A civil war has been roiling the Democratic Party since election night 2020 when Democrats were stunned by historic losses in the House and major disappointments up and down the ballot in states across the country. This feud has only escalated further in recent weeks as tensions between the party’s moderates and progressives have boiled over—and there is no better example of the drama that is playing out nationwide than the disaster that beset Democrats recently in the swing state of Nevada. In a shocking series of events, Nevada’s state party apparatus has been torn in two by conflict and open hostility between the socialist and moderate factions of the Democrat coalition. It is a perfect microcosm of the Democrat Civil War.
Last week, Democrat leaders in Washoe County, Nevada, one of several key swing counties that determine the outcome of statewide elections, announced that they would buck the state party apparatus, which has been taken over by Bernie Sanders acolytes, and instead set up their own organization aligned with the establishment wing of the party to coordinate voter outreach and fundraising for the 2022 election cycle.
The seeds of the fissure were planted earlier this year when a group of leftist candidates backed by Sanders and several local chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America secured top leadership posts within the state Democratic Party organization. By declaring their independence from these leftists this week, the Washoe County Democrats are apparently hoping to distance themselves from the radicals in control of the state party in what amounts to an open acknowledgment that Democrats’ leftward lurch is alienating Nevada voters.
Judith Whitmer, the newly installed socialist chair of the Nevada Democratic Party, called the decision by the Washoe County Democrats an “insurrection,” as well as “ill-advised and undemocratic.”
Several elected Democrats in Nevada who bill themselves as moderates, including Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Governor Steve Sisolak, nonetheless stated their support for the move, likely realizing that association with progressive policies could threaten their own reelection hopes next year, just as it damaged or destroyed reelection bids for many incumbent Democrats in the U.S. House in 2020.
Unfortunately for Democrats in Washington, members of the House and Senate have found it much harder to distance themselves from the increasingly extreme members of their coalition on the stage of national politics. Under the glare of the national media spotlight, any dissent from the progressive line is swiftly punished as the woke mob descends on party moderates. For this reason, last year, many Congressional Democrats made what President Trump referred to as the “corrupt bargain”—agreeing to vote for progressive policies out of step with their state’s voters as long as the socialist wing of the party did not run a primary opponent against them.
Yet after many House Democrats were compelled to defend or endorse radical progressive policies such the “Defund the Police” movement and the “Green New Deal,” numerous incumbent Democrats lost or eked out narrow wins, leading to widely reported outrage from Democrats in swing districts.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) reportedly urged her colleagues to “not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” while Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) admitted that many Democrats are “not going to win” if they run on platforms like Defund the Police.
But despite the pleas of more moderate Democrats, the drama has not ended. In recent weeks, Congressional Democrats have once again become embroiled in an intra-party squabble over support for Israel. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a member of the “Squad,” a group of young, radical left-wing House Democrat women legislators who have an outsized voice in setting the Democratic Party agenda, likened the actions of Israel and the United States to the terrorist group Hamas, tweeting recently that “we have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
A group of Jewish House Democrats responded to this outrageous moral equivalence by issuing a statement calling Omar’s comments “offensive” and “misguided.” However, rather than apologize, Omar doubled down, this time with backup from fellow Squad members Rashida Tlaib, who claimed that “freedom of speech doesn’t exist for Muslim women,” and Squad Queen Bee herself AOC, who accused Democratic leadership of “constant vilification” and “public targeting” of Omar.
The episode was a reprise of a similar debacle in 2019 when House Democrats failed to pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in response to other tweets from Rep. Omar that accused Jewish Americans of having “dual loyalty” and only caring “about the Benjamins.” After pushback from progressives, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi watered down the language of the resolution to include condemnations of “all hate,” sparing Omar any direct rebuke.
Two years later, it appears that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have completely surrendered to the progressive wing of their caucuses, with Schumer rumored to be worried about the possibility of a primary challenge from AOC herself.
Because Democrats hold only a razor-slim majority in the House, the Squad, which votes together on nearly every issue, effectively holds veto power over any policy put forth by House leadership. As a result, the legislation passed by the House since the 2020 election has been some of the most radical in American history, even though Democrats lost seats last year in what was widely interpreted as a rebuke of their leftist bent.
Progressives’ ascendance is not only occurring in the states and the Congress, but it is increasingly clear that progressives also have an iron grip on the Biden White House. Despite the fact that Biden ran as the consummate moderate, he has filled his cabinet and executive agencies with left-wing activists and radical progressives. Although Biden may claim to be bipartisan, the individuals who actually write and implement his agenda are anything but an issue that resulted in fierce confirmation fights over leftists like the new Associate Attorney General for Civil Rights, Vanita Gupta, who previously expressed support for defunding the police.
The chaos in Nevada could be a warning sign of what is to come for Democrats nationwide if they fail to rein in the radical progressive wing of the party that is increasingly in the drivers seat. Not just local party organizations but prominent national Democrats may soon be distancing themselves from the party’s controversial brand.
If they do not change course, then Democrats may once again have a hefty price to pay at the ballot box in 2022.
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