WASHINGTON (CBS) – As Democrats reckon with losing seats in the House of Representatives after predicting their majority in the upper chamber would grow this election, Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat, said Sunday that slogans such as “defund the police” ultimately hurt the party.
“Some titles hurt,” Richmond said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “‘Defunding the police’ is a title that hurts Democrats, especially when the fact of the matter is nobody is calling for defunding the police. We’re calling for reinventing how we police communities in this country, how we do criminal justice.”
Richmond was asked about complaints made by moderate Democrats during a heated call with Democratic leaders last week, the details of which were leaked to members of the press. Some House members who narrowly won their districts spoke of how messages like “defund the police,” pushed by progressive lawmakers in the caucus, damaged their campaigns and cost vulnerable freshmen their seats.
The Louisiana Democrat, who is a co-chair of the Biden campaign, said the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is “very important” to the party, but noted “no matter how progressive your ideals and values are and what you want to do and how bold your plans are, if we don’t win, if we don’t keep the majority of the house, you cannot implement any of those plans.”
“We have to make sure we can win first and govern second,” he said.
Richmond added that “words have consequences.”
“In this election, those words cost us some Democratic members,” he said.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, also lamented how the positions pushed by the progressive wing of the party hurt his colleagues in the House and said Democrats allowed their Republican opponents to cast them as “socialists” even though “that’s not who we are and it’s not what we’re about.”
Claims from the GOP that Democrats would push socialist policies, he said, “basically scared the bejesus out of people.”
“I have fought against that. Joe Biden has fought against that,” Manchin said. “We’re not for New Green Deal. We’re not for all the things that he’s talked about, Medicare for all. We can’t even pay for Medicare for some. We’ve got to take care of a lot of things.”
Looking ahead to the next Congress, Manchin said Democrats need to govern from the “moderate middle,” and expected Mr. Biden will work to foster bipartisanship with Republicans in the Senate.
“I would encourage all Democrats to be moderate, find the middle if you can,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to govern from the extremes or from the fringes. Never have been.”
Democrats controlled 232 House seats in the 116h Congress, and while they are likely to maintain a majority in the House, they will do so with fewer members. Control of the Senate, meanwhile, hangs in the balance as two races in Georgia are likely headed to runoff elections.
While Richmond acknowledged the impact rhetoric pushed by progressives had on the larger party, he said he believes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should retain her position. The California Democrat asked her colleagues in a letter Friday to support her bid for speaker in January.