Moderate House Democrats vented frustrations during a joint phone call on Thursday afternoon, as Republican candidates were projected to gain House seats despite pre-election polling predicting the opposite.
The conflict between moderate and progressive Democrats broke out during the call, despite House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D., Calif.) efforts to portray the elections as a win for the party. Even though Republicans are not likely to gain a House majority, some projections give Republicans about 210 House seats, when Democrats had hoped to pick up three to 15 seats for themselves.
Representative Abigail Spanberger (D., Va.), a moderate and former intelligence officer in the CIA, slammed progressive positions as harming Democratic candidates across the board. Spanberger flipped Virginia’s traditionally Republican 7th district in 2018, and is currently ahead of Republican challenger Nick Freitas by about 5,000 votes, according to the Associated Press. However, even with 100 percent of the vote reported, the AP has not yet declared Spanberger the winner.
“We have to commit to not saying the words ‘defund the police’ ever again,” Spanberger angrily said on the call, in comments reported by ABC. “We need to not ever use the words socialist or socialism ever again….It does matter, and we have lost good members because of that.”
Representative Mark Veasy (D., Tex.) easily won reelection in Texas’s 33rd district, which includes parts of Dallas and Fort Worth. Nevertheless, he complained on the call that attack ads saying Democrats would “defund the police” had a negative effect, even if supporters of that agenda don’t intend to entirely abolish police departments.
“For our members to have to explain what that term means over and over again…it is absolutely hurting us,” Veasy said. Other House members on the call also disparaged support for defunding the police, CNN reported.
However, progressive Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) pushed back on criticism by their more moderate colleagues.
“Don’t blame myself and others who are fighting for issues that matter to our communities,” Tlaib implored House members, calling for an “autopsy” before coming to conclusions. Jayapal called on colleagues to “stop the blaming of certain members” for Democrats’ difficulties, while asserting that the elections did not produce a full repudiation of President Trump.
Representative Cheri Bustos (D., Il.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, acknowledged on the call that House members were disappointed with election results.
“I…want to say the thing we’re all feeling: I’m furious,” Bustos said. “Something went wrong here across the entire political world…the voters who turned out in this cycle look at lot more like 2016 than was projected. I want answers and I know you want answers.” Bustos herself barely held on to her seat, beating Republican challenger Esther Joy King by less than 12,000 votes.