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Warner blames Democratic losses on 'defund the police'

Warner blames Democratic losses on 'defund the police'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerThe next pandemic may be cyber — How Biden administration can stop it Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Social media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots MORE (D-Va.) said progressives' calls to “defund the police” were in part to blame for Democratic losses in the House in a cycle when the party was expected to gain seats.

“I think the ability, using terms like ‘defund the police’ have led to Democratic losses in this last year,” Warner said Friday on WAMU’s “Politics Hour.” 

Warner, a moderate himself, sought to walk the line, saying he does not back defunding the police but does support broader reforms as well as other economic changes.

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"Do I think we need major policing reform? Absolutely," he said.

He added later, “I spent my time longer in business than I have in politics, so do I think socialism is the answer? No. But do I think modern American capitalism is working for enough people? I don’t believe that as well.”

Democrats have been locked in a fierce debate to explain why they so significantly underperformed expectations in the House this year, with the party's centrist and more progressive wings engaging in a burgeoning war of words over issues such as police reform and economic changes.

The bitter back-and-forth broke out into the open last week after details leaked of a caucus-wide conference call in which moderates tore into their liberal colleagues.

Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution House lawmakers reintroduce bipartisan bill to weed out foreign disinformation on social media 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (D), a centrist who represents a district in northern Virginia who narrowly scraped by to win reelection, called the Democrats’ campaign strategy “a failure” and specifically pointed to progressive proposals to redirect funds away from police departments to explain why over a half dozen moderate lawmakers lost their seats.

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Progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTexas man charged for alleged role in Capitol riots, online death threats to Ocasio-Cortez DC residents jumped at opportunity to pay for meals for National Guardsmen Tensions running high after gun incident near House floor MORE (D-N.Y.), have pushed back by arguing that liberals were responsible for firing up the Democratic base in the first place and that moderates who lost their races ran lackluster campaigns.

Warner indicated there is a divide between lawmakers whose districts are overwhelmingly progressive and members who represent more ideologically diverse areas, noting that members must weigh an array of considerations when running for office and may need differing messages to win.

“The challenge I have with some of our most progressive candidates, they usually come from districts that are exclusively progressive. Abigail Spanberger’s got parts of her district that may appear just as progressive as parts of Brooklyn or the Bronx. But there are wide swaths of her districts that are totally unlike. She’s got to be able to run in both, and I sometimes think our progressive friends don’t have that necessity of running both districts that are quite forward leaning but parts of districts that are still pretty conservative,” he said.