WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio – Nina Turner was just delivering a brief address to God’s Tabernacle of Faith in the cadences and trembling volumes of a preacher when Rev. Timothy Eppinger called the entire ward to lay hands on the woman who sought the home of the greater area Cleveland.
“She went through hell and the floods,” said the pastor, nodding and approving. “This is your time to live and not die.”
On August 3rd, Ohio District electorate will pass this verdict, an indication of the direction the Democratic Party is taking: the defiant and progressive approach that Ms. Turner embodies, or the reluctance of its leaders in Washington, shaped more by the establishment than by the ferment that moves its grass roots.
Democrats say this House of Representatives individual pre-election competition, in which two black women compete in a safe Democratic neighborhood represented by Marcia Fudge before she was confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Biden, has little major significance.
However, in the final weeks of the campaign, the party establishment is investing significant amounts of time and money in stopping Ms. Turner, a fiery former Cleveland councilor and Ohio state senator who is known beyond the county as the face and ghost of Bernie Sanders, from the presidential campaign, Co. -Chairman in 2020 and ubiquitous replacement for the Socialist Senator.
This suggests that leaders understand that the outcome of the race is being read as a signal for the party’s future. It has already rekindled old rivalries. The Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee has endorsed Ms. Turner’s main competitor Shontel Brown, leader of the Cuyahoga County’s Democratic Party. So does Hillary Clinton and the senior black member of the House of Representatives, James E. Clyburn from South Carolina, who will be promoting Ms. Brown here this weekend. They argue that Ms. Brown is the better candidate, with a unifying message after four divisive years from Donald J. Trump.
Ms. Brown sees herself as liberal but would take it step-by-step and, for example, agree to Mr. Biden’s demand for a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act before moving straight to the single-payer Medicare-for-all health care system Ms. Turner wants.
“I am not afraid of challenges or conflicts; I just don’t look for it, ”said Ms. Brown, who sees the differences as style rather than substance. “And that’s the big difference: I don’t look for headlines. I want to move forward. “
In return, liberal activists across the country rushed to Ms. Turner’s defense with money, volunteers, and reinforcements. Her campaign raised $ 4.5 million for an area code, up $ 1.3 million last month. The New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be knocking on her door the same weekend Mr. Clyburn is in town. Mr Sanders will join the fight in person on the last weekend before election day.
“She would be a real asset to the house,” said Sanders. “She is a very, very strong progressive and I really hope she will win.”
The race captured less an ideological divide than a generation split, with older voters disparaging democratic leaders by the liberal insurgents and brazen demands for quick change against the sense of urgency and anger of younger voters over the development of the country and the world World deterred were left to them.
Here Ms. Turner encounters the struggles of her city, the poorest large community in the country, but also America’s mountain of debt for students, its inequality in the health care system and a climate crisis that is drying up and burning in the West. the ice caps are melting and Europe is digging its way out of a deluge.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has endorsed Ms. Turner as well as The Plain Dealer. But Ms. Brown has the most reliable voters, many of them older, wealthier, and whiter.
In order for Ms. Turner to win, she needs people like Dewayne Williams, 31 and earlier, who came out in the rain on Saturday for the Gas on God Community Giveaway for $ 10 free gasoline in one of Cleveland’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
“I’m just young, don’t know much about politics, but I know she’s a good woman,” said Mr. Williams, getting emotional after Ms. Turner leaned into his car to hug him. Given his experience in the prison system, he said, “I definitely appreciate the changes she’s trying – to take care of this situation a little bit.”
“Oh man,” added Mr. Williams, “you must have a loud voice. You have to be loud for people to hear. “
The result of the special election could reverberate in the party. Progressive lead challengers have already declared – and are collecting impressive sums of money, far more than previous challengers – to take on reps Carolyn B. Maloney in New York, Danny K. Davis in Chicago, John Yarmuth in Louisville and Jim Cooper in Nashville. They hope to build on the successes of MPs Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman in New York, Ayanna S. Pressley in Boston, Marie Newman in Chicago, and Cori Bush in St. Louis – all of whom have ousted Democratic incumbents since 2018.
They are all facing opposition from the Democratic Congress campaign committee, the black committee of Congress, and a new political action committee, Team Blue, set up by New York MPs Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the Democratic committee; Josh Gottheimer, a moderate from New Jersey; and Terri A. Sewell, a member of the Alabama Black Caucus.
“It speaks volumes about where they want us as a party,” said Kina Collins, who challenges Mr. Davis. “The message is, ‘You are not welcome and if you try to get in we will use up the resources to silence you.'”
Ms. Turner said she wanted the race to be centered around her issues: Medicare single payers for all, a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, student loan debt relief, and other key pieces of the Sanders movement, which she co-founded. She said she was warned from the start of her candidacy that the Washington Democrats would unite around an “everyone but Nina” candidate.
But on Sunday even she seemed surprised by the bitter turn the competition had taken. The intervention of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC was particularly outraged. With the rise of liberal groups like Justice Democrats, who campaign to overthrow deadlocked Democrats to safe places, the caucus has become a kind of established protection service.
It assisted Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri, a member of the caucus, in his unsuccessful attempt to fend off a black challenger, Ms. Bush, and Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, now chairman of the caucus, in her successful try to beat a Justice Democrat.
But the PAC also backed White MP Eliot Engel from New York last year against his progressive challenger, Mr. Bowman, who is black.
And now, inexplicable to Ms. Turner and her allies, the powerful black establishment is getting involved in an open race between two black candidates.
“I don’t envy anyone who wants to take part in the race,” said Ms. Turner, “but the entire Congressional Black Caucus PAC? That sends a different message: Progressives don’t have to apply. “
The top-class intervention by Mr Clyburn is particularly noticeable. In advocating Ms. Brown, Mr. Clyburn said that he was choosing the candidate he liked best, and not against Ms. Turner. But he spoke out against the “sloganering” of the left wing of the party.
Not everyone in Cleveland appreciated the award.
“They want someone they can control and they want someone to stand in line,” said State Representative Juanita Brent, who supports Ms. Turner. She said she had a message for Mr. Clyburn: “Congressman, with all due respect, stay out of our district.”
Ms. Brown, younger than Ms. Turner, with a casual demeanor that inconsistent with the description of her negative campaign in the Turner campaign, fought hard against the characterization of her as a Washington puppet.
Their campaign is supported by SKDK, a powerful democratic political firm stocked with old hands from Clinton and Obama’s days. Its supporters include moderate Democrats in the House of Representatives like Mr Gottheimer, many of whom are motivated by Ms. Turner’s positive comments on Palestinian rights.
But Ms. Brown insists that she is not a pawn for the mainstream Democrats.
“You should ask the people who tried to control me,” she said. “You will find that I am an independent thinker. I am someone who likes to collect all the facts and make an informed decision. “
At Alfred Grant’s motorcycle store in Bedford, Ohio, where Ms. Brown stopped by Saturday night for a motorcycle muscle show, older black voters supported her campaign’s assessment of Ms. Turner: either you love her or you really don’t love her.
“It seems to me that Nina works for herself rather than together,” said Roberta Reed. “I mean, I need people who work together to make it a whole.”
“She will help the Biden-Harris agenda; That means a lot, ”said Denise Grant, Mr. Grant’s wife, of Ms. Brown, expressing her biggest topic of conversation. “We don’t need anyone there to fight Biden.”
Her husband stepped in and expressed his weariness at the kind of confrontational policy Mrs. Turner adopted. “We did four years of stupidity,” he said. “Now it has calmed down. That is how politics should be. I don’t have to look at you every day. “
Ms. Turner does not avoid this criticism. The voters can take it or leave it.
“My ancestors would never have been released if someone hadn’t broken the status quo and said, ‘You won’t enslave us anymore,'” she said.
“Martin Luther King, Minister Malcolm X, Congressman Shirley Chisholm, Fannie Lou Hamer – I’m just giving examples of people who I’m sure people who believe in the status quo would have been nicer,” she said.
In God’s Tabernacle of Faith, Pastor Eppinger enticed Mrs. Turner with a rousing sermon inspired by the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel.
“How long are you going to walk through dead schools, dead churches, dead governments?” He thundered. “Can these dry bones live?”
Ms. Turner, in a bright yellow dress, took off her matching bright yellow mask and replied, “Sister Turner is just saying that we need someone to breathe life into the dry bones of City Hall, dry bones in Congress, and If God is me bless to go to this next place, I will continue to stand up for the poor, the working poor and the scarce middle class. Can these dry bones survive? “
The 50 or so parishioners gave an amen for this.