Schneider vs. Sheyman lessons: Left loses, everybody’s ‘progressive,’ etc.


In the northern suburbs of Chicago, Brad Schneider triumphed over Ilya Sheyman to get the Democrats’ congressional nomination by a handy margin. Schneider will now face Republican incumbent Rep. Robert Dold in November.

What can we learn from this the outcome of this Jew vs. Jew race? Here are a few takeaways:

1) LEFT’S LOSS: We saw that suburban Chicago Democrats apparently weren’t looking to nominate a candidate to carry the banner of the Democratic Party’s left wing. (Or perhaps they were hesitant to nominate a 25-year-old as their standard bearer?) National progressive groups like MoveOn and progressive icons like Russ Feingold and Howard Dean rallied around Ilya Sheyman. Politico called Sheyman’s loss “a crushing blow to the organized professional left, which poured substantial resources into the primary, making it a national priority for the movement.”


2) EVERYBODY’S ‘PROGRESSIVE’:  The word “progressive” has wide appeal for Democrats. Self-described “progressive” groups — such as Feingold’s Progressives United, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (i.e., the Democratic Party’s left) — were firmly in Sheyman’s camp, but that didn’t stop the more centrist Schneider from embracing the p-word as well. This gets to the messy question of what exactly “progressive” means today. It has replaced “liberal” as the preferred term for those on the left. But some in the Democratic center have embraced the word as well. Remember that the Progressive Policy Institute was associated with the (now-defunct) centrist Democratic Leadership Council. Both varieties of Democrat have fled the word “liberal,” the left will probably be the side to ultimately inherit the word “progressive” – since this camp embraces it with greater vigor — though for now it remains a murky term (and thus poses problems for journalists looking for solid shorthand). For now, in Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, the self-identified “progressive” with the Democratic nomination is the guy who was opposed by the self-identified “progressive” groups.

3) GIVING FORGIVEN?: We learned that Democratic voters are willing to forgive a candidate who has donated to Republican politicians. Schneider’s giving to a handful of GOP elected officials — including some abortion opponents — became the major sparring point between the two candidates toward the end of the race. Sheyman and his supporters said it called into question Schneider’s Democratic bona fides, while Schneider noted it was only a small portion of his political giving and said it was intended to further the U.S.-Israel relationship. In a hyper-artisan atmosphere, it seemed like the issue could have been a black eye for Schneider, but in the end he emerged triumphant. . (Not wholly surprising given the number of bona fide former Republicans — Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Jim Webb, etc. — who Democrats have embraced.)

4) POLLS SHMOLLS: We learned that polls should be taken with a grain of salt. Multiple polls commissioned by groups supporting Sheyman turned out to be way off. A poll by Public Policy Polling right before the election showed Sheyman leading Schneider by 11 percentage points; he ended up losing by eight points. Public Policy Polling called it “one of our worst misses ever.”

5) PEACE NOW: Even toughly fought primaries can give way to common cause. For all his previous barbs at Schneider, Sheyman offered his concession and said: “Brad has run a spirited campaign over these past 12 months, and will need all our help to defeat Congressman Dold in November. I’ll stand strongly behind him to take back the 10th Congressional District for the Democrats for the first time in 32 years.”

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