Left Targets Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware as Democrats Continue Lurch Toward Socialism

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., asks a question of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen as she testifies to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The socialist left has a new target inside the Democrat Party: Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), whose September primary may offer yet another systemic shock to the Democrat Party’s already fragile establishment.

The stakes are high for a party that has been out of power completely for two years now, with Democrats on the other side of Capitol Hill seeking to retake control of the House of Representatives while Democrats in the Senate hope for less of a drubbing than the map of many red states with incumbent Democrats up for re-election would normally have in store for them.

If Carper goes down in September, it would electrify the leftist base of the Democrat Party against the establishment, perhaps even more so than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning victory over House Democratic Leadership member Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) in a primary in New York this year. Crowley’s loss was catastrophic to the establishment wing of the Democrat Party: He was seen by many as a potential successor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, meaning his loss brought the resistance-to-Trump socialist-fueled left up close to the top House Democrat.

A loss by Carper in Delaware would have much the same effect–if not a bigger one–as Crowley’s loss in New York. First off, it would send the same signal to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that there is public dissatisfaction with his conference’s way of doing business that Crowley’s loss sent to Pelosi on the House side.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this is a U.S. Senate seat; House seats are a dime a dozen, and there are 435 of them across the country. When it comes to the U.S. Senate, there are just 100 of them, and each one is precious to the Party from which a senator hails–and each one carries with it enormous power.

Republicans have little-to-no-chance of swooping into Delaware and taking the coveted U.S. Senate seat away from the Democrats, so general election concerns are not a factor here, at least not for the Delaware contest. But yet another Democrat Party lurch to the left, away from the middle of American politics, could send Democrats into a tailspin nationally, if the populist and socialist tendencies of base-driven candidates are not checked at the borders of their coastal districts and states.

After Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York, socialists she backed have taken several other primary victories. In Michigan, openly socialist Rashida Tlaib won the Democrat primary for the 13th Congressional District. Assuming she wins in November, Tlaib would be one of the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. The other would be Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, who succeeded hard leftist Keith Ellison for the Democrat nomination for Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District when Ellison won the Democrat nomination for Minnesota’s attorney general position. Omar won her race in large part due to backing from Ocasio-Cortez.

Carper, a three-term senator who is 71 years old, has been in elected office nearly his entire adult life–since the late 1970s. First, he served as Treasurer of Delaware. Then he served five terms as Delaware’s U.S. representative in the House. After that, he served eight years as governor of Delaware, until 2001 when he was first elected to his now-three terms in the U.S. Senate.

Carper faces a challenge from the left in the Thursday, September 6, primary, as biracial lesbian and also openly socialist Air Force veteran Kerri Evelyn Harris surges behind him more than a month out, with enormous support from the left’s grassroots and national energy–including the same forces that aligned behind Ocasio-Cortez in her victory–pouring into the tiny mid-Atlantic state from across the country.

There is scant polling on the race, and turnout is expected to be low. But leftists are flooding Delaware now in an effort to unseat Carper–and unleashing upon him much the same playbook that Ocasio-Cortez used to unseat Crowley.

Ocasio-Cortez herself has already, back before she defeated Crowley, pumped up Harris’s candidacy in Delaware:

And Justice Democrats, the organization that The Intercept’s Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald say was critical to Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, is “preparing to throw its full weight behind Harris.” They write.

In Grim and Greenwald’s jointly bylined post-Ocasio-Cortez victory piece on Harris’s campaign, they note that Carper was one of a handful of U.S. Senate Democrats to vote during the George W. Bush administration to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh as an appellate judge. Kavanaugh was nominated by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court–and the left and Democrats intend to attempt to derail his nomination during the confirmation process.

The hard left of the Democrat Party, this new rising socialist wing, still holds a grudge against Carper for voting for Kavanaugh during his Bush administration judicial confirmation. They see it as a form of legitimizing Kavanaugh and view it as one of Carper’s many sins against socialism.

“In the final Senate vote on Kavanaugh’s 2006 confirmation, every Democratic senator voted against him except for four — three of them from deep red states (Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson, and West Virginia’s Robert Byrd),” Grim and Greenwald write in The Intercept on Carper’s apostasy. “But the fourth Democratic vote for Kavanaugh came from a senator from a deeply blue state: Delaware’s Tom Carper. Carper is the only Democrat still in the U.S. Senate who voted to confirm Kavanaugh in 2006; all the others voted against.”

They quote Carper himself, who provided a statement, explaining how he would not–if offered the choice again–vote for Kavanaugh.

“If I had known 12 years ago how Judge Kavanaugh would have ruled on any number of issues, including health care and the environment, I never would have voted for him in 2006,” Carper said, per The Intercept. “I have no intention of voting for him now.”

Carper said after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, though, that he would back no nominee for the Supreme Court until after the midterm elections–a Democrat Party line position inspired by the left.

Grim and Greenwald write:

Carper’s 2006 vote is particularly relevant now, as the three-term Democrat incumbent faces a primary challenge from Kerri Evelyn Harris, a U.S. Air Force veteran and community organizer whose campaign is based on the argument that Carper has served the corporate and militarized interests that have funded his campaigns over the people of Delaware.

They add that “she would be a more progressive, less militaristic, and less corporatist senator than Carper.”

The Intercept piece notes that Carper is “broadly in line with the party on social policy and on issues such as environmental protection,” and despite “his support for some Trump nominees, Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has gone to war against this administration’s environmental policy and has been out front in opposing Environmental Protection Agency boss Scott Pruitt, who Carper helped force out, and several of his cronies” and that Carper’s “good relations with Republicans, combined with his aggressive opposition to some nominees, helped sink a number of Trump appointments.” It also notes that traditional left-wing groups like the “Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Delaware AFL-CIO, Delaware Laborers, Delaware State Education Association, Delaware Stonewall political action committee, and the state Democratic Party” are all backing his re-election bid against Harris.

“But the question for Delaware Democrats will come down to whether that is good enough in an era defined by fierce resistance and a concern that big money has rendered the party unable to champion the working class,” Grim and Greenwald write.

The Intercept duo does believe it is still a long shot for Harris to unseat Carper.

“Even with the clear momentum anti-establishment candidates now have in the Democratic Party, Harris remains a long shot to unseat an incumbent entrenched as deeply and for as long as Carper is. But few believed Ocasio-Cortez had any real chance of winning either — until she won by 12 points,” they write.

But the line of attack Harris has on Carper is clear: In addition to the Kavanaugh cave during the Bush administration, leftists plan to zone in on other examples of Carper buckling to the right including agreeing with the Bush White House’s narrative on Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein.

Grim and Greenwald write on that matter:

In 2002, Carper was one of 29 Democrats to vote to authorize Bush to invade Iraq. On October 11, 2002, Carper went to the Senate floor in order, he said, “to express my support for our nation’s effort to address the threat Saddam Hussein poses,” arguing: “We cannot afford to engage in a high-stakes gamble of betting that this brutal dictator can be deterred from using these most lethal weapons.” Carper threatened, “If Saddam Hussein’s regime is unwilling to accept this level of intrusion, both he and Iraq must be prepared to accept the consequences, including the likelihood of a war they will lose.” He then proudly issued a press release touting his support.

Carper ended his speech by proclaiming: “Stripping Saddam Hussein, once and for all, of the weapons that would enable him to create havoc and great loss of life is a just cause.” As the invasion he supported was about to start, he said, “I wish Saddam Hussein chose another course — given up his weapons of mass destruction or sought exile. But the die has been cast.”

They argue that Carper’s backing of war was “by no means aberrational” and point to his support of President Trump’s decision to strike Syria in the wake of dictator Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons.

“I am pleased the president appears to have had a change of heart regarding his views toward the Assad regime,” Carper said of Trump’s decision to attack the Syrian regime as called out by The Intercept writers, adding of Trump’s call, “I believe the administration’s measured response was appropriate.”

And it is not just war, or just a handful of times, where Carper has angered the leftist base of his Party, as Grim and Greenwald note:

In 2006, a bill sponsored by some of the Senate’s most right-wing members — including Jeff Sessions and Tom Coburn — sought to declare English the official language of the United States. While the vast majority of the Democratic caucus voted against the bill, it attracted the support of only a handful of red-state Democrats — again with the exception of Carper, who joined the GOP majority in supporting it. In a state where major pharmaceutical companies are dominant, Carper has consistently opposed allowing patients to purchase cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.

The Delaware senator’s support for reactionary policies has extended — indeed, in some cases, accelerated — during the Trump presidency. When Trump nominated as secretary of homeland security his current White House chief of staff, John Kelly — who has proven to be one of the most extreme Trump loyalists when it comes to his racially inflammatory language and actions surrounding immigration — Carper heralded him as “a man of steady leadership,” showering him with praise: “I sincerely congratulate my friend General Kelly on his selection.”

What will happen in Delaware remains to be seen, but, again, if the socialist insurgency against the Democrat Party establishment is able to take a Senate seat and not just a handful of House seats, it could mean this leftist movement sweeping the Democrat Party is finally ready for prime time.


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