Last week, the Republicans made significant gains in elections throughout the country. A few days later, the House of Representatives passed the most significant bipartisan infrastructure legislation in the past half-century. The two events are closely related. They show what both parties need to learn and provide the guiding posts for a path forward. Focusing on Donald Trump is a losing strategy for both parties. The agenda of the woke progressive left has been soundly rejected by the public. Republicans need to stop talking about a stolen election; Democrats need to stop focusing on Trump and capitulating to the extreme left. Both parties need to focus on a positive agenda that appeals to a broad cross-section of the public.
In Virginia, Former Governor Terry McAuliffe sought to return to his old job. He entered the race as a heavy favorite. McAuliffe sought to nationalize the race in a state that Joe Biden carried handily last year. He brought President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former President Barack Obama into the state to campaign for him. Most significantly, McAuliffe focused his campaign on trying to tie his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, to Trump. The Democrats were hoping that Trump would visit the state and attack McAuliffe. Trump, Youngkin, and the Republican Party wisely refused to take the bait. Trump stayed away. Youngkin said nothing about a stolen election. He focused on his vision for Virginia.
By attacking Trump, rather than focusing on his own achievements as Governor or his vision for the future of Virginia, McAuliffe came across as attacking a former President to distract attention from his own record and lack of vision. By keeping Trump out of the state and out of the conversation, Youngkin was able to win the support of pro-Trump Republicans and independents who dislike Trump but agreed with Youngkin’s position on state and local issues. By focusing generically on the right of parents to have a voice in the education of their children rather than comparing mask and vaccine mandates to Nazism, Youngkin secured the support of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers without scaring off people who support vaccines and masks but are uneasy about mandates. For McAuliffe and the Democrats, focusing on Trump was the path to defeat. For Youngkin and the Republicans, keeping quiet on stolen elections and focusing on local issues like parental control of schools was the path to victory.
For the “woke” progressive Left, 2021 was supposed to be their year of triumph. They did score some successes. Michelle Wu was elected Mayor of Boston. Brad Lander won his race for New York City Comptroller. Tiffany Cabán will represent Western Queens in the City Council. But they hoped for so much more. They ran candidates for the Council throughout the city. In Queens, leftist candidates like Aleda Gagarin, Jaslin Kaur, and Moumita Ahmed lost in the primaries. Felicia Singh, who had the endorsements of a wide range of leftist and anti-Israel organizations, won the Democratic Primary in June. But in the general election, she was soundly defeated by the Chair of the Queens Republican Party, Joann Ariola. In the election for Mayor, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police captain running on a strong law and order platform, defeated several more progressive candidates in the Democratic Primary and went on to easily win the election.
Results were encouraging elsewhere in New York State, as well. In Buffalo, the state’s second largest city, India Walton, a Democratic Socialist, defeated the incumbent Mayor, Byron Brown, in the Democratic Primary. Her name was the only one on the ballot in heavily Democratic Buffalo. It looked like she was a shoo-in. However, Mayor Brown organized a write-in campaign on a platform of stopping socialism and appears to have won the general election. Special credit goes to Governor Kathy Hochul and State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs for refusing to support Walton in the election. They showed their determination to take a principled stand against socialism even when it meant going against their own party’s nominee. Mayor Brown’s apparent victory is highly significant. Some moderate Democrats have shifted to the left in attempts to fend off a primary challenge. Mayor Brown’s comeback victory shows that moderate Democrats do not have to abandon their principles to remain in office. They can lose the primary and still come back to win the election.
The victories on opposite ends of the state – for Eric Adams in New York City and Byron Brown in Buffalo – show that New York, one of the most heavily Democratic states in the country, is taking a strong stand against the “woke” progressive Left.
Minneapolis is the city where George Floyd was murdered and where the movement to “defund the police” was born. Activists pushed a referendum that would have replaced the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety, consisting of social workers and mental health professionals. The proposal was soundly defeated.
Republicans were successful across the country by associating the Democratic Party with the grievance-based identity politics of the “woke” progressive Left. Disrespect for the flag and the national anthem of the United States, the portrayal of all whites as colonialist oppressors and all people of color as victims, and slogans like “white privilege” and “defund the police,” helped drag Democrats down to defeat.
While the leadership of the Democratic Party did not agree with the ideas of the “woke” progressive Left, they frequently capitulated to their demands. That changed on Friday, with the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal.
The No Labels movement, of which I am a member of the national steering committee and the Tri-State Region Leadership Council, was founded to encourage Democrats and Republicans to work together to bring about positive results for the American people. No Labels was instrumental in forming the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of more than 50 members of the House of Representatives, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, committed to finding common-sense solutions to some of the most serious challenges facing us. Two years ago, the Problem Solvers Caucus laid out a plan for a bipartisan infrastructure package. Earlier this year, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, the National Co-Chair of No Labels, convened a summit of Governors, Senators, and Representatives to lay the foundation for a bill. Twenty Senators from both parties and President Biden agreed on a bipartisan infrastructure package. It passed in the Senate with the votes of all 50 Democrats and 19 of the 50 Republicans.
Had the House of Representatives voted on the package during the summer, it probably would have passed easily, with strong support from both parties. But members of the Progressive Caucus threatened to withhold their support. They insisted that Congress first pass a much larger bill dealing with health care, entitlements, immigration, and climate change that that has not even been written yet, which they hope to pass with Democratic votes alone. Speaker Nancy Pelosi capitulated to their demands and refused to bring the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal to the floor of the House for a vote. Over the course of several months, attempts were made to compromise, but the left wing persisted in its obstruction. The bickering among Democrats and Speaker Pelosi constantly giving in to the leftists helped create the image that the Democratic Party is incompetent at governance and that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the “Squad” were calling the shots in the Democratic Conference.
In the wake of the election, things turned around. The Black Caucus proposed a compromise under which moderate Democrats would vote yes on a procedural vote that would allow the larger bill to come to the floor and progressives would vote in favor of the infrastructure bill. This was acceptable to Speaker Pelosi, but the progressives continued to balk. This time, there would be no capitulation to progressive demands. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal was brought to the floor. In the end, only six Democratic Representatives voted against it. Those defections were more than offset by the support of 13 Republicans.
The legislation that was adopted will:
Deliver clean water to every American
Ensure every American has access to high-speed broadband Internet
Repair thousands of highways, roads, and bridges
Provide better transportation options, reduce traffic congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions with record funding for mass transit and the largest investment in rail travel since the creation of Amtrak
Upgrade our airports and ports
Build a national network of electric vehicle chargers
Upgrade the power infrastructure to provide reliable green energy
Clean up toxic chemicals and abandoned oil and gas wells and mines
Make our infrastructure resilient against climate change and extreme weather
In short, this legislation will create jobs, provide economic growth, improve the quality of life for millions of people, and provide for the largest investment yet in cleaning our environment and combating climate change. It was adopted with significant support from both parties and a vast cross-section of the public.
The adoption of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal gives us hope that the Democrats will abandon the path of capitulation to the demands of its most extreme members in favor of working with Republicans to find common-sense solutions to the problems facing us.
The lessons of the past week are clear.
Donald Trump is no longer President. If he seeks to return to the White House in 2024, the political debate will focus on him. Until then, the public is more interested in the people running for office and the challenges facing us today.
The agenda of the “woke” progressive Left has little support among the broader public.
Articulating a realistic positive vision for the future that can win the support of a broad cross-section of the public is the path to victory for both parties. More importantly, it is the road to a better future for all Americans.