Michigan Reps. Andy Levin and Haley Stevens -- Democrats thrown into the same district following redistricting -- had a candidate's forum today hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which Ron Kampeas was helpful enough to livetweet. Levin (who is Jewish) is known as a strong progressive, while Stevens (not Jewish) usually presents as more of a moderate, so it was interesting to see how they pitched their message in this particular forum.
My takeaway -- and this is just from following Kampeas' tweets -- is that they actually didn't sound too different from one another. A lot more agreement than disagreement. There was some distance on issues like Israel and the Iran Deal -- Levin favored the Iran Deal and has spearheaded efforts to reinvigorate the two state solution, which has earned him the ire of AIPAC, while Stevens tends to take more modest and AIPAC-friendly line on these issues -- but they weren't wildly apart. And their rhetoric on domestic policy was pretty similar, and pretty progressive -- which is to say, it seemed like in front of this audience, Stevens was tacking closer to Levin than vice versa.
What does this mean? While I tend to think many intra-party divisions amongst Democrats are overstated, particularly when they're presented in flatly apocalyptic terms, that doesn't mean I think Levin and Stevens are basically interchangeable. Levin really is a more progressive option than Stevens is, rhetoric from this debate notwithstanding. And moreover, I suspect that in other venues Stevens may do more to accentuate her "moderate" credentials -- I don't think this is necessarily symbolic of how she'll run her entire race. What is interesting is that both Levin and Stevens apparently came to the conclusion that the way to appeal to the Jewish audience, specifically, was to emphasize their progressive bona fides. In contrast to some narratives of "Jexodus" or "Jexit" or whatever portmanteau neologism is being pushed this week, the betting line on how to talk to Jewish Democrats is to emphasize that you are a progressive Jewish Democrat. That's heartening to see.