PA’s special election polls closed in Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district on Tuesday, March 13th; frontrunners Rick Saccone and Conor Lamb stood neck-and-neck. For hours the votes were too close to call: polls zigzagged back and forth, the advantage swinging like a pendulum.
When it was announced next day that Democrat Conor Lamb had won by a mere 579 votes, America was shocked. Trump had won the district by 20 points in 2016, and the fact that a Democrat was able to pull off such a radical upset had been considered impossible by critics across the country. Lamb’s strategy is now being considered a “blueprint” for Democrats trying to win back seats this November.
However, there is one key detail that many are overlooking: Conor Lamb does not stand for many Democratic ideals. While he supports affordable healthcare, social security and eliminating student debt, he also supports Trump’s tariffs and opposes abortion (although he accepts the Supreme Court ruling that it is a right), Nancy Pelosi, and gun control.
The fact that a politician like Lamb can run under the title of “democrat” and even be backed by Joe Kennedy III and Joe Biden serves as the canary in the coal mine of the Democratic Party. Politicians are becoming so desperate for congressional seats that they are willing to overlook the party’s most elementary moral values.
Democrats across the country are beginning to see compromise as the only path towards victory.
This is not to say that Democrats in Pennsylvania’s 18th district should have supported Rick Saccone or Libertarian Drew Miller. All candidates had at certain Republican values, and for those trying to vote for Democratic ideals, Conor Lamb was certainly the best choice. Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are wrong to claim him as a “Republican-lite” because at the end of the day he is a Democrat; another speck of blue in an overwhelmingly red state map. But if we simply label Lamb’s win as a success for Democrats without looking closely at what he supports, we overlook the true significance of this special election.
Many have argued that this race doesn’t matter at all. Because of the current gerrymandering and redistricting battle in Pennsylvania courts, the 18th district will most likely not exist this time next year. Lamb will be in office for a short nine months before the 2018 midterms, having no real effect on the red-to-blue ratio in the House of Representatives.
But in reality, this race goes far beyond Pennsylvania. It marks a turning point in American politics. Over the next nine months, it will be used by skeptics and advocates alike to prove how Democrats can overturn Republican seats this November. If Democrats running in November really do use Lamb’s success as a model for their own campaign, choosing compliance in order to please voters, the meaning of the word “Democrat” is bound to change completely.
The Democratic party has to remain vigilant in regards social justice issues. Because if they abandon their moral values in order to gain seats in Congress, those issues will be left in the dust. There will be no party fighting for the right to choose, LGBTQ+ rights, reasonable gun control, immigrants, people of color, and a slew of other civil rights issues that act as the foundation of our country.
Over the last several years, the US has been changing drastically. Politics have turned from rational to rash and unpredictable; our country grows more and more polarized everyday. And now more than ever, we are obligated to maintain our core values. It is not the time to be submissive.
Photo: Gene J Puskar / AP