Read: The progressive activist begging the left to stop owning itself
Other moderates echoed her in interviews with me, arguing that Republicans successfully tied them to leftist “Squad” members such as Ocasio-Cortez and Representative Ilhan Omar. “No matter what [moderate lawmakers] did personally, the Democratic Party brand stereotype of the loud folks on Twitter was louder,” Erickson told me, citing conversations she’d had with staffers for swing-state members. “They were caricatured as raising taxes, supporting socialism, the Green New Deal, defunding the police, even if they explicitly opposed those things.” One senior aide to another Democratic freshman in a red district lamented that the party should have had a better answer on police reform during this summer’s protests. “The national narrative around law and order was one I don’t think Democrats fully or capably pushed back on in an effective way,” he said.
Sherrill, who won reelection by double digits last week, told me that she managed to “overcome the national messaging that was so detrimental to so many candidates.” When I asked her what the Democrats’ messaging should be instead, Sherrill said that the party needs to be “laser focused” on making people’s day-to-day lives better. “Of course we care about broad issues of justice,” she said. But Democrats “need to be talking to people about jobs and security right now.”
Republicans, though, will continue to call Democrats socialists whether they are or not. And since Spanberger’s comments, progressives have noted that many lawmakers in swing districts ran on progressive ideas such as Medicare for All and won or are projected to win reelection, including Representatives Mike Levin and Katie Porter of California, Jared Golden of Maine, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, and Susan Wild and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania. In Georgia, a state Democrats are poised to win for the first time in decades, the Black Lives Matter movement had 13-point net favorability, according to Tom Bonier, the CEO of the data firm TargetSmart. And in early summer, BLM demonstrations led to a huge jump in Georgia voter registration.
Progressives contend that the Democrats unseated in swing districts this year actually lost, in part, because they lacked a compelling agenda. “The conservative wing of the Democratic Party has zero ideas to offer, save that they think the left is going too far and Trump is going too far,” Justice Democrats’ Shahid told me. Moreover, the House Democrats who lost simply failed to run modern, social-media-focused campaigns, Ocasio-Cortez told The New York Times over the weekend. “If you’re not door-knocking, if you’re not on the internet, if your main points of reliance are TV and mail, then you’re not running a campaign on all cylinders. I just don’t see how anyone could be making ideological claims when they didn’t run a full-fledged campaign,” she said. (Lamb disputed this, telling the Times, “It’s not a question of door-knocking, or Facebook. It matters what policies you stand for, and which ones you don’t,” adding that his constituents “are not clamoring for” single-payer health insurance or the Green New Deal.)