House Democrats’ unexpected electoral losses this week prompted renewed debate over the party’s policies and message.
- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly pushed back on criticism from centrist House Democrats, who blamed electoral losses on left-wing policy and rhetoric.
- Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat who faced a competitive reelection race, argued during a caucus call on Thursday that the party needs to abandon democratic socialism and calls to “defund” the police.
- Ocasio-Cortez blamed this year’s electoral failures in part on lackluster digital campaigns and said it’s a “myth” that swing seat Democrats can’t win on progressive policy.
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House Democrats were expected to expand their majority this week while powering Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to the White House. Instead, they lost at least half a dozen seats.
Several centrist House members took aim at the party’s left-wing, arguing that progressive policies and rhetoric had undermined their appeal particularly in suburban districts, during a contentious call on Thursday, The Washington Post reported.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Democrat who faced a tough reelection race, and others took issue with democratic socialism and calls to defund the police.
“We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again … We lost good members because of that,” Spanberger said on the call. “If we are classifying Tuesday as a success … we will get f—ing torn apart in 2022.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez publicly pushed back on those criticisms, which she called “finger pointing,” in a series of tweets on Friday.
The Bronx native argued it’s a “myth” that Democrats can’t win swing seats while running on progressive policies and blamed this year’s electoral failures in part on lackluster digital campaigns. Many Democratic campaigns abandoned door-knocking during the pandemic, a move she suggested hurt their voter turnout efforts.
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that “almost all” the Democrats who struggled or lost their reelections this week had “awful execution on digital. DURING A PANDEMIC.”
The freshman lawmaker also took aim at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — the House campaign arm — for blacklisting political vendors that have worked on primary campaigns against sitting Democrats. Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives have taken issue with this DCCC rule in the past, blaming the group for protecting conservative Democrats in safe blue districts.
Ocasio-Cortez, who beat extremely well-funded primary and general election opponents, argued that shying away from progressive activists amounts to ignoring young voters and the Democratic Party’s base of Black and Brown voters.
“You can’t just tell the Black, Brown, & youth organizers riding in to save us every election to be quiet or not have their reps champion them when they need us,” she wrote. “Or wonder why they don’t show up for midterms when they’re scolded for existing. Esp when they’re delivering victories.”
But even some members of the House Progressive Caucus, of which Ocasio-Cortez is a member, agreed with their centrist colleagues that labels like “socialist” are hurting the party’s appeal in many parts of the country.
“I think Republicans did get some traction trying to scare people on this ‘socialist narrative,'” Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat, told The Post. “These labels do distract us and divide us in unfortunate ways … What’s the point of embracing a phrase like that? All you do is feed into these fears and bogus narratives.”