According to Neal Kwatra, a Democratic strategist in New York, the phenomenon amounts to an escalation in Democrats’ internal debates over what they stand for. “What you’re seeing is, these broader challenges are much less about ideology and more about the fighting spirit of the party, what it’s willing to do, how it’s going to hold Trump and the Republican Party writ large accountable,” Kwatra told The Daily Beast. “I think that’s a generational challenge.”
After years of targeting moderates and backbenchers, anti-establishment elements in the Democratic Party are directing their energy toward unseating their most influential lawmakers, smelling blood after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York shocked the political establishment by defeating former Rep. Joe Crowley in a 2018 primary.
That trend is cresting in 2020, with upstarts around the country taking on the Democratic lawmakers who are setting the party’s priorities on not only impeachment and oversight but also health-care and spending policy. Serious challengers with electoral experience and promising grassroots support are gunning for no fewer than five influential committee chairs—Nadler, Richard Neal of the Ways and Means Committee, Eliot Engel of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Nita Lowey of the Appropriations Committee, and Frank Pallone of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The top two House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, also face primary rivals who have garnered some attention, but defeating those two is a far taller task.