ELECTION 2020: Cracks Emerge in Democratic Party a Week After Election

Progressives send their party a memo: Don’t blame us for centrists’ losses. 

Early voting in Cleveland, Ohio, Oct. 16, 2020. (THD3, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By  Julia Conley
Common Dreams

A memo to the Democratic Party from four progressive organizations outlines how — through a number of unforced errors in an attempt to appeal to conservatives and moderates rather than the more forward-looking Democratic base — the party allowed the loss of a number of congressional seats and now risks further alienating the racial justice organizers and working-class voters who helped deliver President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. 

The memo (pdf) from Justice Democrats, the Sunrise Movement, New Deal Strategies and Data for Progress comes a week after centrist Democrats including House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), and Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Penn.) explicitly blamed progressive policy proposals such as Medicare for Allfar-reaching police reform and a fracking ban for congressional losses.

The accusations set off a fierce debate between progressives — including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — and their centrist counterparts. The progressives attempted to redirect Democratic leaders’ attention away from broadly popular proposals and toward the party’s lack of organization and willingness to play into Republican attacks aimed at dividing and conquering.

Rejecting Republican Narratives

“There is no denying Republicans levied salient rhetorical attacks against Democrats, but these will continue to happen as they do every cycle,” reads the memo unveiled on Tuesday. “We cannot let Republican narratives drive our party away from Democrats’ core base of support: young people, Black, Brown, working class, and social movements who are the present and future of the party.”

“Historic voter turnout by Black voters, Native voters, Latino voters, and young voters ensured victory for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris,” the groups added. “Scapegoating progressives and Black activists for their demands and messaging is not the lesson to be learned here. It was their organizing efforts, energy, and calls for change needed in their communities that drove up voter turnout.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib in video promoting voting in the 2020 elections. (Screenshot)

Centrists in recent days have zeroed in on the rallying cry to “defund the police,” which came out of the racial justice uprising that began in May, and the term “socialism” as reasons behind their own losses and near-losses. 

“Not a single Democrat — progressive or otherwise — argued that Democrats should run primarily on these themes,” the memo reads. “Moreover, these attacks will never go away, nor will demands for reform from social movements. The attacks are designed to stoke racial resentment, which is core to the GOP’s election strategy. Our party should not feed into it.”

The current anxiety about the phrase “defund the police” follows earlier Republican attacks in recent years regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and protests by Colin Kaepernick and other Black athletes, from which Democrats distanced themselves.

Allowing the GOP to construct a narrative around “defund the police” — instead of reframing the debate around the specifics of the idea as outlined in the BREATHE Act, such as abolishing the Pentagon program which allows local law enforcement agencies to obtain military equipment — will only  “demobilize our own base,” the memo suggests. 

As a graphic released by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) points out, Medicare for All — another supposedly controversial proposal — has not been shown to harm Democratic candidates who openly support it, even in districts which lean Republican. 

“Medicare for All is a winning issue!” tweeted DSA. “Anyone who claims otherwise is more interested in keeping corporate donations rolling in than actually winning.”

Attacking Organizers Who Propelled Victory

In addition to falling prey to attacks over ideology, the groups wrote, the Democratic Party has in the post-election period begun attacking the very organizers who helped propel Biden to his presidential win — despite the fact that those same campaigners didn’t share many of his policy priorities:

“At the Congressional level, progressives never stopped knocking doors. For example, as the Washington Post reported on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s efforts to turn out voters in her Minnesota district: ‘Since the start of early voting in September, her campaign has been working to turn out every potential voter, including tens of thousands who sat out the 2016 election. The towns and counties of the Iron Range cast 180,023 votes four years ago; Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, cast 679,977 votes. While the Biden-Harris campaign resisted in-person canvassing, Omar’s campaign kept doing it, hiring dozens of people to knock on doors and pull out votes.’ Trump and the GOP really thought they could win Minnesota — what they didn’t count on was 88% turnout in Ilhan’s district with over 400,000 votes. The same was true of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s campaign and district in Michigan, where she focused heavily on engaging low-propensity voters and folks who didn’t turn out in 2016, contacting over 201,000 unique voters with information on how to vote for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Gary Peters, boosting turnout in Detroit and Wayne County, and helping deliver victory for the Democrats.”

The memo emphasizes the material damage that can be done in future elections if centrist Democrats don’t put to rest the notion that progressives and their demands are to blame for centrists’ own losses—even as progressives themselves were successful after embracing policies like Medicare for All.

“This election, the Black youth leading the Black Lives Matter movement have turned their power in the streets into votes and have helped secure Biden’s victory in key cities,” write the groups. “According to an analysis by Tom Bonier of TargetSmart, the protests drove up voter registration, with the earliest signs coming from Georgia, and helped close the enthusiasm gap that plagued Biden into the summer. Fast forward to election day: Black voters matched and exceeded white voter participation in key cities like Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Atlanta, which delivered the presidency to Biden.”

Demonstrators in Philadelphia on Sept. 23, 2020, after a Kentucky grand jury brought no charges against police for the killing of Breonna Taylor. (Joe Piette, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

“Most impressively, in Georgia, young voters skewed heavily Democratic, casting ballots for Biden about 18%more than for Trump—especially young voters of color and young Black voters, 90% of whom voted for Biden,” the memo reads. “If Black youth had come out in slightly lower numbers, Biden would lose the state and we would not have the opportunity we do in the Senate.”

Tlaib Sees Attack on Constituents

As the memo was released, Politico published an interview with Tlaib in which she expressed anger over centrists’ recent attacks — making clear that the onslaught of criticism is aimed not just at her, Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, and other progressive lawmakers, but at their constituents. 

“We’re not going to be successful if we’re silencing districts like mine,” Tlaib told the outlet. “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.”

“If [voters] can walk past blighted homes and school closures and pollution to vote for Biden-Harris, when they feel like they don’t have anything else, they deserve to be heard,” the congresswoman, who won re-election with more than 67% of the vote, added. “I can’t believe that people are asking them to be quiet.” 

Tlaib also tweeted about her interview, including the hashtag #EmbraceTheBase.

Failure to Send Cohesive Message

Economic justice is another area in which many congressional Democrats failed to offer a cohesive message aimed at rallying young voters and marginalized people at the polls this year, the memo says. 

Although “60% of registered voters and 66% of independents think the country is rigged to benefit the wealthy and the powerful,” centrist Democrats have shied away from embracing proposals like student loan cancellationtuition-free public college,and imposing a wealth tax—despite the fact that all three issues are popular among voters across the political spectrum.

“Whatever moderates think of progressives like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it is clear they have forged a far more compelling economic message than what centrists like Lamb or Spanberger have to offer,” the memo reads. “A narrative that centers corporate power and the ultra wealthy as barriers to progress on the economy is compelling across the political spectrum. Democrats should adopt it.”

Ian Haney Lopez, a Berkeley law professor who wrote in the New York Times in September that Biden and the Democrats must “link racism and class conflict” and whose op-ed is mentioned in the memo, urged Democrats to read the document. 

This article is from Common Dreams.

Please Contribute to Consortium News

Donate securely with


Click on ‘Return to PayPal’ here

Or securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:

18 comments for “ELECTION 2020: Cracks Emerge in Democratic Party a Week After Election

  1. Cratylus
    November 12, 2020 at 16:12

    The pwogs have only themselves to blame for the current state of affairs. When Bernie capitulated in a race he could have won against Demented Joe – handsomely so with the arrival of Covid-19, they lost all leverage. And for good measure they backed Biden without getting anything in return, they made damned sure that all leverage was lost. Then the idiots one out and worked their asses off for someone that did not represent them. Great for careers in the Dem Party. Lousy if reputation for integrity and reliability is of importance.
    This article belongs in Common Dreams, standard fare, but it is far below the standards for CN.

  2. Babyl-on
    November 12, 2020 at 15:11

    I’ll make a simple statement, if anyone out there has a rational response which refutes the statement I would like to engage with you.

    Western liberal democracy is an utter and contemptible failure irredeemable in any form we might now call “democracy.”

    Western civilization itself – the culture and historical momentum which underlies politics and is far more basic has been overtaken by history and knowledge, it is passe, misguided and moribund.

    If we are to deal with climate change, Western civilization must reexamine what it believes man’s place in the world is. And in so doing do away with the underlying discredited cosmology.

    There deep cosmological and philosophical propositions and understandings of Western civilization that simply do not conform to the real world as we have come to know it.

  3. rgl
    November 12, 2020 at 13:17

    I fail to understand why reference to ‘republican’ or ‘democrat’ are still understood to be relevant. On all major issues both factions march in lockstep. Both factions rely on corporations to fill party coffers, and thus both factions are indebted to them. Both factions have no problem whatsoever throwing their military might around the world, often will negative consequences at home. Both factions are entirely in thrall to the Pentagon in which an already bloated budget is increased year over year. Neither faction wants to implement healthcare for all – due to the influence (read money) that is donated to them – to both factions – by corporate health, regardless of the fact that most Americans want medicare for all. There is in fact, only one political party. The War Party. The bickering that goes on is nothing more than a result of the two factions that want their people to have the means – power – to milk the system; to enrich themselves and their cohorts.

    • Babyl-on
      November 12, 2020 at 15:15

      Seconded, and right/left have no meaning either sense the center has evaporated – right/left of what?

  4. November 12, 2020 at 13:04

    Here is what I read somewhere and I think it is basically correct.

    Biden was in fifth place. Harris in last.

    Yet it is the two of them proffered up the “party”.

    What does that tell you?

    I’ve thought both predominant parties in the US must go down forever if the country has any hope of a future, but I’ve pretty much realized for many years that the Dems must go down first. Jackson is the reason for that.

    Study your history if you want an idea about what is going to happen in the future. You might be wrong, we all have bias, but if you don’t study history, then you have no chance to make a difference for the better is what I think.


    • November 12, 2020 at 14:30

      Here is what Jackson did that was SO wrong and we (our country) will NEVER outlive unless we change in BIG ways.

      He put into law the “Indian Removal Act” of 1830 and don’t you think there is so much irony in that? He sent off the folks who were already living in the land, just like all the folks who came to the US escaping tyranny. Irony and sadness to the extreme is what I think and an unbelievable lacking of wisdom and judgement from a man who had fought battles and should have known better. Maybe he was just lucky.

      That Act of inequity went down in history as one of the worst choices of a young country. Some fought it and that makes for a bit of mitigation, but at the end of the day, Jackson made it happen. Crazy to think that he grew up amongst those he sent off to a Trail of Tears.

      Some tears have long memories and justice will be served and there will be remedy. If your beginnings are tarnished, then your ending will come soon enough. The sooner the better is what I think and let the truth be revealed! The truth will set you free as some wise folks said well before that renegade Jackson got lucky in New Orleans or forgot who he was when he got to the White House and there was a big Party of hooligans.

      If you forget where you came from, then get ready to learn a hard lesson. Come on folks……lets take this to the end even if Bernie could not do it because he was afraid or washed over or something……just remember, sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone and do something new and crazy. It is time for some new parties, but even more than that, it is time for Article V to be implemented. It will happen or not, but if not, then here let me give you a blue pill.


  5. scott tandy
    November 12, 2020 at 12:24

    Call CA Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint Rep. Barbara Lee to replace Sen. Harris.
    It will be a positive signal to progressives; give Mitch McConnell fits; and replace a black female with a black female.

    • November 12, 2020 at 19:52

      Re: scott tandy
      There is no doubt that Gov. Gavin Newsom should be encouraged to appoint Barbara Lee to replace Sen. Harris, because she has earned it with proven credibility and integrity in elective office. These are the characteristics that demonstrate her political qualifications as a trustworthy and informed long-term legislator. Being a Progressive, I gleefully agree that her appointment would surely (and deservedly) “give Mitch McConnell fits”, however framing such a decision, in any part, as replacing “a black female with a black female”, is not the stuff of serious healthy progressive political thought; those elements who require such racist pandering in order to attract their felty are not practicing Progressives.
      As Usual,

  6. Babyl-on
    November 12, 2020 at 12:02

    I’ll make a simple statement, if anyone out there has a rational response which refutes the statement I would like to engage with you.

    Western liberal democracy is an utter and contemptible failure irredeemable in any form we might now call “democracy.”

    Western civilization itself – the culture and historical momentum which underlies politics and is far more basic has been overtaken by history and knowledge, it is passe, misguided and moribund.

    If we are to deal with climate change, Western civilization must reexamine what it believes man’s place in the world is. And in so doing do away with the underlying discredited cosmology.

    There deep cosmological and philosophical propositions and understandings of Western civilization that simply do not conform to the real world as we have come to know it.

  7. November 12, 2020 at 10:58

    94 long years old here.

    From my early days: support for any system will come from those who benefit from it – so who’s benefiting from this one? Exactly.

    • David G Horsman
      November 13, 2020 at 00:26

      60 here. Knowlege advances. W5H? The ‘H’ stands for how.
      Where’s the profit?

  8. Daniel
    November 12, 2020 at 10:17

    It makes perfect sense why corporate Dems are blaming progressives for their near-total losses: they need someone to blame for not getting the votes they need to be able to twist a (hoped for) landslide-victory narrative into a (false) mandate-from-the-people narrative, which they desperately need as cover for their planned return to and expansion of the neo-liberal project that has ruined working peoples’ lives the globe over. Their losses can’t possibly be their fault, they believe, because they did everything they could to ensure that their crappy neo-liberal project was the only choice Dems had. In their minds they succeeded at this, so their losses MUST be someone else’s fault. And they have been teeing progressives up my entire lifetime for just such an occasion.

    But they failed. Again. They almost lost it all. And now they will blame their favorite whipping boy for their dismal showing, even while the bankruptcy of their ideology and the fraud of their rhetoric is failing to fool much of anyone anymore. Look at how they’ve had to invent conspiracy theories the last four years to fool the few who still believe in them. Think about what that says about how they feel about their own followers. They have earned my forever scorn and disgust.

    So, F’em. They’re toast. Let them whine (wine cave?) themselves into the dustbin of history. I’ve had it with these greedy corporate managers of decaying Empire. They have no positive vision for the future. They know this. And they’re only mad right now because they didn’t get away with completely brainwashing the entire country into believe otherwise. Disgusting.

  9. Nathan Mulcahy
    November 12, 2020 at 10:10

    What’s new? Hadn’t Obama’s first chief of staff (?) Rahm Emmanuel responded with “F**k the progressives” when, after Obama’s first election, the grass roots progressives had demanded a seat at the table?

  10. Marypeace Paz
    November 12, 2020 at 01:42

    America is past hegemony. America is dead. America has run its course. America has spent billions on wars and conflicts and left the population suffer.
    America has nothing to offer those that toil and do the work to keep the Industrial weapons makers to continue to exist and suck the workers blood and soul.
    No good education, no good infrastructure, no good water system, no good health care, no good seniors homes, no good food, pollution, no good jobs, no good child care; just suffering and destruction everywhere.
    In 1981 GrandFather David from the Hopi told me the time is near, for fires, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, etc, not just in America, but in many places.
    Unless we respect Mother Earth and care for each other, we are doomed.

    • John R
      November 12, 2020 at 09:06

      “Unless we respect Mother Earth and care for each other, we are doomed.” And doomed we are. When nothing except money is sacred we end up with a world like this one. Rich white men are extremely dangerous – we have allowed this. My heart breaks.

      • John Earls
        November 12, 2020 at 16:50

        Compare with Arce’s and Choquehuanca’s words on the installation of the new MAS government in Bolivia.

    • November 12, 2020 at 10:59


  11. Andrew Nichols
    November 11, 2020 at 20:51

    James Clyburn

    Civil Rights warrior now Corporate tamed Uncle Tom…

Comments are closed.