Democrats Debate Blame for House Election Losses

Interview with Charles Chamberlain, chairman of Democracy for America, conducted by Scott Harris

Despite multiple pre-election polls that predicted a “blue wave” of landslide proportion victories for presidential candidate Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, the tsunami never materialized. While Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than 5 million ballots, he didn’t rack up the Electoral College margin that many pollsters thought was assured. Democrats did, however, win two long-running Republican-controlled states, Georgia and Arizona.

While House Democrats managed to hold on to their majority won in 2018, the party suffered losses that set off intra-party, heated debate and finger-pointing. Democrats, who held a 35-seat advantage before the 2020 election gained 3 seats, while losing 9 seats to Republicans in mostly conservative districts. There were expectations that Democrats would gain control of the U.S. Senate, but there, too, Republicans defied predictions to lose only one seat. Two Senate run-off elections in Georgia on Jan. 5 will determine which party controls that body.

Democracy for America, a political action committee founded by supporters of Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, has more than 1 million members. In the 2020 election, the group endorsed more than 50 progressive candidates in 19 states. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Charles Chamberlain, chairman of Democracy for America, who assesses the outcome of the election and Democratic legislator’s current debate over who’s to blame for the party’s down ballot losses.

CHARLES CHAMBERLAIN: Following the elections, there were accounts of really rancorous debate within the Democratic party about the election results with the House losing some seats, moderate Democrats. We’re talking about the destructive slogan of “Defund the Police,” Medicare for All, self-declared Democratic candidates who are members of socialist parties. And you also had folks, Uber proclaiming the Green New Deal. These moderate Democrats basically say that this move to the left on the part of the party and the progressive wing of the Democratic party is going to destroy the Democrats, especially in the midterm election coming up in 2022. What about that argument you think is flawed?

Why did these candidates, these moderate candidates lose? Did they lose because of the radical left or did they lose because they ran a really crappy campaign? That’s the bottom line. People don’t like to take credit for running a bad campaign. So what they do instead is they look for somewhere else they can blame. And it’s a classic scenario for establishment corporate Democrats to go and blame the left for being extreme, for being over the top. And yet the reality is, if you look at issue after issue that the so-called radical left supports, those are supported by the majority of Americans. You know, raising minimum wage won in Florida, you know, raising minimum wage has won since 2002. It is one in all 22 states that it has been up. That includes Alaska, Montana, Kansas, you name it — “Raise Minimum Wage” wins, right?

But how often did we hear Joe Biden or the candidates running for Congress in Florida talk about raising the minimum wage? Not very often. In fact, almost never. Right? I think if we go to the part about things like police reform or what people stand for, you know, when you think about what Joe Biden stands for on climate change, do you know the answer? What he stood for? My guess is the first thing that comes to your mind is, you know, that Joe Biden didn’t stand for the Green New Deal because he said it repeatedly. You know, that he will not ban fracking because he said it repeatedly. But you know what he actually stood for? And most people don’t.

And so if you go to an issue like “defund the police,” do you know what Joe Biden wants to do on police reform?You don’t because he barely ever talked about it. Instead, what you know is that Joe Biden is against defunding the police. Or you think he’s for it because all you heard was the Republicans say that, and you never saw a good argument back from Joe Biden about what he was actually for. And you just saw him, you know, backed into a corner on the Republican rhetorical playing field, because he insisted upon saying I’m against defunding the police instead of talking about what he really wanted to do.

If you look at the numbers of the 112 sponsors, on Medicare for All, not a single one of them lost re-election, not one of them. And that includes people like Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona who won re-election, even though there are more registered Republicans in her district than Democrats. Or Jared Golden in Maine, who was in the same district that Trump won in 2016. And of course, progressive favorites like Katie Porter or Mike Levin, who each flipped seats held by Republicans for more than 40 years in the heart of orange County, California home of Richard Nixon, they won. They won, right?

So, and then if you go to the Green New Deal — 98 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal — only one of them lost, only one. I think that says more about Florida than it says about Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who was the candidate that lost. So I think that what we need to do is the Democratic party needs to look deeply at its roots and what its values are and what it actually stands for. And when we stand up and fight for those values, things like Medicare for All and Green New Deal — or even just healthcare for all and pay attention to climate change. If we just stand for those things for real and actually campaign on them, then we can bring an entire ticket. We can bring up and down the ballot and we can win. If we only stand for what we don’t stand for, like defeating Donald Trump or, when we talked about climate change, just saying, “I will not ban fracking,” those kinds of things don’t work up and down the ballot.

For more information, visit Democracy For America at

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