Claire McCaskill has two words for her progressive critics: “Shut up.”
In a Thursday interview with The New York Times, the outgoing Missouri senator described her frustration—among other grievances—that some of her fellow Democrats saw her as too quiet on the issue of abortion during the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“Really? This is hard,” McCaskill said of running as a Democrat in a red state. “I have been standing in the breach for women’s rights as it relates to reproductive freedom for all of my adult life, and the fact that these [critics] didn’t realize that and just be quiet, roll up their sleeves, and work their ass off for me was beyond irritating.”
McCaskill’s comments help illustrate one of the central dilemmas facing the Democratic Party: To maintain and expand its congressional majority, should the party fully embrace progressivism and all its tenets? Or should it accept the idea that the definition of “Democrat” might be slightly different in every state? Answering these questions is crucial as Democrats begin to flex their legislative muscle in the House—and as they position themselves for the 2020 elections.
McCaskill, who served 12 years in the U.S. Senate before she lost to Josh Hawley, Missouri’s Republican attorney general, in November, has a reputation as a moderate—someone who prioritizes bipartisanship, and is always positioned smack-dab in the middle of charts plotting the ideology of members of Congress.