Divided Democrats are in danger

On Tuesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a millennial and socialist, defeated the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyOcasio-Cortez endorses challenger to Democrat Lipinski in Illinois race Young insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff to leave her office MORE, in the race for New York’s 14th district. Crowley is the highest profile member of Congress to lose a primary since former Republican majority leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington GOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington MORE, who lost his in 2014. The primary results in New York this week embodies many of the divisions currently plaguing the Democrats. Ocasio-Cortez’s triumph over a 10-term congressman is emblematic of the battle Democrats are having for the future of their party.

Recently, the most progressive circles of the Democratic Party have pushed for an increasingly extreme agenda, and in some cases, have espoused rhetoric that amounts to thinly veiled calls for violence against political opponents. To be sure, this backdrop of divisive rhetoric has come from both Democrats and Republicans, has become increasingly prominent, and is often woven directly in with their platforms.

ADVERTISEMENT
On Thursday, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBooker aide sounds alarm about campaign's funding O'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Gillibrand relaunches PAC to elect women MORE (D-N.Y.), who has a national platform and is reportedly setting her sights on a presidential run, joined the rallying cry of those furthest to the left by calling for the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She said, “I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it, and build something that actually works.”

The idea of abolishing ICE is ridiculous. The agency serves a fundamental and legal role in our country. Democratic candidates, and now a prominent senator, calling for this sets the party back significantly. This aggressive shift in rhetoric is not only harmful to the both parties and their candidates, but to our democratic institutions, as bipartisan dialogue and compromise become less politically possible.

While Ocasio-Cortez’s platform of Medicare for all, guaranteed jobs by the federal government, and abolishing ICE has surely emboldened the left most and loudest voices in the Democratic Party, it is not a winning strategy for general elections nor an effective platform to govern on. Although liberal primary challengers have struggled, they have succeeded in forcing incumbents to shift leftward. Just as Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll The polls are asking the wrong question Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE did to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam Missing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani MORE in 2016 on issues including the minimum wage and Wall Street regulation, his rise cost her votes in key swing states.

This is a dangerous trend for the Democrats leading into November. In fact, current polls indicate that Democrats with the highest chance of flipping seats in Congress are those that hold moderate and establishment values. Take Amy McGrath, the Democratic nominee in Kentucky’s 6th congressional district. McGrath is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a stable moderate. Unlike many of her party counterparts running on a progressive agenda, McGrath stands on a platform that includes moderate ideas, such as a bipartisan solution to the Affordable Care Act. In a DCCC poll earlier this year, McGrath leads the Republican nominee, Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrFarm manager doubts story horse bit Pence: report McConnell accepts Democratic rep's challenge to 5 debates McConnell campaign criticized for tombstone with challenger's name MORE, 52 percent to 37 percent.

Similarly, Conor Lamb, the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's 17th congressional district, has run a textbook moderate campaign. In a district that has most recently voted Republican, Lamb has given the Republican candidate worthy competition. As of May, the Cook Political Report rates Lamb’s race as a toss-up, showing just how tight it is.

Both McGrath and Lamb showcase that moderate views can flip seats, and that the further Democratic candidates move to the left, the more they risk isolating themselves within a single radical niche. They won’t appeal to anyone but the faction within their own party, and risk losing seats the Democrats could otherwise flip in a general election. Remember that these far-left views are not held by the masses. Appealing to them will harm any chance of garnering votes from the traditional Democrat.

Indeed, it is not just the policies that are becoming more radical. Recently, Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Democrats' impeachment message leads to plenty of head-scratching MORE (D-Calif.) all but called for political violence against Trump administration officials. She said, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

This is simply not a Democratic Party that can win in November. “It’s horrible,” said Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinO'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Schumer: I don't know any 'Democrat who agrees' with O'Rourke on gun seizures MORE (D-W.V.) regarding the calling for public harassment of Trump aides. “Come to West Virginia. We won’t do that to them in West Virginia. That’s bad. That’s not the values of the Democratic Party I know.” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMedia and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 MORE (D-Fla.) agreed. He said his “modus operandi” is to “try to treat the other person with respect” and that he “would hope that other people would do that as well.”

It is imperative that hardworking Americans understand that this radical rhetoric is not representative of the Democratic Party, nor do prominent Democrats want it to be. If the party continues down this path, centrist Democratic voters who previously followed the establishment will likely start leaving the party, and potentially vote for moderate Republicans.

When I worked for President Clinton, pursuing a moderate message was paramount to his reelection and his ability to effectively govern. Three decades later, voters are seeing less choice. Centrist voters recognize those in the Republican Party are closer to mirroring their ideals, thus relegating the Democratic Party to its most extreme members. Democrats must restore their faith in a single and more moderate platform and unite behind a message that fights for equal opportunity for all.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”