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Tipsheet

Huh? These Progressives Are Actually Excited By Democrats Losing Seats

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Alex Seitz-Wald's Sunday piece from NBC News may be one of the greatest cases of Democratic disarray that is currently out there. "Democratic retirements imperil majority but make way for the left," he writes. While the high amount of retirements, which at this point is 30 members, is briefly mentioned, it's more of an afterthought. There's even a dismissal of how this could further worsen Democratic losses in the midterms, just a little over eight months away now. Rather, the focus of the piece is on the opening this brings for progressives. 

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When it comes to those 30 Democratic members retiring, which includes those on committee leadership, Seitz-Wald came across as dismissive. "But most of those departing Democrats represent safe blue seats, so they will likely be replaced by other Democrats — the real uncertainty is which kind," he writes at one point. 

The kind of Democrats the piece is profiling are progressives. This includes Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the progressive Working Families Party. Seitz-Wald notes that "Mitchell, whose group prides itself on supporting candidates in municipal and state legislative races as a way to build a pipeline of progressive candidates, said leftist candidates often have difficulty overcoming the power of established incumbents and winning higher office."

What's really worth highlighting, as Seitz-Wald himself does in a Twitter thread, is the acknowledgment that Democrats are almost certain to be in the minority following the November midterms. 

As he writes, with added emphasis:

Now, the left is hoping to seize these rare openings to win power and then have incumbency work in its favor, even if Democrats may not be in the majority again for a few years.

“A smaller but more progressive Democratic Caucus would be a more functional and healthy and coherent caucus,” said Mitchell. “And because of how significant the power of incumbency is, this is not just a proximal play for this election. When they’re in office, they will shape the conversation for the next 10 or 20 years.”

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Mitchell's enthusiasm over Democrats being in the minority illustrates a few things. One would be that he is perhaps confused about how the idea is to win elections, and just how bad the midterms are likely to look for the Democratic Party. In this two-party system that the country mostly relies on, progressive candidates are running as Democrats.

Further, while Mitchell's point expresses hope for the long-term role progressive members will have, it's worth emphasizing that they make up a small part of the electorate. Squad members such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) may win their districts handily, but that's because they come from particularly liberal districts, which doesn't necessarily speak to the rest of the country.

Democratic strategist James Carville warned about this in an interview published last month with Vox, as Democrats, like AOC, took to villainizing Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). He made the following key point in the interview:

Look, I’m a liberal Democrat. Always have been. But some of these people b*tching about Manchin can’t see political reality straight. Six percent of adults in this country identify as “progressive.” Only 11 or 12 percent of Democrats identify as progressive. So let’s just meet in the middle and say something like 7 or 8 percent of the country agrees with the progressive left. This ain’t a goddamn debate anymore. Someone like Manchin is closer to the mainstream than a lot of these people think, and pretending like he isn’t won’t help the cause.

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Even what mention Seitz-Wald makes about the loss Democrats are likely to face is as a side note, and not necessarily an inevitability:

The wave of congressional Democrats heading for the exits has set alarm bells ringing in the party as it tries to retain its narrow congressional majorities in this year's midterm elections. 

So far, 30 House Democrats have announced plans to retire or run for other offices. The unusually high number of Democrats forgoing re-election is widely seen as bad news for the party’s prospects in the November midterms, since they will lose the power of incumbency in those districts. 

And it suggests many House Democrats are expecting to lose the majority, since lawmakers tend to stick around a bit longer if they think they’ll be setting the agenda and running committees.

Just before the new year, the Cook Political Report forecasted that Republicans are likely to take back control of the House of Representatives. As Seitz-Waltz himself acknowledged, the retirements are occurring at an "unusually high number" and the Democrats have "narrow congressional majorities." When we say "narrow," we're talking single-digits, here.

Further, the president's party almost always loses seats during his first midterm. The one recent exception was President George W. Bush in 2002. His approval rating was high--in the 60s at this point--and the country had been rallying behind him after September 11. That President Joe Biden's approval ratings are underwater overall and on just about every issue, if not every issue, depending on the poll, is certainly a factor to keep in mind when it comes to how Democrats can likely expect catastrophic, perhaps even historic, losses.

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Both sides have acknowledged the issue that these high retirements bring. A statement from Calvin Moore, the communications director for the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is included in Seitz-Waltz's post. After the 30th member, Rep. Kathleen Rice, of New York, announced her retirement, Moore issued a statement shared on the CLF website. 

"Everyone is too afraid to run as a House Democrat because they know their caucus is about to see mass layoffs this November. The 2022 elections are coming up quick and Democrats need decide now whether they want to retire or stick around and get fired," he said. 

CNN's Chris Cillizza has also taken note. "Here's why Democrats' chances of winning in November are slipping," he wrote last Wednesday.

Many took to Twitter to mock the talking point. They do just make it far too easy. 

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