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Swing district Dem who lost her seat debunks myth that progressives are to blame for 2020 losses

Swing district Dem who lost her seat debunks myth that progressives are to blame for 2020 losses

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While Democratic nominee Joe Biden did succeed in winning the presidency and deposing Donald Trump, Democrats did not fare so well further down the ballot. Despite pouring nearly a billion dollars into ten Senate races and hundreds of House races, the Democrats failed to win a Senate majority for the fifth election cycle in a row and managed to lose at least nine more Congressional seats, giving them their thinnest House majority since World War II.

The presidential race hadn’t even been officially called for Joe Biden before centrist Democrats began melting down and began pointing fingers over the disaster. As usual, blame was immediately placed on the  progressive wing of the party. In a post-Election night phone call, Majority Whip Rep. Clyburn (D-SC) — who just so happens to have accepted more money from pharmaceutical companies than any other politician, over a million dollars’ worth — was quick to warn that if “we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we’re not going to win.”

That refrain has been repeated ad nauseum across a political media landscape overwhelmingly dominated by corporate media shills and the verminous NeverTrumpers who have wormed their way into Democratic political circles despite there being little evidence that any of that is the case and has become a source of great division within the already-fragile Democratic coalition.

The fact of the matter is that every single endorser of Medicare for All won re-election, including in swing districts, while all but one of the 93 sponsors of the Green New Deal will be returning to Congress.

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In fact, early looks at the data show that the more ideologically conservative a Democrat was, the more likely they were to lose their race to an actual conservative Republican.

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While Democrats fared poorly in Florida across the board, a progressive ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour outperformed Biden and won with an extremely decisive margin of 61% of the vote. FOX News exit polls showed for the second presidential election cycle in a row that progressive policies like government-run healthcare were very popular with voters on a national level.

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Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who lost her swing seat in Florida’s 26th District, took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to debunk the myth that the progressive wing of the party, its activist supporters, and the specter of “socialism” are somehow responsible for Democratic losses across the board in 2020. For the record, Mucarsel-Powell did not run on Medicare for All.

While there is no easy answer to just what happened during the 2020 election, it’s important to remember that it was conducted in the middle of a pandemic against a Republican president who presides over his own cult of personality whose outrageous abuse of the truth is amplified by an enormously powerful conservative propaganda machine and actively enabled by multibillion-dollar social media companies. This was not a “normal” election by any stretch of the imagination.

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That being said, while Republican fearmongering about “defunding the police” and their lurid fantasies about how Democrats were going to usher in a socialist dystopia certainly didn’t help, the “we support law and order” and “Democrats are Socialists” shtick is one that the Republicans have used every single election for the past 30 years and at some point we have to stop accepting it as an excuse and start demanding some accountability.

As Michael Podhorzer, a senior aide at the nation’s largest union, remarked in the New York Times, not a single Democrat actually ran on “defunding the police” and it is ludicrous to put the blame on black activists.

“They are asking us to believe that after four years of colossal disasters, with more than 200,000 dead from mismanaged Covid, with millions waiting without hope for needed relief to continuing mass unemployment, with more than $14 billion in spending, with massive disruptions to established norms and a President who made this a referendum on four more years of the same, what made the difference was this or that position advocated in the debate that neither Biden nor House Democrats endorsed.”

In fact, there is substantial evidence that Black Lives Matter activists may have helped swing the election for Biden with their determined efforts to register voters at rallies in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In addition, canvassing get-out-the-vote movements of progressive “Squad” Democrats like Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) played a huge role in propelling Biden to victory in their must-win states while as late as September 2020, the Biden campaign answered “What do you mean by ‘on the ground’?” in response to press queries about their ground game in Michigan.

They were certainly more productive for Democrats than the NeverTrump conservative scumbags at the Lincoln Project, who preyed on the legitimate fear and outrage of liberal voters to funnel tens of millions of dollars of grandma’s small-donor-dollars into their private companies while failing to win over any Republicans — in fact, quite the opposite: Trump won a bigger percentage of Republicans than he did in 2016.

That “socialism BAD” messaging doesn’t begin to explain how Donald Trump increased his vote share by 10 million or the gains he made in Hispanic and Black communities, and it’s fairly clear that if it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump would have won the election quite easily — which is deeply alarming in and of itself.

The Democratic Party establishment is clearly in need of a new approach and new messaging in order to drown out and cut through the ceaseless lies and the fearmongering of the right-wing, and giving in to this impulse to turn on the base is the worst possible decision we could make. All this petulant “blame-the-left” narrative does is highlight the Democratic establishment’s failure to competently parry a line of attack they fully knew was coming.




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Colin Taylor
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.

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