DMFI, Mainstream Democrats PAC, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have spent so much money that the question of Israel-Palestine now dominates Democratic primaries.

by Ryan Grim, Bad News

Depending on how you date it – whether it’s Ned Lamont and Donna Edwards in 2006, or the first Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, or the rise of the Squad and Justice Democrats in 2018 – there’s been an insurgency brewing on the left flank of the Democratic Party that transformed its politics and also threatened to fully take over the party. That didn’t happen in 2020, but the progressive wing continued to make major gains, and significantly shaped Biden’s legislative agenda in 2021 and 2022.

Protesters at the Walter E Washington Convention Center expressing support for Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at the annual AIPAC convention

But this midterm cycle, the movement ran up against an obstacle it didn’t fully see coming: a flood of money from private equity executives, hedge fund barons, and other titans of industry organizing their efforts through super PACs that say American policy toward Israel is their primary purpose. They were also  joined by a tech billionaire, Reid Hoffman, and a crypto billionaire, Sam Bankman-Fried, in many of the races they played in, and they have fundamentally reshaped how primaries are contested and what is possible for the progressive wing of the party. Now that the primaries are over, they’ve mostly walked away from the Democrats they backed, because winning a majority isn’t the point. This cycle more than any other has given us a look at the real harvest of the Citizens United seeds that were planted back in 2010.

My last super long piece, Elephant in the Zoom, came out in mid-June, and I hope to be able to do more of these every few months. That one, about meltdowns within progressive institutions and nonprofits, had as its backdrop the fraught debate over cancel culture and a generational clash of values. This new piece is set against that same backdrop: Despite all the protestations of the right about restrictions on speech, the fastest way to get it canceled in America remains to step out of the bipartisan consensus around our policy toward Israel. (Witness the recent censoring and firing of Katie Halper by HillTV.)

The story is below, and you can find it here at The Intercept. A big thank you again to my editor Nausicaa Renner, who is the reason that the piles of words I sent her way wound up eventually shaped into a real narrative. And a thank you to the dozens of people who spoke to me for this story.

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