A number of progressive House Democrats are pushing back against moderates’ claims that progressive policies and messaging are the reason for the party’s subpar performance in last week’s election.
In a call last week, House Democrats pointed fingers, trading blame for the party having lost a number of House seats, during which Representative Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.) said, “No one should say ‘defund the police’ ever again” or the party would get “torn apart” in 2022.”
Representative Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), a member of the progressive “Squad,” pushed back, telling Politico the party is “not going to be successful if we’re silencing districts like mine.” Tlaib represents one of the poorest districts in the country.
“Me not being able to speak on behalf of many of my neighbors right now, many of which are black neighbors, means me being silenced. I can’t be silent,” she said.
She continued: “We are not interested in unity that asks people to sacrifice their freedom and their rights any longer. And if we truly want to unify our country, we have to really respect every single voice. We say that so willingly when we talk about Trump supporters, but we don’t say that willingly for my Black and brown neighbors and from LGBTQ neighbors or marginalized people.”
While Biden has repeatedly pledged to work to “heal” the nation and unite both parties, progressives have been skeptical of names being floated as potential additions to the administration, including former Republican governor of Ohio John Kasich and Democrat Rahm Emanuel.
Representative-elect Mondaire Jones (D., N.Y.) said he thinks it would be “quite divisive” for Biden, who is “nearly 5 million votes ahead of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, to revert to appointing Republicans in his cabinet.”
“This isn’t even just about Republicans versus Democrats. This is about getting the right kinds of Democrats in leadership,” he said.
Progressives told Politico they are “afraid” of a future in which Biden attempts to work across the aisle with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to no effect.
“That approach to governance could really threaten party unity and the 2022 midterms, because Mitch McConnell’s sole goal will be to make Joe Biden swallow as many toxic poison pills as possible that make it harder to campaign in the midterms,” said Waleed Shahid, a spokesperson for Justice Democrats.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told Politico it is time for Democrats to “take our gloves off with Republicans.”
“We’re always messaging around bipartisanship and how much we love working with Republicans all the time in a lot of these sensitive areas,” she said. “We need to have an unapologetic agenda, have an actual alternative and countermessaging that is distinct from the Republican Party instead of trying to play to notions of civility. … I just really hope that it gets through to a lot of people that this idea that we can win over white voters on a civility argument is like not a reliable strategy.”