From the Washington Post news pages:
Spanberger criticizes Democrats’ strategy in caucus call
By Rachael Bade and Erica Werner
November 5, 2020 at 6:11 p.m. PST
An angry dispute erupted among House Democrats on Thursday, with centrist members blasting their liberal colleagues during a private conference call for pushing far-left views that cost the party seats in Tuesday’s election that they had worked hard to win two years ago.
The bitter exchange, which lasted more than three hours as members sniped back and forth over tactics and ideology, reflected the extent to which the 2020 campaign exposed simmering tensions in the party even as its presidential nominee, Joe Biden, stands on the brink of achieving their biggest goal of the year — ousting President Trump.
Party leaders had expressed certainty that Trump’s divisiveness and mishandling of the pandemic would help them expand their majority with wins in GOP-held districts — and yet they lost at least a half-dozen seats and failed to retake the Senate. The explanation laid out by centrists, according to multiple people who were on the call and spoke on the condition of anonymity, is that Republicans were easily able to paint them all as socialists and radical leftists who endorse far-left positions such as defunding the police.
… Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a self-described democratic socialist, grew angry, accusing her colleagues of only being interested in appealing to White people in suburbia.
“To be real, it sounds like you are saying stop pushing for what Black folks want,” she said.
Democrats are poised to hold the smallest majority in 18 years, undercutting the leverage of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The rancor on Thursday’s call is certain to be more pronounced next year as the party faces the tougher task of uniting to pass legislation.
During the call, Pelosi sought to reassure her members that the election wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Democrats, she argued, have held on to about 70 percent of the 30 Trump-carried districts they won in 2018 — and she predicted they would capture the White House.
“We held the House. Joe Biden is on a clear path to be the next president of the United States,” she said. “We did not win every battle, but we did win the war.”
Pelosi even held out hope of taking control of the Senate, pointing to two likely runoffs in Georgia where Democrats will be severe underdogs. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), however, cautioned that if Democrats run on socialized medicine and defunding cops, “we’re not going to win” those races.
In the aftermath of their unexpected losses, Democrats argued that the party needs to come to terms with a bigger problem: Republicans have successfully cast the most vulnerable Democrats as “socialists” and tied them to liberal ideas, including Medicare-for-all, the Green New Deal and cutting police budgets.
It didn’t matter that Biden, House Democratic leadership and most members have rejected calls to “defund the police,” a position that got lost in attack ads.
The attacks, moderates warned, have proved salient and powerful — and Democrats need to figure out a way to address them now.
“Democrats’ messaging is terrible; it doesn’t resonate,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, said in an interview. “When [voters] see the far left that gets all the news media attention, they get scared. They’re very afraid that this will become a supernanny state, and their ability to do things on their own is going to be taken away.”
The blame game extended beyond the liberal members. Several moderate Democrats said in interviews that Pelosi should have made a deal with the Trump administration on a coronavirus relief package. Many moderates had been pushing her to compromise, fearful that constituents would blame them as Democratic leadership was unwilling to give Trump a legislative victory before the election. …
Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), a centrist who barely won his seat on Election Day, agreed with Spanberger, however.
“Spanberger was talking about something many of us are feeling today: We pay the price for these unprofessional and unrealistic comments about a number of issues, whether it is about the police or shale gas,” Lamb said. “These issues are too serious for the people we represent to tolerate them being talked about so casually.” …
In swing districts, Republicans spent millions of dollars on ads seeking to tie Democrats to the “defund the police” movement that virtually none supported. In New York, Republicans ran commercials showing a clip of Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) joining a Black Lives Matter march protesting police brutality.
Rose opposes the movement to defund the police, but Republicans accused him of essentially leading the charge to take money from police departments. Rose is trailing his Republican opponent by more than 15 percentage points, with 95 percent of the votes tallied, according to the Associated Press.
Something similar happened to Rep. Anthony Brindisi in Upstate New York. “Cop hater,” Republican attack ads said of him after he likewise joined a protest for equality in criminal justice. Brindisi, who tried to fight back against the charge, is down by more than 10 points, according to the Associated Press, though his race hasn’t been called.