Post-Election conflict within Democratic Party
November 23, 2020
While Joe Biden and the Democrats have seemingly won the presidential election, the Republicans tightened the gap in the House of Representatives and will likely hold a majority in the Senate. The Democratic Party has spent the past year united in an effort to defeat incumbent President Donald Trump, and now they are reckoning with the differences amongst themselves.
In a post-election ‘family meeting,’ moderate Democrats pointed fingers at their more liberal colleagues, blaming them for their failures in congressional races. They claimed that progressive stances scared away many voters and gave fuel to GOP attack campaigns. Rep. Marc Veasy of Texas complained that the Green New Deal and the “defund the police” movement strengthened the Republican’s attacks.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who narrowly won her re-election in Virginia, called this campaign strategy a failure. She is recorded saying, “If we are classifying [the election] as a success from a Congressional standpoint, we will get [expletive] torn apart in 2022.”
If we are classifying [the election] as a success from a Congressional standpoint, we will get [expletive] torn apart in 2022.
House Speaker and party leader Nancy Pelosi rebutalled, “I do disagree, Abigail. We won the election”
Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the Progressive caucus, defended these stances and argued that the Democrats would not have defeated Trump without the party’s far left base. Many progressive Democrats shared Jayapal’s position.
Progressive democrats took to Twitter to address attacks on their ideology as the cause of election losses. In response to criticism of progressivism in campaigns by John Kasich, former Republican governor of Ohio and Joe Biden endorser, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded, “John Kasich, who did not deliver Ohio to Dems, is saying folks like [Ihlan Omar], who did deliver Minnesota, are the problem.” She then went on to write, “Please do not take these people seriously.”
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia took to twitter to criticize the defunding of the police movement, “Defund the police? Defund my butt.” He continued to separate his view of the Democratic party away from this ideology, “We are the party of working men and women. We want to protect Americans’ jobs & healthcare. We do not have some crazy socialist agenda…” Rep. Ocasio-Cortez quoted this tweet with an image of her scowling at him during a State of the Union address.
Many of these progressives disagree that they are not the problem for the DNC, but quite the opposite. Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted about the success of Democratic candidates that supported the party’s progressive positions, “112 co-sponsors of Medicare for all were on the ballot. All of them won. 98 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal were on the ballot. Only one lost.”
Rep. Ihlan Omar of Minnesota criticized the hypocrisy of moderate Democrats attacking progressive colleagues, tweeting, “Maybe people should stop attacking progressives and work on unity instead of projecting.”
Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a moderate Democrat who won reelection in a district that President Trump won, is concerned about division within her party and believes it can serve as ammunition for their political opponents. “And that’s the least strategic thing I can think of — it’s handing these anti-democratic forces that I’m so concerned about a gift.”
The Jewish Congresswoman analogized a Yiddish phrase to the party conflict, “While I disagree with a lot of people in my party, I still have a lot in common with them. And it would be what we call in Yiddish a shanda, a shame, a deep shame, if internal politics led to a strategic opening for these completely anti-democratic forces.”
Frustrations seem to be growing within the Democratic party and many members have different opinions on what direction the party should take. An anonymous moderate Democratic lawmaker discussed with The Hill about Democratic leadership and its strategy going forward, “It’s time for Democrats to elevate a new generation of leadership in both the House and the Senate. Americans are clearly afraid of ‘socialism,’ and want safe streets and neighborhoods and to vote for people who they believe will put more money in their pockets.”
The lawmaker went on to place part of this blame on the party’s strategy, “While Democratic policies can adequately address those issues, our messaging mechanism clearly cannot.”
In 2019, Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged that she will not serve more than four more years. She is poised to remain House speaker for this next Congress. House Majority Leader Steny Hory and House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn are expected to remain in their positions.
The pressure is on for these leaders, as Republicans are on the offensive and the Democrat House-majority dwindles. Many will look to these leaders to ease infighting within the party and unite its message moving forward.