In hotly contested 2008 congressional races, Democratic winners were—overwhelmingly—real progressives who campaigned and won on progressive platforms. Voters didn’t just elect Democrats, they elected progressive
The election of many new progressive Democrats to the House and Senate represents a clear mandate for progressive change. In 2006, some commentators cited the victory of Heath Shuler, D-N.C., to argue that Democrats won because they campaigned as moderates or conservatives, not progressives. That argument cannot be made in 2008.
For this report, the Campaign for America’s Future researched the issue positions of U.S. House and Senate candidates in competitive races. Needless to say, the economy was the overwhelming issue in the minds of voters. In order to compare candidates across the nation, CAF selected six major economic issues that distinguish progressives from conservatives and moderates:
- quality, affordable health care for all,
- the Employee Free Choice Act,
- progressive tax legislation similar to Obama’s (tax increase for the rich, cuts for the rest);
- a trade position that opposes NAFTA-style trade agreements,
- opposition to Social Security privatization; and
- a focus on developing clean energy sources over “drill, baby, drill.”
This report analyzes elections where Democrats won Republican seats in the U.S. House and Senate. The study focuses on those seats because they demonstrate the strong ideological shift from the outgoing 110th to the incoming 111th Congress.
To determine the ideology of Democratic and Republican candidates who are not currently members of Congress, CAF examined campaign web pages, newspaper articles, published interviews, television and radio commercials posted on the Internet, and endorsements from allied labor, health and trade organizations. Where candidates were incumbent members of Congress, CAF also researched floor votes on the issues. In this analysis, an incoming member of Congress who favors the progressive position on at least five of these six issues is considered to be a solid progressive.