Hold Your Horses
The year is 2020, the Democrats have just beaten their most frightening opponent in history. They liberated America from potential authoritarianism, retained the House, gained new ground in former Republican strongholds, won back the blue wall, and received the most votes for any candidate in history. Everyone is upset.
Instead of celebrating this win, even though many did, the majority of liberals on Twitter have been boohooing about how much Joe Biden and the other Democrats underperformed. What else did you want? Yes, Biden didn’t win Texas. Yes, Biden didn’t win Florida. And yes, some of the most powerful, popular, and well funded Republican senators of all time managed to beat their, generally inexperienced, Democratic challengers. The polling, which is another issue unto itself, did show Democrats winning the House, Senate, and Presidency in landslides. That didn’t happen. Even if the outcome didn’t live up to some of the most pie-in-the-sky predictions, that doesn’t mean that Democrats failed in any way. The majority of Democrats that I know were thrilled by the news but felt a little let down by what they thought would be a strong affirmation of Joe Biden and a strong rejection of President Trump. While it was both of those things, it wasn’t especially strong. But, if they had played their cards right, the Democrats could have come out of this calling it a strong victory, and many wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. However, it seems congressional Democrats are the most pessimistic when it comes to the election results.
In a now heavily publicized conference call, the moderates and the liberals in Congress duked out it over who lost the election for them, which they strangely won. Pelosi tried to hold the party together, saying, “we did not win every battle, but we won the war.” Others like Representative Clyburn of South Carolina disagreed, saying that the advocacy for “medicare for all or defunding police or socialized medicine” lost several House seats. While the Democrats did fail to hold onto some seats, these seats were mainly first-year representatives in Trump leaning districts, not exactly the easiest to win. More liberal Democrats have taken those losses to mean that moderate democrats are no longer viable options. Ever since the election, groups like the Sunrise Movement have been touting that candidates who supported the Green New Deal or Medicare For All won their races. While that is correct, it’s likely not why those candidates won their races or why those candidates who did not support it lost theirs. Many candidates in districts that Trump won by a large, who tend to be moderate, lost their races. Most candidates in more liberal districts, who tend to support more liberal policies, won their races. So while AOC may want to take credit for the Democrats winning back the House and Conor Lamb may want to blame her for losing some seats, neither has the right story.
The Democrats need to be, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, a little more celebratory. When the candidate who lost is touting his win more than the guy who won, we’re not doing it right. It’s not their brand of politics to be boisterous, but they have to be to remind the country and midterm voters in general that they actually won the election.
There will come a time, though, for the Democrats to come together and figure out what the issues were. The pollsters had been predicting a massive blue wave on election day. Despite a blue victory, there was no blue wave. The Senate seemed to be a lock, and the presidency would be won in a landslide. Why didn’t those two things happen? Where do they have to tweak their message? Are states like Texas and Florida ever going to be in play? These are questions they’ll have to answer at some point.
Right now, though, the Democrats have to stop cannibalizing each other. This is not good optics for a party whose progressive and moderate factions are held together by a thread. Allowing this in-fighting to continue makes it that much easier for the Bernie and ‘squad’ wings of the party to decide to do their own things in the next elections. They had a good thing going with Biden’s coalition, keep it together, and they might find themselves winning elections in greater margins in the future.