Democrats won the White House, whether President Donald Trump wants to face that non-alternative fact or not.

But, as the celebratory confetti and honking car horns settled down, new disputes broke out in the famously factional party over how and why they lost just about everywhere else.

They expected to flip the Senate back from Republican control. But they didn’t.

They expected to gain seats in the House as they did in the 2018 midterms, but instead they lost seats.

They seriously hoped a “blue wave” would flip some state legislatures, but, no, not one.

More embarrassing in this year of racial reckoning, the share of Black, Hispanic and women voters won by the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris actually went down compared with four years ago.

The losses left Democrats pinning their hopes on two long-shot runoffs for Senate seats in Georgia to save them from the sort of gridlock that Presidents Barack Obama and Trump faced with a divided Congress.

The message from voters to Democrats seemed to be, “No, we may not like Trump but we’re not crazy about you guys either.”

What went wrong? Bad messaging caught much of the blame in a heated conference call between House Democrats two days after Election Day.

“We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again,” said a furious first-term Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, in an audio leaked to The Washington Post. Not that the former CIA officer was ever a socialist, but that didn’t stop her adversaries from trying to rebrand her as one.

That’s politics, hardball-style. The most problematic slogan for Dems these days may be “defund the police.” Biden, Spanberger and other Democrats who heatedly oppose that slogan have been tarred with it anyway.

Self-inflicted wound

As I have written — and undoubtedly will again — that slogan is a massive self-inflicted wound for the left, a misrepresentation of sensible efforts already underway in some municipalities to fund mental health and other social services so police can focus more attention on actual crime-fighting.

But if you want to have a productive, nuanced discussion of such tender topics, don’t try to do it in a hot election year.

“ ‘Defund the police’ is killing our party, and we’ve got to stop it,” said South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, credited as kingmaker to Joe Biden’s campaign when it was about to die in the primaries, in a CBS News interview last week.

Clyburn recalled how he and the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis compared “defund the police” to “burn, baby, burn,” the street chant that “destroyed our movement back in the ’60s.”

To those who say the slogan doesn’t literally mean to defund police, Clyburn said, “Well, in this business, you’ve gotta say what you mean, and you gotta mean what you say, and if you have to explain what you mean, you are losing the argument.”

Today Trump uses “law and order” to refocus attention to rioters and away from legitimate issues of police conduct that can contribute to the bad police-community relations that fuel riots.

cpagechicagotribune.com.

Get Unlimited Access
$3 for 3 Months
Subscribe Now

Support local journalism reporting on your community

* New Subscribers Only
* Digital Subscription Only
After the initial selected subscription period your subscription rate will auto renew at $8.00 per month.

For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.