In April, Alcee Hastings, a Democratic congressman representing a largely African American district in the Ford Lauderdale and West Palm Beach area, died after a long career in office. As a result of the unexpected vacancy, a multicandidate primary took place on Tuesday. Just a month before the election, one of the contenders, State Representative Omari Hardy, publicly declared himself a supporter of the movement to boycott, sanction, and divest from Israel (BDS). Hardy came in sixth, with 6 percent of the vote, but David Schraub sees an important lesson here about the Democrats and BDS:
Omari Hardy was competing in a sprawling, wide-open field for an open congressional seat. If you’re going to stand out from the pack, you need to do something that clearly marks you as different from the pack. Adopting a generic pro-Israel position in the same vein as all the other candidates wouldn’t give anyone a reason to vote for him. . . . Announcing support for BDS and pivoting toward intense pronounced hostility to Israel was a calculated risk; it at least offered him a chance to win, even if the more likely result was that he’d just lose by a wider margin. (Before he announced his pro-BDS turn, Hardy was polling at 10 percent, so if anything he slipped in performance).
Omari Hardy represents the future of BDS not just because he shows that BDS remains whatever the opposite of a selling point is for most Democrats. That is certainly an important lesson to learn. But just as importantly, he’s the future because he perceived—and I think not incorrectly—that endorsing BDS is a way of standing out from other Democrats and potentially consolidating the backing of a small but intense wing of the progressive movement, some of whom border on being single-issue anti-Israel voters.
[M]ore and more frequently, we’ll see cases like Omari Hardy: candidates who are laboring at the back of a crowded field and are looking to stand out and get a burst of cash and volunteers, or safe-seat backbenchers yearning to garner a national profile and Internet likes, will view BDS as a promising avenue for rising for obscurity. It won’t win them national or competitive races; it often won’t even succeed in fragmented contests among Democrats. But if you’re going to lose the race anyway, it’s a cost-free gamble.