If there was ever a Democrat who deserves a primary challenge, it’s Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois’ 3rd District. Lucky for all of us, he’s got a great one in Marie Newman, a successful businesswoman and marketing consultant who shares the values of mainstream Democrats, which Dan Lipinski does not.
Last weekend, in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, Lipinski let slip that he opposes a $15 minimum wage. This might come as a surprise to some considering he’s been endorsed by the Chicago “machine” and the AFL-CIO, whose members voted in October to reaffirm their support for this critical policy, but it actually fits in with a long-running trend in Lipinski’s political career: figure out the right thing to do, then do the opposite.
You see, Lipinski isn’t just bad on the minimum wage, he’s bad on everything. Name an issue, and Lipinski is on the wrong side of it. He voted against the DREAM Act. He voted against Obamacare. He opposed same-sex marriage, and now that it’s legal he has co-sponsored the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow people to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals in the name of “religious liberty.” He is a fervent pro-lifer with a 100% rating from the National Right to Life committee. He voted for a national 20-week abortion ban. The president of the March for Life said recently that he has only contributed to one political candidate in his life: Lipinski. And the congressman is not just anti-choice — he’s said publicly that he believes life begins at conception, an argument that’s often used to advocate against not just abortion, but against many forms of birth control as well.
The list goes on. Lipinski’s political career shouldn’t.
Now, to be clear, I think there is a very reasonable discussion to be had about primaries in general and about the downsides of “litmus tests” specifically. And no, I don’t think every single Democratic candidate has to be on the right side of every last progressive issue on the planet in order to be an effective legislator. But Lipinski is different. He hasn’t failed a single litmus test, he has failed virtually all of the litmus tests.
Perhaps in the future, rather than asking what issues potential Democratic candidates disagree with the party on, we should instead ask them whether or not they actually agree with us on anything, and if so, what? Then we can decide if one or two small areas of agreement merit a grotesque capitulation on our most basic values. We can call it the “Lipinski Litmus” for short.
In the meantime, when a candidate is on the wrong side of basically every important progressive issue, as Dan Lipinski is, we have a shared responsibility to defeat them. Yes, EMILY’s List, the AFL-CIO, and the DCCC, I am talking to you.
Despite Lipinski’s appalling record, he isn’t (yet) a target of the establishment. It’s baffling that Lipinski is so pro-life that he was invited to speak at this year’s March for Life in Washington, yet somehow EMILY’s List, an organization whose entire purpose is to elect pro-choice women, has not endorsed his female, pro-choice primary challenger. The AFL-CIO has made the fight for $15 a central political goal of their organization, but they continue to support Lipinski despite his opposition to this critical policy. And the DCCC? Well, that one is less surprising as they seem to care only if a candidate is willing to put a small ‘d’ by their name, but it’s still disappointing.
It’s sort of telling that the moment when Democrats have less political power than they’ve ever had in the last 50 years coincides with the time our largest and oldest organizations are so terrified of rocking the boat that they happily give a candidate like Lipinski a pass. Perhaps these things are related.
And to all the nervous Dems who are worried that a primary fight could cost us the seat, relax. In this suburban Chicago district, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 15 points in the general election, and Bernie Sanders beat Hillary by 8 points in the primary. There is no credible Republican threat in this district — whoever wins the primary wins the seat.
And by the way, should private citizen Lipinski keep on being a Democrat? Sure. But people like Lipinski can no longer continue to lead the Democrats as elected officials. In case you haven’t noticed, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell control the government. Now is not the time to back someone who “couples his conservative politics with an abrasive personality,” particularly not one whose political ‘talent’ consists entirely of riding his daddy’s coattails into office.
The Illinois primary is on March 20. That give us about six weeks to elect someone who deserves to represent the values of the Democratic party and the people of Illinois’ 3rd District.
Let’s take this safe seat and make sure the right person is sitting in it. We’re going to need her in the fight ahead.