Monday, February 25, 2019


The New York Times reports that moderate House Democrats are being asked to answer for the pronouncements of their progressive colleagues. The situation is initially portrayed as dire:
NEPHI, Utah — In the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Representative Ben McAdams, a freshman, was grilled by constituents about the “socialism” and “anti-Semitism” that they saw coming out of the new Democratic House.

“How long do you intend to ride that train with those people?” one Utahan asked.

In Michigan, Representative Haley Stevens was asked about her ability to counter what one voter deemed the bigotry of some of her freshman colleagues — a concern fueled partly by remarks from her counterpart in nearby Detroit, Rashida Tlaib — and “the negative attitude they bring to Democrats.”

And on a rainy Saturday in Spotsylvania County, Va., one woman stood up in a town hall to remind Representative Abigail Spanberger that while she was the first Democrat to hold that seat in nearly 50 years, the majority of the rural enclave had voted Republican.

“Since the Democrats are now the party of death and taxes,” the woman said, as Democratic supporters scoffed and grumbled, “just how do you propose to effectively represent the taxpayers of Spotsylvania?”

It was Democrats like Mr. McAdams, Ms. Stevens and Ms. Spanberger who secured the party’s House majority, political moderates who won districts often long represented by Republicans. Of the 67 Democrats in Congress’s freshman class, roughly a third prevailed in districts where President Trump won in 2016.

That serves as another indication that Democrats will have to confront the intraparty tussle between liberals and moderates to decide what they stand for, whom they appeal to and where their electoral future lies.
Democrats are doomed! They can't maintain their House majority if they lose the swing districts they won back in 2018, and vocal progressives could be making that impossible!

I'll grant that this could be a serious problem for Democrats. On the other hand, after that alarming lede, I'm struck by the fact that the only two critics who are identified by name are ... people who would never vote Democratic under any circumstances.
... Ms. Spanberger ... made a point of thanking her more critical questioners, including Dale Swanson, a founder of the local conservative women’s coalition, for their presence and their questions....

At a pair of town halls last week in the deeply Republican suburbs of Salt Lake City, Mr. McAdams, an affable and mild-mannered former Salt Lake County mayor, fielded pointed questions about whether he supports the Green New Deal and socialism. More broadly, constituents worried how their moderate congressman might fare in the same caucus as the liberal bomb throwers. Richard Hansen, a Republican county commissioner and one of the two dozen constituents who attended the town hall in Nephi, a mountain town of 6,000, shared a wish with the Utah Democrat: “I hope they don’t corrupt you.” ...
(Emphasis added.)

And notice that Ben McAdams is hearing criticism "in the deeply Republican suburbs of Salt Lake City." That's not where his margin of victory came from. We're told that he and other moderates are making the deliberate choice to hold town halls in parts of their districts where they aren't so popular:
Back home, Mr. McAdams, Ms. Stevens and Ms. Spanberger [have been] seeking out the more conservative corners to temper concerns and reassure supporters that they are focusing on popular policy priorities like broadband internet access in rural Virginia and environmental concerns in Michigan.
If you're a solid progressive, you won't like what some of these House members are saying -- they're swearing that they're not socialists or pledging unswerving loyalty to Israel. But they're good on a lot of issues, they're keeping the House out of the hands of Kevin McCarthy and Devin Nunes, and it looks as if they're actually holding their own, even in parts of their districts where they're sure to lose again in 2020. (Holding their losses to a minimum in Republican parts of their districts is a good strategy.)

In these districts, the true progressives are resigned to the inevitability of not getting what they want from their elected representatives:
More liberal supporters of the newcomers said that while they aspire to have someone openly pushing for universal health care, free postsecondary education and other more aggressive policies, a moderate approach is what will maintain Democratic representation in their districts.

“Those are things I could put aside,” said Damon Burkeen, 17, a high school senior who drove an hour on icy Michigan roads to hear Ms. Stevens speak. “She fits our district,” which, aside from an odd two-month blip in a lame-duck session in 2012, has been represented by Republicans for 52 years.

Bill Rucker, a retired chemistry and biology teacher from Milford, said that as a fan of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Tlaib, he “wouldn’t mind if Haley was more that way.”

“But I understand that it can’t be everyone,” Mr. Rucker, 71, added.
That's America outside the blue enclaves: even the progressives become tolerant of moderation, while conservatives parrot Fox News memes -- but politely, so far.

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