House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is understandably concerned that some proposals she hears from Democratic presidential candidates and members of Congress are so far to the left that they could enable President Trump to win reelection.
In an interview with Bloomberg News over the weekend, Pelosi said: "As a left-wing San Francisco liberal I can say to these people: What are you thinking?"
Which begs the question: Could Democrats lose the race for the White House – and possibly their majority in the House and the chance to gain majority control of the Senate – because of four freshmen House members known as “the Squad”?
The four Democratic congresswomen – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – have attracted heavy news coverage that far exceeds what freshmen normally receive.
As a result, many voters now see the four as the face of today’s Democratic Party. Republicans encourage that view, while demonizing the four women and portraying them as dangerous anti-American radicals out to launch a socialist revolution the will destroy the U.S. economy and cause many other problems
That’s a gross exaggeration, but nevertheless arouses the Republican base. Republican leaders hope the demonization of “the Squad” will also persuade moderate Republicans, independents and even some Democrats to reject whoever the Democrats nominate for president, along with Democratic congressional candidates.
Pelosi seemingly dissed the four freshmen earlier this year when said they were just ‘four people who despite their social media presence, still yield just four votes in the House.”
Nevertheless, members of “the Squad” enjoy the support of the most progressive faction of the Democratic Party. And some proposals by Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont have drawn strong support from “Squad” members.
In fact, three of the four congresswomen have endorsed Sanders, a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” for president. Pressley, from the same state at Elizabeth Warren, is endorsing Warren.
In her weekend interview, Pelosi seemed to be issuing a warning: while the most progressive faction of the Democratic Party might fire up the party base with its proposals, it could wind up losing the support of more moderate Democrats, independents and anti-Trump Republicans whose votes Democrats need to win elections.
Pelosi specifically spoke of “Medicare-for-all” endorsed by Sanders and Warren, and Warren’s wealth tax.
“What works in San Francisco does not necessarily work in Michigan,” Pelosi said. She then went on to say that advocating for workers’ rights and sharing prosperity works both in Michigan and San Francisco.
While Pelosi hasn’t endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate, it seems clear that she looks more favorably on a more mainstream moderate Democrat that one on the party’s far-left. Candidates who fit this description include former Vice President Joe Biden, who is the current front-runner; South Bend., Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
The polls seem to agree with Pelosi that a moderate Democrat would have the best chance at defeating Trump – the top priority for most Democratic voters.
In a New York Times-Siena College poll released Monday, Trump trails Biden, but has a lead over Warren.
More significantly, the results from states that will be battlegrounds in the election support the view that voters are looking for a Democrat closer to the center than Warren and Sanders.
For example, in Arizona, Biden leads Trump by 5 points; he also leads Trump in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida. And in Michigan – which Democrats lost in 2016 and need to win back in 2020 – Trump and Biden are neck and neck.
In 2016 Trump won all six of the battleground states. If he does that again, he’ll win a second term.
I agree with Pelosi. The Green New Deal, “Medicare-for-all,” a wealth tax and other progressive ideas are all great policies that appeal to many Democrats. But the most progressive Democrats won’t lead the party to victory a year from now if they don’t pick up the support of any other voters.
American presidential elections are really 51 separate elections – one in every state and the District of Columbia. That means simply winning the popular vote – as Hillary Clinton did in 2016 by a 3 million-vote margin – won’t put a candidate in the White House. Candidates need to win majorities in enough states to rack up an Electoral College majority.
“Remember November,” Pelosi said. “You must win the Electoral College.”
If Democrats are to win the White House, keep control of the House and gain control of the Senate next year they will need to be pragmatic and widen their appeal beyond their far-left base. In elections, there are no rewards for second-place finishers.