By A.B. Stoddard for RealClearPolitics
After devastating elections in two blue states last week, it was business as usual in the Democratic Party — more fighting and more denial. Most notable, however, was the silence from the segment of the party that represents the majority of the party: Democrats who are not progressives.
It is telling that the Democratic leadership was quiet or overly restrained about the political backlash they have seen coming in polling, and that manifested in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia, where they lost, and New Jersey, where a surprise upset of an incumbent Democrat was narrowly averted.
But for two Twittery statements from Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a swing Democrat, and longtime strategist James Carville, there was little acknowledgement that the loud left of the party — or refusal by mainstream Democrats to speak for the center of the electorate — has likely sent many voters back into the arms of the GOP for a good long while.
Spanberger was quoted saying voters didn’t elect Biden to be FDR but to “be normal and stop the chaos,” and Carville blamed the woke mob for turning off people who otherwise would have voted Democratic, saying some people “need to go to a woke detox center or something.”
But those were the only two statements that went viral and they were easy for the left to write off.
Progressives who have never beaten a Republican, and don’t have to in their safe blue seats, dismiss Democrats like Spanberger — who give the party their majority — and Carville is tossed off as a ’90s throwback who doesn’t grasp the present-day demands of the grassroots.
As for President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Assistant Majority Leader Jim Clyburn, none of them pushed back on the left or its assessment of the losses suffered in blue states among suburban voters, rural voters, independent voters, women, Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans.
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Since last Tuesday, not one of them has noted that an effort to defund the Minneapolis police force was rejected in the city where George Floyd was killed by a police officer; that moderates prevailed in mayoral races over progressives in Buffalo and Seattle; and that Eric Adams was officially elected mayor of New York City after defeating progressives in the Democratic primary.
The drubbing did seem to create enough panic that finally, late Friday, they were able to pass the bipartisan “physical” infrastructure bill that 70% of voters approve of. But gone was the opportunity to bask in the glow of pragmatic leadership and bipartisan cooperation that produced a bill 19 Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, supported.
Instead of a Rose Garden ceremony with GOP senators like Bill Cassidy and Rob Portman standing behind Biden in August, Democrats instead refused to pass the bill, fought for months, and saw Biden’s poll numbers plummet.
And President Biden, a man of the U.S. Senate and skilled practitioner of the legislative process in Congress for 36 years, was complicit in allowing his party to spiral into crisis. He ceded control to the left wing, kneecapping the speaker and the swing district Democrats whose races will determine the fate of their House majority next year.
Twice, in September and October, Biden rolled Pelosi and weakened himself by refusing to ask progressives to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, as he trekked up to Capitol Hill in two separate visits with the entire Democratic caucus, only to come away empty-handed each time.
Voters, particularly independents and former Republicans who supported Biden last year, do not perceive this as a healthy give-and-take in a broad coalition or a big tent party. What they see is straight-up dysfunction, and the president empowering the left.
The party is now poised to lose power in both the House and Senate next year no matter what they do. Results in Virginia and New Jersey, where the Republican challenger ran up stunning totals that nearly took down Gov. Phil Murphy, show that large swaths of the Democratic electorate is pissed enough to stay home or vote GOP next year.
The historical average since World War II for midterm gains in a president’s first term for the party out of power is 27 House seats, with Democrats losing more than 50 in the 1994 midterms and more than 60 in 2010.
They have a three-seat majority now, and could likely lose that next year from three congressional races in Virginia alone. Even a magical favorable shift in the political winds, switching a 50-seat loss to a 10-seat loss, would still wipe out their control.
Yet what is the party’s new strategy, plan, pivot, reset that will help them fend off lost seats next year? Nothing, if you listen to the leadership. Passing the next bill of social spending, the Build Back Better plan, is the only cure for what ails them, they are all saying.
When asked what the election results last week meant for the party, Biden said: “People need a little breathing room. They’re overwhelmed. … I think we just need to produce results to change their standard of living and give them a little bit more breathing room.”
Progressives have a bit more to say on the subject. In a Politico report headlined “Progressives bare teeth after election debacle,” they boasted of having a preemptive strategy in place to deflect blame following Terry McAuliffe’s loss.
The day after the election, a bunch of progressive groups put out a collective statement blasting the establishment for embracing “their one-time rainmaker” and in doing so sidelining “two potentially history-making Black women running for the same office,” and failing “to take on the GOP’s divide-and-conquer racism and motivate people to turn out.”
Not only did the groups — Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats, United We Dream and Battle Born Collective — blame McAuliffe for not offering a positive message, they said his campaign “had no rebuttal to Republican race-baiting bullshit.”
The problem with that take is that labeling moms — many of whom had to drop out of the workforce to help their kids learn online, and who despair over the educational and emotional damage resulting from school closures — as racists is a recipe for losing power, not gaining it.
Especially since many of them were Biden voters last year: The margin of white women in Virginia who voted for Biden swung 13 percentage points to Republican Glenn Youngkin. Then there is New Jersey. Were the voters who rejected the progressive Murphy racists too?
For all their foot stomping, progressives don’t seem to worry about politically consequential numbers — whether it’s the bad polls, the amount of seats the party is likely to lose, the number of their former voters crossing over to the GOP, and the 52% of voters who now want government to do less, according to Gallup.
The map is also changing, with the GOP controlling 187 seats in redistricting to Democrats’ 75 seats, while 121 seats will be drawn by independent commissions. And the New York Times cited a Pew Research Center report from 2020 on Monday that showed the 19-point swing in rural America to Republicans from 1999 to 2019 is larger than the 14-point swing toward Democrats in cities over that same period, with the suburbs tied.
More retirements are expected in suburban seats where Democrats recently beat Republicans, and the GOP is now targeting 70 Democratic incumbents next year. If the party doesn’t contest swing districts, and only represents urban America, it will be a minority party forever.
The establishment and leadership of the Democratic Party know all of this. So as progressives lash out at candidates and voters and keep making promises to “energize” the base, Democrats should bear in mind that prioritizing values or ideas voters don’t like, or passing programs they don’t want, can’t be called progress.
Not if the goal is to win elections.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
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