President Donald Trump’s calls for bipartisanship during his State of the Union address drew indignant scoffs from Democratic leadership and members of the party’s progressive wing. “The president failed to offer any plan, any vision at all, for our future,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, referring to the speech as an “embarrassment.” Much of the news media focused on these dismissive reactions, painting a picture of a Democratic Party unwilling to hear the president. But one bloc of House Democrats is responding in a more positive fashion: the moderates the Democratic Party needs to maintain its House majority.
“President Trump’s call for unity was welcome news,” said Representative Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, who defeated the pro-Trump Republican Katie Arrington in November. Representative Ben McAdams of Utah, who unseated the Republican Mia Love, concurred: “As the president said, we can bridge old divisions and forge new solutions, if we work together.”
It might not be the most surprising news that moderate Democrats are reacting with, well, moderation to the president’s overtures. Most of them spent months during their respective campaigns making appeals to Republicans—including some of the president’s own supporters—and pledging to reach across the aisle to pass legislation. But their reaction is nevertheless meaningful: These are not only the lawmakers who can make or break Democrats’ control of the House, but if Congress is to pass bipartisan legislation at some point in the next two years, these moderate lawmakers, not vocal progressives, are likely to be the most involved. Their apparent openness to Trump’s entreaties shows how willing some of the most consequential freshmen are to quietly break with their party, even at a time of intense rancor over another potential government shutdown.