The Rise of the American Left and Nina Turner: What Her Win Would Mean

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By Quentin Choy

July 27, 2021

If you’ve paid any attention to American politics over the last five years, you’ve noticed several upstarts on the political left.

An unknown Senator from Vermont almost defeated Hillary Clinton and the Democratic machine in the 2016 primaries.

A young bartender in the Bronx defeated a 10-term Congressman. Over in the north Bronx, a high school principal defeated the chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee just two years later.

The political left has slowly but steadily accumulated power in Congress but has often been too afraid to utilize it. Politicians like Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (AOC) and Bernie Sanders have become synonymous with “the left.”

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) joining Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in support of the Green New Deal.

In Ohio, a special election could see the victory of Nina Turner, a successor of Bernie Sanders.

The Left in the Wilderness

Following Bernie Sanders failure to win the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, the American left wandered in the wilderness until 2018.

Donald Trump’s first two years in office forced many leftists out of their daily lives and onto the campaign trail. Trump’s victory fueled the campaign of many left-wing candidates wanting to counter Republican power in government.

These leftists viewed Hillary Clinton’s loss on her campaign and the type of hollow politics she represented. Believing the modern Democratic Party failed to sufficiently represent workers and issues of the working-class, organizers created groups like Our Revolution and Justice Democrats.

These groups were meant to carry on the policy goals of the Bernie Sanders left and to push the Democratic Party from the left by defeating establishment Democrats in primary elections. The organizations focused on policies like Medicare For All and a $15 minimum wage.

The fractured left sought to push the Democrats to the left and to adopt some of Bernie Sanders’ policies.

They also sought to win on small-dollar donations from supporters rather than behind beholden to corporations and PACs.

A Rise to Power, But a Hesitation to Act

Some of the first representatives elected from these organizations were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley.

Wanting to coexist with the mainstream Democratic Party, newly-elected leftists hesitated to utilize their power and to openly engage against establishment Democrats in the House.

Some of the leftist representatives elected in 2018 became known as the “Squad.”

They described the new feeling of being in Washington D.C., and the right pounced on them as political bogeymen.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described the struggle in making rent for her apartment that representatives lived in. The right attacked her as a simple bartender who ended up in Congress.

Many characterized Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as Bernie Sanders’ heir in the House of Representatives.

Rashida Tlaib was criticized by conservatives for saying that she would “impeach the motherfucker” once she was in Congress. The right has also criticized her support for Palestinian rights.

Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Ilhan Omar received criticism for wearing a headscarf and for being a Somali refugee who seemed “ungrateful” for criticizing the United States, fueling racist remarks and death threats toward her. In 2019, Trump targeted Omar specifically, with the crow chanting “send her back,” referring to her past in Somalia.

Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

After receiving attacks from the right and feeling small and out of place, the first wave of leftists were hesitant to use their power, especially against their own party who had just elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.

The Leftist Block Expands

In 2020, the leftist block in Congress grew with the election of Jamaal Bowman in New York and of Cori Bush in Missouri.

Bowman was a former middle school principal and fought hard to defeat an incumbent amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He ran against Eliot Engel, the chair of the Foreign Affairs committee.

Eliot Engel (D-NY) lost to Jamaal Bowman.

Engel received endorsements from Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Hillary Clinton, the most high-profile symbols of the Democratic establishment.

“From the very beginning, we anchored our campaign in the fight for racial and economic justice. We spoke the truth – about the police, about systemic racism, about inequality – and it resonated in every part of the district. We brought people together across race, across class, across religion, across gender, to fight for justice, to fight for equality, and to fight to create a country that works for all of us. We didn’t let them divide us. And we did it all without accepting a dime from corporate Pacs or lobbyists”

Jamaal Bowman during his victory
Jamaal Bowman (D-NY).

His win, like AOC’s sparked new life into the political left. A political upset like this hadn’t occurred since AOC’s win. In the same election year, Cori Bush won in Missouri.

She marched the streets of Missouri in Black Lives Matter protests and was even homeless during her life before her electoral win.

Cori Bush (D-MO).

She believed that her experiences with poverty and police brutality made her more relatable to her voters.

Leftists already existed in Congress before the election of the “Squad,” Cori Bush, and Jamaal Bowman. Pramila Jayapal represented Washington, and Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna represented California.

The “Squad” in unison with other leftists in Congress held power, but were still afraid to use it, especially following Joe Biden’s win.

How could they sink the legislative goals of a Democratic president? Would their opposition to Biden and his party end up helping Republicans? What issues were worth fighting for?

The left held a loaded gun, but were terribly afraid to shoot.

Enter Nina Turner

Nina Turner served as an Ohio State Senator until 2014. In 2016, she supported Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton and was even offered the vice presidential position by Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

She worked with Our Revolution to continue pushing Bernie Sanders’ policy goals.

Nina Turner (D-OH).

In 2020, she was the co-chair of the Bernie Sanders campaign, representing the campaign across the country and on cable news. She was fierce, unapologetic, and committed to the left and its goals for working-class people.

To understand Nina Turner’s fierceness, take a look at this video of her explanation of Bernie Sanders’ history.

In 2020, Turner came under fire for her comparison of Joe Biden to Donald Trump and picking the lesser of two evils, neither of which would represent working-class people.

“It’s like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.'”

Nina Turner on the 2020 election

Many voters viewed her statement as common sense, but much of cable news on the political world melted down over such a vulgar comparison. Perhaps the hated the truth in it even more than the vulgarity.

In 2021, following Biden’s pick of Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ohio’s 11th district was now open for a special election to succeed her.

Marcia Fudge being sworn in by VP Kamala Harris.

Nina Turner announced her candidacy, and her challenger is Shontel Brown, the Chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.

What Makes Nina Turner Different?

By now, you might be wondering what Nina Turner possesses that elected leftists do not. While she likely shares similar views on social issues like currently-elected leftists, Turner doesn’t focus on them.

Some representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became entrenched in culture war issues, losing sight of the working-class goals.

Nina Turner is a fighter, while many elected-leftists are not. Turner would unite the left into a solid coalition and would inspire those already elected to represent the working-class goals they ran on.

She would help them use their power as a block to fight for their goals, especially against fellow Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.

Her fighter personality is what the left needs at this critical stage of their political existence. If the left coalition fails to deliver, they might not be trusted by voters again.

The left has power, and they hold a loaded gun. They tremble, and they shake, terrified to fire the shot which leads to all-out warfare.

Nina Turner would help them pull the trigger.

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21 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Jill,

    I can see why there can be disagreement in the direction the Democratic Party ought to go in. The Democratic coalition is broad, and I think some sections of it should be removed or deprioritized to broaden the democratic message to more voters. If you wouldn’t mind sharing, what direction do you think the party should go in? Or what do you think is worth infighting?

    I’m genuinely interested to hear what you think. I’m also glad that you find my post to be informative. For many, it seems that the left suddenly rose out of nowhere, and I thought it was important to share the causes of their wins and what motivated them.

    I think that while unity is important, Democrats should unify around the best possible policy goals that can appeal to broad coalitions. I do think that a little infighting however is good for either party in helping them figure out what their party prioritizes and is worth fighting for.

    Can’t wait to hear back,

    1. I think I’m looking at it from more of a standpoint of next years’ mid-term elections, plus the 2024 presidential election. Now, I admit that it shouldn’t always be about looking toward the elections, but at this point, the Democrats are in a tough spot. The media and the Republicans seem to take great joy in focusing on any discord in the Democratic Party. The Republicans only need to flip net one seat in the Senate and net 5 seats in the House to retake a majority in both chambers. At this point, they are likely to do just that, and then all bets are off.

      Now, as of today, the Senate is the biggest bone of contention and the filibuster MUST GO, else nothing will be accomplished for the next two, maybe four years. The most crucial piece of legislation, in my view, is the For the People Act which would not only keep states from infringing on voting rights, but would eliminate gerrymandering, ensure fair non-partisan election oversight, and more. But it is DOA unless we kill the filibuster. So … when Democrats engage in in-fighting, they are defeating their own purpose in the short term. They may make strides long-term, but today we are literally in a battle for the future of this nation, and I don’t think this is the time to be ‘pulling the trigger’ on our own side.

      I will admit that the Democratic Party, just like the Republican Party, has grown mouldy and needs an overhaul, needs more vision. I just don’t think the time to fight that battle is now, for we are fighting a huge battle as it is, and we need all hands on deck. Donald Trump has far too much influence both among GOP leaders and among the voters, and somehow we must resign him to the annals of history before he gets a chance to finish the destruction he started. I don’t think we can do that as a splintered party. Does any of this make sense? Your ideas are great, but … I just think perhaps they should be put on hold until we stabilize the political dynamics.

      And now, I must think about getting some sleep! I will be reposting this post tomorrow afternoon … I already have it set up, I’m just not sure of the timing yet, but likely 3:00 p.m.

      1. Jill,

        You make a great point in bringing up the tenuous grasp that Democrats have on power within Congress. I too would like to see Donald Trump blocked from returning to power, and I think that a strong message and policies from Democrats can help do that. I’m thinking about what you said about now not being a good time for infighting, and I agree with the slim majority that Democrats have in my mind now.

        However, at some point, a battle over policy within the party will have to take place, and that timing will never be a convenient one. I hope that Democrats can realign their policy goals quickly to persuade the American people. I also think that the filibuster must go and that the For the People act is of utmost importance. While the midterms are still a bit out, I think that the infighting should start directly after those elections, no matter what the result.

        I hope that “infighting” is also too much of an overstatement and that simple debates and discussions over where Democrats should stand on issues would take its place.

        Enjoy your rest, and I’ll talk to you in the morning!

      2. Exactly! Hopefully we can get on more solid ground by actually picking up a few seats next year, and then it’s time for some serious discussion within the Democratic Party, maybe some adjustments, not of ideology so much as of how to accomplish what needs to be done. Perhaps ‘infighting’ is to strong a word, but then … you were talking about ‘pulling the trigger’, so I was only following suit! 😉

      3. Jill,

        Some adjustments are much needed! What are your thoughts on breaking up the two-party system and multiple parties (somehow) becoming more mainstream?


      4. Short answer is I have long advocated for a true multi-party system, for as you say, our current system leaves few options … it’s either ‘them’ or ‘us’. It may surprise you to know that I am not a Democrat, but rather an Independent. I have considered registering as a Democrat, for their ideology is closely aligned with my own, but frankly the reason I haven’t done so is that I do not wish to be inundated with calls, texts, and emails … I already get enough of that! But to your question, yes, it is long overdue, but … don’t hold your breath there, for I think both parties would fight it tooth and nail.

      5. Jill,

        I too am registered as Independent but lean toward voting for Democrats. The reason I remain independent even though I usually vote for Democrats is that the party doesn’t represent many of the views I hold. Very few Americans can say that the parties align with all of their views. This is good, as parties should form around the opinions of the people rather than the other way around.

        If more parties were introduced which represented people more closely, faith in the Democratic process would skyrocket as people would actually feel that their priorities and opinions are finally being represented.


      6. You are so right … no party will ever align precisely with every one of out views, but overall I see the Democratic Party as being for the people, helping people, the environment, and international cooperation, humanitarianism. On the flip side, I see the GOP as being pro big-business and wealth, as being willing to sacrifice the average Joe to help increase the profit of the 1%, even if it destroys the planet for future generations.

        At one time, I had hopes for the Green Party to become a viable third party, but they were a bit too radical for most people, and they rather lost their sense of direction. I do believe there is room for at least one other party, and I wouldn’t mind having two more … but the current FEC rules make it almost impossible for a third-party candidate to even place, let alone win, so that would have to be changed before another party would stand a chance.

      7. Absolutely the archaic filibuster MUST GO. But, more than that, the rank (emphasis on the rank!) and file GQP Republicans must be voted OUT. Only then can real progress be made.

      8. I agree with you wholeheartedly, but HOW do we make it happen??? HOW do we convince the people who are high on the Kool Aid to open their eyes and look around, listen to the facts? Sigh. I’m about to give up on the human species!

      9. To Jill and Quentin,
        Put aside your differences and work together to get rid of the filibuster, and pass the For the People Act. Surely no Democrat is resistant to getting those things accomplished.
        But having said that, and you, Jill, already know how I feel here, get dynamic. Fight against racism and fight for the workers at the same time. But fight, and show the American voters you are willing to fight FOR THEM, whatever their main issues are. A good political party listens to the electorate. A GREAT political party fights for what is important to everyone not just the political elite.
        I am Canadian, Quentin, so an outsider to the inner workings of American politics, but it is obvious to me neither party serves the needs of the middle and working classes, and no one at all cares about the poor and destitute beyond uttering platitudes, full of sound and fury, accomplishing nothing. SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE. And the part of the Democratic Party represented by Biden is NOT up to that job.
        You use the word fight, Q, but I prefer the word “dynamism,” because it sounds like dynamite without actually making too many people think you want to blow the whole system up. I doubt anyone wants that, except me, but serious change is needed.
        And, Q, you ask J what she thinks of a multi-party system. What I think is it’s an absolute necessity. To have only two options creates the division Trump brought to light. If you aren’t with me, you are against me. Black and white thinking, if you will allow the ugly metaphor. There are a million shades of gray, and at least some of those need to be offered to the voting public, not to mention something like true communism which in America is so black it becomes colourless in comparison to Democrats and Republicans. Also a Green Party of some kind. No, don’t go overboard like Italy and some other democracies, but do give others a chance to represent the populace.
        My vote does not count, but I lean towards Q’s position. Get things done, but don’t be bullyish. People everywhere are sick of bullies. Be nice, but get it done!

      10. rawgod,

        Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I appreciate your perspective especially as a Canadian. One of my favorite political commentators, David Doel shares a similar outside Canadian role in observing U.S. politics.

        I like the word “dynamism” that you suggested, and I hope to use it in future pieces on politics.

        I think that you’re right to support a more multi-party system in the U.S. since a black and white, us versus them dynamic is created under the two-party system.

        I agree that parties should grow, but not into too many parties like the example of Italy that you used.

        The two parties do not fight for the working classes, and I love that you brought up that a political party must win votes by proving that it can actually fight for working people, not just the political elite.

        Sincerest welcome to my blog!

  2. I’m not sure I’m 100% in agreement with you on ‘pulling the trigger’, for I tend to think that in today’s highly divisive climate, the best thing the Democrats can do is pull together, even if it sometimes means compromise, or biting the tongue. There is time later for the differing ideologies. BUT … I admit that you may have a good point, that perhaps it is time to stir the pot a bit and fight fire with fire. As long as the left never loses sight of the ultimate goal: the best interests of the people. And as long as the left never stoops to the level of the right, engaging in lies and conspiracy theories. I’ve learned quite a bit from this post! And, you’ve given me much food for thought. Interestingly, I received email from Bernie Sanders’ coalition today asking me to donate to Nina Turner’s campaign! Timely! Thanks for a very thought-provoking post, Quentin!

    1. P.S. I shall reblog either later tonight or tomorrow afternoon! Tomorrow morning is, as always, reserved for my Wednesday ‘good people’ post!

      1. Jill, thanks for reposting this! I look forward to reading your good person post tomorrow. I genuinely enjoy them.

        Thanks again!

      2. Just by the way, Nina Turner sounds like the kind of person I am looking for to be dynamic. This is what the Democratic Party needs, esomeone who is willing to scream.

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