Real Democrats Are Fighting Back and Landing Punches: Why Nina Turner’s Loss Feels Different for the Alt-Left


To say that Nina Turner's loss to Shontel Brown in Ohio was a surprise to the radical left is an understatement. It has now been three days - and there has been no shortage of other news, not least among them nearly a million jobs created in July - but as they say on the Internet machine, the cope has been strong on this one.

Turner's loss - who had every early advantage that anyone running for an open seat can dream of: oodles of cash, universal name recognition, massive polling leads, and the support and star-studded endorsements from the entire far-left establishment - seems to have hit the Very Online Left the hardest since Bernie Sanders's spectacular collapse on Super Tuesday during the presidential primaries last year.

There's a reason for that, and it's not simply that Turner is the highest-profile leftist to lose in a party primary since Bernie Sanders. Democratic voters have shown, in a string of primaries from Virginia to New York, and from Louisiana to Ohio, that they want pragmatists, not ideologues, to represent them on the ballot.

But Turner's loss is qualitatively different from other losses the alt-left has suffered this year. Because of the early lead she had built up, hers was the first prominent campaign backed by alt-leftists that did not have the underpinnings of an insurgent campaign. Instead, as Jason Johnson described in The Grio, their campaign was the establishment campaign in this race. And they got beaten by the insurgent campaign of Shontel Brown, who came from far, far behind just weeks ago to win on Tuesday.

That someone could come from behind and beat them seems to have caught the alt-left by a whirlwind of surprise. With the Turner-Brown race, all the David-and-Goliath pretense of the alt-left fell away. As pundits in both mainstream press and the far-left media establishment have recognized, a key issue this race turned on was the quintessential question of where Democratic voters want their candidate to be: a get-things-done partner to the Biden-Harris administration in the mold of Rep. Lauren Underwood, or a disruptor in the mold of Cori Bush and AOC who will make life more difficult for the President. It was a battle royale between Democrats who want to fight Republicans and socialists who want to fight Democrats.

The Lauren Underwood of this race, Shontel Brown, not only overcame a plethora of campaign disadvantages to win, but win convincingly, decimating the early favorite in the race by a solid 6 points. And Brown won because she did something the alt-left isn't used to: she fought back, no holds barred.

Brown and her allies exposed Nina Turner's open hostility to the Democratic party: the same hostility that had made her a darling of the far left. They reminded voters that Turner refused to close ranks behind Hillary Clinton after the primaries ended in 2016, likely smoothing the path for Donald Trump's ascension to the presidency in that year's elections. They hit the airwaves with hard-hitting ads that played a video clip of Turner presenting Joe Biden and Donald Trump as equally unsavory options, if not in scale then in taste. And they went after Turner's blatant hypocrisy of campaigning on a $15 minimum wage and universal health care after she pointedly voted "Hell NO" on the 2020 Democratic platform that included both.

Brown also amassed national allies to match the Turner campaign's early national star power. She earned endorsements from Hillary Clinton, Jim Clyburn, the Congressional Black Caucus, and more. They fought back too, urging voters to send a candidate focused on delivering, not disrupting.

This is what is causing palpitations among the alt-left: they had always fancied themselves as the disruptor warriors whom they believed voters would always side with in a fair fight. That did not happen.

Sure, a whole lot of the leftist media establishment - including the former candidate herself - are busy trying to rewrite the narrative of the race as one that wasn't a fair fight, primarily, they claim, due to "evil" Jewish money because a pro-Israel Democratic group spent some time and money educating voters on who Nina Turner really was. But whether out of frustration or disillusionment, some are starting to see the truth: Democratic voters, not the elusive "establishment," want to support their president and remain unimpressed by a message of hostility to our own side.

Briahna Joy Gray, the 2020 Bernie Sanders national press secretary who has since started a podcast with an accused sexual groomer, appeared on The Hill's Rising with two other alt-left establishment figures, Ryan Grim of The Intercept and Krystal Ball, to raise the point that given the Democratic party's dedication to beat them, perhaps the alt-left should look outside the party.

David Sirota, a one-time Twitter-attack-dog-turned-speechwriter for Bernie Sanders whom the Sanders campaign openly accused of stealing email data, made a finer point, noting that his friends on the alt-left must accept the fact that a "sizable portion" of the Democratic electorate prefers pragmatism over ideological dogmatism and that to them, being a team player is more important than blowing things up.

In other words, the Democratic base is inherently inconducive to the far left's stated goal of a "hostile takeover" by their side. It turns out that we "normie Democrats" like our party and are willing to fight for it.

It's this fight that the alt-left never expected. They fancied themselves the left counterparts to the far-right's impressive, effortless ascension within the GOP, but instead, Democrats are standing our ground, organizing, punching back, and reminding the alt-left that they are in our house.

Let's face it: pragmatists, in our despair at Trump's win in 2016 and disgust at the political process that allowed it, allowed the destructive alt-left to gain ground during the Trump years, but no more. And at that first sign of real fight, at the first sign of the reality that mainstream Democrats will not bend the knee to the people intent on destroying our party, the alt-left is starting to bolt.

Good. The more of the authoritarian alt-left that leave the party, the easier it will be to recruit to it Americans who do not live their lives on the fringes of political thought. The more the party is freed from the influence of the militant left, the better the chances that the candidates they recruited for their hostile takeover will find themselves increasingly alone, and allow real Democrats to regain our power within the progressive movement.

Because if there's one thing the alt-left can take to the bank, it's that we will not stop fighting back.

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