US House Democrats trade blame over unexpected losses in election

Representative Abigail Spanberger narrowly won re-election in a Republican-leaning Virginia district. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Frustration among Democrats over the US House election losses spilled over during a conference call Thursday (Nov 5) as several moderates blamed party progressives for promoting an ultra-liberal agenda that turned off swing voters.

Representative Abigail Spanberger, who narrowly won re-election in a Republican-leaning Virginia district, was one of several Democrats who voiced anger that the party lost races they should have won, according to people familiar with the private caucus call.

She and others contended that issues promoted by the Democratic left - such as calls to defund the police - gave Republicans an opening to paint the entire party as socialists and radicals. Spanberger's office didn't respond to a request for comment.

At least seven incumbent Democrats, six of them first elected in the 2018 Democratic wave, lost their bids for re-election. And the party fell short of flipping seats in states such as Texas that had appeared to be prime targets in this election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told fellow Democrats that she disagreed with the assessment that the election weakened the party, according to one person who listened to the call. She emphasised that Democrats had held control of the House and that Joe Biden is on a path to winning the presidency.

Majority worries

Representatives Marc Veasey of Texas and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio were described as joining Spanberger in airing similar grievances. They complained that progressive members embracing socialism were endangering the continued Democratic hold on the House majority, according to another person familiar with the call.

The power of the party's young and vocal progressives, led by New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is set to grow with the addition next year of several new members who replaced have more centrist veterans.

Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, an Ocasio-Cortez ally who also was first elected in 2018, said she viewed the complaints from the centrists as pressure on her not to speak her mind, according to one of the people.

For his part, President Donald Trump on Thursday hailed Republican victories in House races against predictions. The GOP "actually won many new seats and I think many more on the way," he said.

Democratic tensions will be building leading up to the 2022 elections. The party in control of the White House historically has lost seats in midterms, and Democrats will have a narrower majority to defend heading into that vote.

The internal bickering played out in public as almost real-time leaks of the back-and-forth on the call Thursday. Some members tweeted during the discussion, pleading with colleagues to stop.

"I've gotten texts from 3 different reporters asking me to live-leak juicy details to them. No. We (Dems and the media) need to stop this nonsense," Representative Jared Huffman of California tweeted at one point.

The turmoil illustrates the challenge Pelosi will be confronting in managing the various factions of her slimmed-down majority in what could be her last two years as speaker.

Pelosi has promised colleagues she won't serve as speaker beyond 2023, to allow a new generation of Democrats to assume leadership. She has said she will seek the post for the next two-year session; House Democrats will nominate a speaker in party leadership elections Nov 18 and 19.

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