A division among Democrats: Can the party unite after mixed election results?


WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — A divide has begun to emerge among Democrats between the progressive and moderate wings of the party, stemming from a disappointing election performance.

As the returns came in on Election Day, it became clear the blue wave Democrats were waiting for wasn’t coming.

“Well the so-called ‘Democratic message,’ as the media reported it, didn’t resonate in a lot of Congressional districts,” said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR-5).

Expecting to gain between 10 and 15 seats, House Democrats lost eight, with more races outstanding. They also fell short of flipping the Senate. Almost immediately, questions arose about why, and who was to blame.

“People know that I am not a defund police, socialist type person,” said Rep. Schrader.

He’s one of many moderate members of his party who says rhetoric and messaging from the more progressive members may have cost Democrats seats in the election, specifically on calls to “defund police.”

“It resonated better in bigger cities… in rural America and parts of suburban America, the message from some of the members of our party is not a winning message,” Schrader said.

On a leaked party-wide conference call discussing election results, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) called the election a “failure.”

“We lost members who shouldn’t have lost,” she said. “If we don’t mean defund the police, we shouldn’t say that. We need to not use the word Socialist or Socialism ever again.”

In that call, Spanberger asked her party to pay attention to Republican attack-ads with a common theme: painting even moderate Democrats as socialists who support Medicare-for-all, the Green New Deal environmental plan, and defunding the police.

“Certainly the Trump voter came out. But when you look at areas we lost, they’re areas that are disconnected from the overall economy,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA-15).

He said in those areas where Democrats lost the seat, it’s incumbent on his party to be more direct with voters about what most Democrats do and do not support.

“I don’t believe in defunding the police, I don’t believe in getting rid of ICE,” said Rep. Swalwell.

He said most of his Democrat colleagues feel the same.

“If Americans didn’t understand that, we need to make sure that they do. I think looking back and fighting over it is not productive, we should learn from it,” Rep. Swalwell said.

But even as Swalwell and others hope infighting stops, perhaps the most well known progressive in Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY-14) tweeted a picture of herself glaring at moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who tweeted a message opposing defunding police.

“Listen, we had a very deep victory two years ago,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The task of uniting progressives and moderates of the party falls to her. Publicly, she put a positive spin on the election results.

“We now have a president of our party in the White House. We have a majority In the House, albeit smaller,” Speaker Pelosi said. “The beautiful diversity of our caucus and we see it as (a) tremendous opportunity.”

At the head of a party with a wide ideological divide, Speaker Pelosi said she’ll start the new term focused on COVID-19 relief, an issue on which her members are united.

“Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power. And our unity springs from our commitment to America’s working families,” said Speaker Pelosi.

But the diversity of her caucus will likely present some challenges when it comes to legislating hot topics like climate change or police reform. Time will tell just how united the Speaker can keep her party.

To give you both sides of the story, Republicans are also looking toward their party’s future.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted after the election focusing on President Donald Trump’s victory in one Texas county that he lost in 2016.

Ramesh Ponnuru joined NewsNation Wednesday night to discuss the future of the Republican Party. He’s the senior editor of the conservative publication The National Review and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Ponnuru said Trump lost the 2020 presidential election “fair and square,” but thinks the former president will have a significant impact on politics moving forward.

“There’s no question that President Trump is going to be an enormous influence in the Republican Party, but the question of just how much and how he uses it is up for grabs,” he said.

Ponnuru also said Trump hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2024, which means he’ll be a “looming presence in Republican politics.”

Watch NewsNation’s full interview with Ponnuru in the player above.

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