Following Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s incisive comments about the Democratic Party blaming progressives for its lackluster showing in the 2020 election, centrists in the party are out in full force to refute her vision of a winning Democratic message.
In a Sunday interview with New York Times reporter Astead Herndon, Pennsylvania Congressman Conor Lamb insisted that his constituents were “extremely frustrated by the message of defunding the police and banning fracking.”
“And I, as a Democrat, am just as frustrated,” he continued. “Because those things aren’t just unpopular, they’re completely unrealistic, and they aren’t going to happen.”
Florida Representative Donna Shalala, who lost her bid for re-election, seemed to share Lamb’s belief that the Democratic Party’s progressive wing was out of step with the rest of the party, telling CBS on Sunday: “The people that were elected that kept their seats are centrist. There’s no question in my mind about that.”
These claims have a tenuous relationship to the truth. Ocasio-Cortez along with Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley may have come out in support of defunding police departments, but it was hardly the centerpiece of any of their campaigns for re-election, nor was it the party platform, over which the “Squad” has little if any influence. And while some centrists, like Lamb, won their races, it would be a stretch to say that the 2020 election results were an overwhelming endorsement of their politics—after all, the losses they’re lamenting are largely losses suffered by other centrists, whose campaign messages hewed closer to the ones handed down by party leaders.
But as middle-of-the-road Democrats continue their pile-on—which started off with remarks from members including Virgina Rep. Abigail Spanberger and House Majority Whip James Clyburn—it’s clear the party intends to learn all of the wrong lessons from 2020. Instead of seeing the bold ideas of its progressive bloc as an asset to a party that has historically and infamously lacked bold ideas, Democrats are preparing to pivot even harder to the center, further marginalizing its more left-leaning members from its core power.
The last four years under Trump have seen more Americans (and women in particular) canvass for and donate to Democratic candidates not in spite of, but because of the birth of a passionate and organized progressive movement.
Democratic Party leaders are at risk of alienating it if they adopt the attitudinal stance of someone like Lamb, whose most fervent belief seems to be that that your dreams of a brighter, more just future “aren’t going to happen.”