“The pro-corporate strain is still strong within the party,” said Adam Jentleson, who worked as a senior strategist to Harry Reid when the Nevada Democrat was Senate majority leader. “The pro-worker side continues to gain strength, but the pro-corporate side has the power,” he said.
“We have to get through 2022 and it’s just a question of, how deep are the losses? Do we hold? Do we win a few seats? Or is it a bloodbath? And I think 2024 will be a reaction to 2022,” Katz said, adding that the party’s priorities are a bigger concern as the next election cycle approaches. “There’s a disconnect within the Democratic Party of how hard we should be going at this moment.”
“’Instead of ignoring race while Republicans beat us silly with it, Democrats must confront it and explain that powerful elites and special interests use race as a tool of division to distract hard-working people of all races while they get robbed blind,’ Democratic strategists Tory Gavito and Adam Jentleson argued in a recent New York Times op-ed. ‘Then pivot back to shared interests.’”
After McAuliffe lost on Tuesday, the progressive groups Battle Born Collective, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream Action in a statement said, “We told you so. Literally. What happened in Virginia is what happens when Democrats fail to take on the GOP’s divide-and-conquer racism and motivate people to turn out.”
Democrats will have to forge a counterattack that addresses race head-on as “a tool of division,” then “pivot back to shared interests,” Tory Gavito, the president of progressive group Way to Win, and Adam Jentleson, who was an aide to former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid, say in a guest essay for The New York Times. In winning Virginia, they write, Youngkin was able “to use racially coded attacks to motivate sky-high white turnout without paying a penalty among minority voters.”
“Instead of ignoring race while Republicans beat us silly with it, Democrats must confront it and explain that powerful elites and special interests use race as a tool of division to distract hard-working people of all races while they get robbed blind. Then pivot back to shared interests. The pivot is critical: Without it, Democrats are simply talking past voters, while Republicans play on their racial fears.”
Adam Jentleson, who served as the deputy chief-of-staff for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said it became clear last week that moderates would attempt to blame progressives, and the fact that the infrastructure bill didn’t pass, in the event of a McAuliffe loss. “And so we knew we had to have a strategy,” he said.
A post-election analysis from a quartet of progressive organizations—Battle Born Collective, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream Action—summed the Democratic malaise up succinctly:
“This was a controlled experiment for what NOT to do in 2022. This is what it looks like when Democrats get caught flat-footed and let Republicans dictate the terms of the debate by manufacturing a fake ‘education crisis.’ It does not have to be this way. There is still time to adopt an inclusive economic message that crowds out racist dog whistles. There is still time to go on offense and fight for the very voters who powered Democratic victories in 2020. This should be a wake up call for Democrats: Give people something to vote for or watch yourselves become the very thing they resoundingly vote against.”
“This has been a negative Trump-focused scare tactic campaign, and I think the top line is the declining salience of that,” said Tré Easton, a senior adviser for Battle Born Collective, a progressive advocacy group. “You can’t scare people into the polls. You have to give people something to vote for.”
Four left-wing groups, including Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement, released a joint statement accusing McAuliffe of having “no comprehensive pro-worker economic message” and offering “an uninspired return to yesterday.”
A joint statement from organizations including Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream Action put it more bluntly: “This should be a wake-up call for Democrats: Give people something to vote for or watch yourselves become the very thing they resoundingly vote against.” The Virginia race came down to roughly 70,000 votes — too close to leave it to a cheap, tired campaign message and hope for the best.
Tonight, Terry McAuliffe lost his bid for Governor of Virginia. In response, Battle Born Collective, Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, and United We Dream Action released the following statement.