Nina Turner’s Loss Is US Oligarchy’s Gain

Norman Solomon comments on the victory of a corporate Democrat over a progressive firebrand in the Ohio congressional primary. 

Nina Turner in January 2020. (Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Norman Solomon

The race for a vacant congressional seat in northeast Ohio was a fierce battle between status quo politics and calls for social transformation. In the end, when votes were counted Tuesday night, transactional business-as-usual had won by almost 6 percent. But the victory of a corporate Democrat over a progressive firebrand did nothing to resolve the wide and deep disparity of visions at the Democratic Party’s base nationwide.

One of the candidates — Shontel Brown, the victor — sounded much like Hillary Clinton, who endorsed her two months ago. Meanwhile, Nina Turner dwelled on the kind of themes we always hear from Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose 2020 presidential campaign she served as a national co-chair. And while Brown trumpeted her lockstep loyalty to President Joe Biden, her progressive opponent was advocating remedies for vast income inequality and the dominance of inordinate wealth over the political system. Often, during the last days of the campaign, I heard Turner refer to structural injustices of what she called “class and caste.”

A major line of attack from Brown forces was that Turner had voted against the party platform as a delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Left unsaid was the fact that nearly one-quarter of all the convention delegates also voted “no” on the platform, and for the same avowed reason — its failure to include a Medicare for All plank.

Shontel Brown with former President Barack Obama. (Shontel Brown for Congress)

Scarcely mentioned in media coverage of this race is that Ohio has an “open primary,” and Republicans received public encouragement to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary. We may never know how many GOP voters took the emphatic advice from the likes of right-winger William Kristol and voted for Brown to help beat Turner.

“Reminder: Tuesday’s Democratic primary is effectively the general election, and all registered voters can vote in the Democratic primary,” Kristol tweeted on July 29. “Just request a Democratic ballot.”

After sending out a similar tweet on Sunday, he got more explicit via Twitter at dawn on Election Day: “To Akron, Beachwood, Cleveland, Shaker Heights, etc.: Today’s OH-11 primary is in effect the general election. The choice is a radical leftist or a Biden Democrat, @ShontelMBrown. Any registered voter — including independents & Republicans — can request a Democratic primary ballot.”

Prominent Republicans didn’t only pitch in with targeted messaging. Some GOP-aligned donors kicked in big bucks, such as former President Donald Trump’s billionaire pal Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots in the NFL, who personally maxed out at $5,800 to Brown’s campaign and whose family gave a total of more than $20,000.

Tacitly aligned with the Republican likes of Kristol and Kraft in zeal to boost Brown and defeat Turner was the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus, augmented by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the highest ranking African-American in Congress. Caucus leaders and Clyburn were busy traveling around Ohio’s 11th Congressional District last weekend, singing Brown’s praises and aiming darts at Turner.

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Biden is popular in the district, and Brown’s forces were intent on framing the choice as pro-Biden or anti-Biden. Days ago, Cleveland’s CBS affiliate reported that the race “has largely come down to Brown, who has positioned herself as the ‘Biden candidate,’ and Turner, who has enjoyed the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.” An NBC affiliate asserted that national media and outside groups had made the race “a contest between loyalty to President Biden’s agenda and a more progressive wing of the party.”

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Turner’s defeat is a victory for an array of wealthy individuals and corporations alarmed at her willingness to challenge such corporate powerhouses as Big Pharma, insurance firms and the fossil-fuel industry.

The relentless and often defamatory advertising barrage against Turner was mainly funded by huge contributions from such vested interests to two outfits, Democratic Majority for Israel and Pro-Israel America, which placed the attack ads.

If the Democratic Party establishment thinks the defeat of Turner has turned back the progressive upsurge, it’s mistaken. Just this week, successful organizing led by Congresswomen Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez forced Biden’s hand, pushing him to extend an eviction moratorium that otherwise would have expired.

Bush, AOC and other strong progressives — including Jamaal Bowman, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Mondaire Jones — got to the House by winning Democratic primaries, often ousting entrenched corporate-friendly Democrats in the process. Next year, many Democratic incumbents will face potentially serious primary challenges from the left.

A continuing political reality is that most voters are in favor of policy positions that progressives keep fighting for. In the Brown-Turner race, that reality was largely obscured as Turner’s opponents relentlessly attacked her in personal terms, citing — and often twisting — her outspoken record of criticizing top Democratic Party leaders for failing to walk the walk of their platitudes.

Turner’s vigorous critiques of Biden, especially a crude one last summer, provided very useful fodder for ads attacking her. But foes didn’t have much to say about the transformative policies that she champions. Reporting on her defeat, Politico noted that “the moderate attacks against Turner did not take aim at the progressive proposals she supports, such as Medicare for All or a Green New Deal — an indication they are popular with the base.”

In a statement released late Tuesday night, Turner looked ahead to the future of progressive populism, saying:

“We will continue this journey until every working person earns a living wage, including passing a $15 minimum wage. We will continue this journey until every person has health care as a right and not a privilege. We will continue this journey until children’s destinies are not determined by their zip code or the color of their skin. 

We will continue this journey until we have torn down racism, sexism, homophobia, religious bigotry and every kind of hatred and discrimination. We will continue this journey until justice is equal for every person in this country. And this journey will continue until we have ensured that this planet will be habitable for our children and our grandchildren. So, my friends, it is OK to be sad tonight. But tomorrow we must roll up our sleeves and continue the fight to which we are all committed.”

Norman Solomon is the national director of and the author of many books including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 and 2020 Democratic National Conventions. Solomon is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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22 comments for “Nina Turner’s Loss Is US Oligarchy’s Gain

  1. Hans Meyer
    August 7, 2021 at 13:23

    The loss of Ms Turner is actually a win. It shows her relevance and that they are afraid of her and the changes she can bring. The mystery is the electorate that chose her corrupted opponent. They may be afraid, in majority, of the changes she is proposing or are not well informed and go with these political ads that allow character assassination. Anyway, Ms Turner should not be affected by the turn of events. The pseudo- democrats and the people behind the scene put a lot of ressources against her. She is in a the same situation as Senator Sander. As much as I would like him to be president, I do not wish the position upon him. The facts are that they would do anything to destabilize his function as president and try to destroy his reputation. A strong electoral. sad willl. ever be enough. Things have to change at a deeper level. Public broadcasting is there for all the candidates, everyone should have the same finite amount of money for campaigning…. The path is there, but there is still work to clear the road.

  2. August 7, 2021 at 11:03

    As An Ohioan I wouldn’t want Turner either. How easy we forget. I’m fairly certain I remember Turner making as many appearances she could manage on radio and TV programs after the 2016 primary for approximately 2 months crying about how the Russians interfered in that election. While her and Sanders remained silent to who actually tampered with that primary. As someone who staunchly advocated for Sanders, now seeing how he betrayed his supporters along with the court findings of the DNC virtual admittance of rigging that primary, it’s astonishing how today we’re witnessing Sanders and Turner being glorified as some real sense of progressiveness or socialist nature. When it’s obvious they work for the established capitalist democrats. So please spare me any suggestion that Turner would be any more of a benefit to us in Ohio. She wasn’t before and she will never be.

  3. Erroll
    August 5, 2021 at 20:38

    Norman Solomon believes that Nina Turner is a “progressive firebrand.” If this were actually true then she would have run for office as a legitimate third party candidate instead of as a member of the corporate and militant Democratic Party. It should also be pointed out that Turner gave a rousing speech about a year ago at The People’s Party convention where she correctly pointed out the flaws of the Democrats and the Republicans but then bizarrely decides to run for Congress as a member of the Savage Mules proving once again how party will triumph over principle.

  4. cjonsson1
    August 5, 2021 at 13:47

    Establishment Democrats are a horrible group of sold out bullies.

  5. Amy H.
    August 5, 2021 at 10:12

    I side with Margaret Kimberley on this one. “Would she have been different from the squad and the rest of the all talk/no action “progressives”?” So far, the “progressives” and the “Squad” have been useless. Would Turner have been any different? From many of the things she said on the campaign trail, I would say no. When they say that “you don’t change the Democratic Party, the Party changes you.” There is a lot of historical precedent for that. Maybe it’s time to try something actually useful to create change instead of continuing the failed idea of changing the Democratic Party, which has almost two centuries’ worth of failure of people trying.

  6. Babyl-on
    August 5, 2021 at 09:23

    Come on, give me a break. This woman is not on my side she is an imperialist who values power over human life.

  7. torture this
    August 5, 2021 at 08:44

    In trying to win a Democrat primary, not only did she lose the primary but also her credibility.

  8. James Simpson
    August 5, 2021 at 03:16

    “We will continue this journey until every working person earns a living wage, including passing a $15 minimum wage” when $15 has been eroded by inflation to be the same as $7.25 was when the campaign began. Or later, if Democrats can keep putting it off.

  9. rosemerry
    August 5, 2021 at 03:15

    The USA is a strange country when it seems that the majority are far more progressive than any of the two tweedledum Parties who remain in power and ignore the interests of their own citizens as well as any hope for peace or cooperation with their designated enemies.

  10. Tim Cook
    August 5, 2021 at 00:02

    Were any exit polls conducted? How long does it take us to realize that since the Party controls the counting, they can control the outcome?

  11. Daniel Fry
    August 4, 2021 at 23:30

    So the pro israel lobby rejected Turner and that was that. Very telling. Moreover so far none of the ‘progressive’ and ‘justice’ D’s have taken any legislative action in order to fulfil their campaign promises. Why would Turner turn out to be any different even IF elected? That may be another issue worth considering when measuring that actual voter turnout in this sham of an ‘election’.

  12. Kiers
    August 4, 2021 at 22:26

    From the man who bought you Biden, another Clyburne production!

  13. Edward
    August 4, 2021 at 20:28

    This sounds like what happened to Cynthia Mckinney, complete with opposition from the Israel lobby. Maybe she should have run as an independent?

  14. michael888
    August 4, 2021 at 16:18

    No surprise. Turner had about as much chance of winning as Bernie did in 2016. The federal judge in Florida, William Zloch ruled the Democrats could pick anyone they wanted, by hook or crook, in their Primaries.

    Also, the CDC, not Biden or AOC, extended the Moratorium on Evictions until October. The Supreme Court ruled end of June that the CDC had no such authority to extend the Moratorium on Evictions, and that Congress should take on that role. Agreed the Moratorium is much needed, but Public Health is a state’s right, Constitutionally, and the CDC is only an advisory Federal agency.

    • James Simpson
      August 5, 2021 at 03:23

      You’re right about the CDC. The vastly over-praised, capital-serving Squad did pretty much diddly-squat to extend the evictions moratorium.

      “Last year, AOC called Nancy Pelosi the “Mama Bear” of the Democratic Party despite the fact that majorities support a third-party alternative to the current electoral duopoly. And not one member of the Squad was willing to force a vote for Medicare For All during a deadly pandemic in exchange for their support of Nancy Pelosi’s bid for speaker of the House… Millions are at risk of eviction in the middle of an economic recession and a pandemic. More than 500,000 people at any given moment are homeless in a country with 17 million vacant homes. If members of the Squad were interested in substantive political action, then they would use their leverage to force demands such as housing for all upon their colleagues and hold continuous rallies until these demands were met.”


  15. Nancy Oden
    August 4, 2021 at 15:25

    Well, she ought to have run as an independent Peoples Party candidate, since she was closely associated with the Peoples Party from the beginning…….Mark Twain or George Carlin said, “If voting mattered, it wouldn’t be allowed.”
    If so-called “progressives” keep running in the corrupt D. Party, how will an independent political party ever get on its feet?
    Even if an independent candidate doesn’t win they can get ideas out there without having to pander in the slightest to the D. Party establishment.
    People have got to get more brave and get out there and speak truth to the people – – and, most importantly, understand that regular people are smart enough to want the truth and someone courageous enough to put it out there publicly.
    We need many more brave people in public life!

    • mgr
      August 5, 2021 at 09:28

      That is a very good insight. I for one think that robust “3rd parties” are essential if the US is ever going move past an unsustainable, even suicidal, status quo that is rigidly held in place by its duopoly, or perhaps, duplicitous two party system which gives only the illusion of choice. Usually this topic only comes up if at all every four years in national elections, but the time to start strengthening the move to robust 3rd parties is now so that when these voting events take place 3rd parties can offer a viable alternative. The current reality is that whichever of the two mainstream parties win, it is only more of the same unsustainable status quo where wealth concentrates, fossil fuels are embraced, and wars are profitable. Win or lose, I wish Sanders had heeded this after 2016.

    • cjonsson1
      August 5, 2021 at 13:33

      The People’s Party is not established in Ohio yet. Next time Nina should run on the People’s Party ticket.

  16. John Smith
    August 4, 2021 at 15:19

    Ocasio-Cortez and members of the Squad are “strong progressives”?! You must be kidding.

    • Adams
      August 5, 2021 at 01:47

      We’ll see when the infrastructure bill comes up in the House. Not holding my breath.

    • James Simpson
      August 5, 2021 at 03:23

      It’s a very low bar in the USA.

    • TimN
      August 5, 2021 at 11:03

      Yes, I laughed at that too.

Comments are closed.