or existing loyalty to other incumbents, hers has been the only such notable victory for these new progressives, who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) in this year’s Democrat presidential primary.
Targeting Engel’s re-election bid is now seen by some as a sort of a last-ditch effort by the progressives to simply get a win for their movement.
According to Politico, Andom Ghebreghiorgis, a progressive candidate who has already dropped out of the race for Engel’s seat, stated, “People are investing a lot emotionally in this race because they see it as a down-ballot race where the policies of a Bernie, for example, which weren’t able to achieve victory on a national level, can at least be achieved on a congressional level.”
Engel’s last stand?
The fight against Engel will not be an easy win, and even if the far left’s candidate of choice, Jamaal Bowman, defeats the incumbent, there is still the worry in the party that it may open the door for a Republican to steal the seat in the general election.
One thing that Bowman does have going for him, though, relates to the recent unrest caused by the death of George Floyd.
According to CBS News, Engel was caught on a hot mic, essentially expressing that he was only concerned about the outrage of protestors because he was involved in a primary race.
Republicans have long accused Democrats of using minorities as a prop every four years to garner votes, and unless Engel’s quote has been grossly misinterpreted, it sure sounds like that is the case here.
More importantly, at least for today’s progressive Democrats, Engel may have established the fact that he is no longer the man to represent the people of New York.