Senate

Warner blames Democratic losses on ‘defund the police’

Greg Nash

Sen. Mark Warner (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.

“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 Spanberger (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.

Progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (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.

Tags Abigail Spanberger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defund the police Democratic Party Mark Warner

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