Jamaal Bowman vs Eliot Engel: a crucial battle between progressives and Democrat hawks

ALEXANDRIA Ocasio-Cortez pulled off one of the shocks of 2018 when she crushed incumbent Joe Crowley in her Democratic primary.

No realistic pollster gave her a shot – not even on voting day – but when it mattered most, her voters turned out.

Now, Tuesday’s primary in New York’s 16th congressional district could see a similar watershed moment for progressives.

Middle school principal Jamaal Bowman has turned into one of the stars of 2020 amid a disappointing few months for leftist candidates.

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Backed by AOC and Bernie Sanders, Bowman recently recorded a 10-point lead over incumbent Eliot Engel, with mass support coming from women, voters under 45 years old and African Americans.

He has raised over $2million dollars from grassroots donations since his campaign began, enabling him to go on the digital offensive before tomorrow’s vote.

Engel, on the other hand, is a classic establishment Democrat. He has received endorsements from Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Hillary Clinton.

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, his record on foreign policy is especially dubious, and removing him from office would strike a huge blow to Democrat hawks.

In 2002, Engel claimed: “It would be a monumental mistake not to support” George Bush’s ill-fated incursion into Iraq, adding that “in this era of terrorism, the U.S. has to be proactive”.

Many Democrats, from Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden, have since gone on to regret their vote for the Iraq War, but Engel’s voting record underlines his hawkish tendencies.

He opposed Barack Obama’s flagship peace deal with Iran – only one of 25 House Democrats to do so – while also voting against a bill which would have banned the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia in 2016.

Engel also called putting conditions on aid to Israel “one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard.”

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It’s little wonder then, as The Intercept revealed, that a Republican Super PAC called Americans for Tomorrow’s Future is funding Engel’s re-election effort.

Bowman, on the other hand, works on the now-familiar progressive line of diverting military funds to public investment where it matters.

On his website, he writes: “We need someone focused not on finding money for bombs and bullets, but for schools, health care and jobs.

“Some politicians want to cut our spending on schools, health care, and social services. But the U.S. today spends more on defence spending than the next seven countries combined.

“Our nation will spend more than $700 billion on defence spending just this year. That doesn’t align with the values of our district, especially when we have so many in need.”

He also pledges to end US support for the Saudi-led incursion in Yemen, as well as urging the next President to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal.

While his policy positions are not necessarily groundbreaking, the contrast between Bowman and Engel is clear to see – and tomorrow’s primary could represent a huge internal shift on foreign relations within the Democratic Party.

Neither campaign returned a request for comment.


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Featured Image: Thomas Altfather Good @Wikimedia Commons

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