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So I spent a lot of time campaigning for Abdul since I live in Mi, and was really disappointed that he lost and unfortunately, even more disappointed he lost by so much.
But this is not proof the establishment is unbeatable or anything like that, there were a lot of hurdles for Abdul to overcome.
For one, Whitmer doesn't have any particularly egregious flaws as a democrat unlike Clinton did. There was no NAFTA or iraq war or wallstreet derregulation to attack her on. I've even seen clips of her speaking in the past that I've actually enjoyed.
This made her whole "progressive who gets things done" pitch a lot more credible, especially among older voters who knew her and liked her. She has also embraced some progressive ideas like a $ 15 min wage and free community college so she's not as bad as others, she's certainly no Joe Manchin.
But I think Shri really hurt Abdul in ways that people may not appreciate. Shri and Abdul pitched themselves as progressives who wanted statewide healthcare, living wages, etc, and both had brown skin and "exotic" names. (Hope that's not offensive.)
I encountered this while canvassing, people got them mixed up a lot. Which means if someone disliked Shri, they may wind up disliking Abdul, or if they liked Abdul, they may accidentally vote for Shri. Or they may "play it safe" by voting for "the woman" as people sometimes called her when I asked who they voted for.
It's also possible Michigan isn't comfortable with a non-white governor yet, we are I believe 80% white. Or it could be that democratic voters believed michigan wasn't ready for a non white governor even if we are. The day of the election I flipped a gretchen supporter who feared America was too prejudice against Muslims for them to get national office, but after telling her about Abdul's energy with the young and the fact that Keith Ellison was a sitting muslim congressman, she changed her mind. So the perception of her electability I think helped too.
These are all factors that are unique to this particular primary. In many cases I find the establishment candidate has a lot more dirty laundry than Whitmer did, and the unity of the establishment vs the splintering of the progressives amongst two non-white males was also, of course, a big problem.
I don't think we'll see this work in 2020 because the establishment will be the ones that are the most fractured and there's enough national press that people don't get candidates confused the way they sometimes do on the local level.