Can the Democratic Party Hold Together? – POLITICO – POLITICO

Posted: August 19, 2020 at 1:59 am


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HARRIS: Mr. Bowman, I hear you and other progressive candidates say, Look, were tired of incrementalism. Were tired of always splitting the difference. Were tired of the Democratic Party being on the defensive. Weve got to go out with a really bold agenda that we believe in and pass it. The question I have is about leverage. If President Biden, if he gets elected, says, Look, no, thats too much for me. I dont agree. And I think that maybe well put Congressman Lamb in danger. Or if Nancy Pelosi says, You know, Congressman Lamb flipped a seat. What-you-hope-will-be Congressman Bowmanhe didnt flip the seat. He took a seat, but he didnt add one to my column. So, I say, no. I prefer incrementalism, even if you dont. What is your leverage to do anything about that?

BOWMAN: Well, I think there are a lot of Americans who agree that we need a bold agenda. In this moment, the second biggest crisis since the Great Depression, we have to respond with a bold, clear, visionary, innovative agenda. And I would be surprised if President Biden doesnt take a bold approach, especially if we have control of the Senate and control of the House. I think thats an opportunity for us to be bold. If were not, how is that truly leveraging our power as a party? Some would argue we werent bold enough last time we had control of all three branches of government. And I also would argue that throughout American history, the country has only moved forward when we were bold, right?

Some would argue we werent bold enough last time we had control of all three branches of government.

Jamaal Bowman

HARRIS: Faiz, could you tackle that question of leverage? Conservatives in the Republican Party gained leverage because they were not afraid of directly challenging leaders, whether its legislative leadership or the president.

SHAKIR: A 78-year-old president coming in with a lifetime of public service gets the capstone of his career to define what he wants to do in a really huge moment. And [Biden has] talked about FDR as somebody whos a model, to some degree, that hed like to parallel. I think if he is president of the United States, voters will have put him into the Oval Office because they simply want to turn the page from Trump and trust that Joe Biden, having served as vice president and many other distinguished positions in the past, is capable of running the administration and are going to say to him, Do what you think is best, Joe Biden. Run the administration for us.

And, in that way, I think they can give him a fair amount of latitude, to be honest with you. And it is our role, I believe, as progressives, to challenge him to go as broad as we can possibly do. I got that Vice President Biden, hopefully President Biden, will not be pushing Medicare for All upon entry into the Oval Office. However, hes talked about a public option, and we have been pushing on that. If youve got a public option, what about the people whove lost health care? Can you get automatic enrollment for everybody whos lost health care in this country? Get them all into the pool. Can we provide that?

If he wants to come into the Oval Office and say, Im going to be a bold president leaving a legacy in the Democratic Party thats akin to FDR, I dont think theres any constraints on him. Honestly, theres no constraints.

If he wants to come into the Oval Office and say, Im going to be a bold president leaving a legacy in the Democratic Party thats akin to FDR, I dont think theres any constraints on him.

Faiz Shakir

TANDEN: I think Faiz is right that he has a lot of latitude. But I think we should recognize that [Biden] is telling us what it is by the economic program hes put forward, which actually has universal childcare as a mainstay, or near-universal childcare. Hes committed to spend $2 trillion in the next four years on a on a green platform of basically creating jobs to address our climate challenge.

So, I kind of reject this incrementalism because I think this is a false choice. I think the party is not engaged in incremental solutions, for the most part. And I think that there will be a creative tension about whether [Bidens agenda is] bold enough for some folks or it seems too bold to many other folks. That is what he is going to have to decide. I actually think most people who run for president use their platform as a candidate as what they do when they get into office. And I expect that Joe Biden will do that. And I think that there will be areas to definitely push him beyond that because he needs the congressional coalition behind him.

LAMB: I think that we all have to keep in mind that, even as attitudes change among our party bases and the people who are really active and visible during primaries, theres one thing that I just kind of want to plant a seed of doubt about here. Im not trying to make a point about where we need to go or favor one policy over the other. But I dont think that trust in the overall government response to some of these problems is necessarily growing at the moment.

Having lived through the first five months of this pandemic, people are not really distinguishing between Republican President Trump [and] Democratic Governor Wolf here in Pennsylvania. Theyre not giving that much credit to the PPP program and how it saved so many businesses for so long. Theyre focused on the problems with it. Theres just been a drumbeat of negative news stories and the persistence of this pandemicI see it posing a very difficult obstacle for us going forward when we try to make the case that weve got to sort of spend more and more, intervene more and more aggressively, as much as we might like to.

SHAKIR: But Congressman Lamb, let me just offer: I am not pleased with the performance of our government. We have President Trump, who doesnt know jack shit about the coronavirus, whos our leader, and trying to manufacture myths about it. But does that mean that me as a voter here or Jamaal Bowman, that we wouldnt want an active, competent, functional government to support us in our time of need?

LAMB: Yeah, and thats going to be the real question. And I think a lot of that is going to be the art of public persuasion by Vice President Biden if he gets elected. But we really have to make the case. I guess thats what Im trying to say, is we cant skip that.

I know this guy Ill never forget in my district. I went to this dairy, and the guy took me all around and everythings rusting. It has not been good times for this dairy, but through grit and hard work, hes kept it goingsuperproud, complaining about taxes and all these things. And then he showed me this device that he had built that took cow manure and sprayed it back out over the fields. I asked him where he got it, and it came from the Soil Conservation Service from the Department of Agriculture. And I was like, So, we did one good thing, right? And he goes, Yeah. Leave it to the government. All you guys can do is teach me how to throw shit a little bit better. Thats always stuck with me. That guys still there. Hes not feeling any better about things today.

HARRIS: I got my start covering national politics with Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton believed: Look, people can be open to a progressive agenda, but first, they need reassurance. It was kind of a defensive brand of politics that I think a lot of progressives over the years have grown very impatient with. But, in your district, are there still things on which Democrats need to be progressive?

LAMB: Yeah, I think absolutely on economic issues, for sure, particularly as they relate to unions, wages, paychecks, pensions.

HARRIS: They want reassurance about what? That youre not what?

LAMB: That Im not a socialist, I guess. So, something like drug prices, right? You already see Big Pharma running these ads against Trump calling him a practitioner of socialized medicine. We took the vote twice in the House to let Medicare bargain for the price of prescription drugs in this past Congress. Never been done before. There could be a wave of attack ads from Big Pharma at any time saying were gonna deprive people of the essential medicines, the experimental treatments their kids need, they wont be able to do Covid vaccines, all that nonsense. But I think people get it that you use the bargaining power to bring their bills down. I just think its something people understand and have some direct experience with. And Western Pennsylvania has this history of labor activism to kind of match up with some of the more socially conservative tendencies that makes those good issues for us.

OTTERBEIN: Id be curious to hear from Faiz or Mr. Bowman on what they think of that ideathat Representative Lamb feels as though he needs to make it clear that he is not a socialist on some of these issues, to put it bluntly.

BOWMAN: The term socialism has been sort of bastardized in our political landscape and in our conversations. Throughout my campaign, I didnt refer to myself as a socialist. That wasnt a rallying cry or something that I put out there. And, quite frankly, I didnt refer to myself as a progressive or someone from the left orI didnt adhere to any of these labels. I just tried to be a person who connected with people in a very authentic, real way. When youre fighting for working people, when youre fighting for the working poor, when youre focused on economic inequality, when you focus on jobs and housing and all the issues that matter to people in this district, all of a sudden, they put you in this box with this bad word.

And the bottom line is what were doing now, whether thats capitalism or whatever you want to call it, isnt working for tens of millions of Americans. It was more the media that brought up the socialism thing. But the people in this district really appreciated the fact that I was just connecting with as people first and foremost, labels aside.

SHAKIR: I do think that the label stands in peoples minds. And that there is the role of media. Because I think theres a conditioning that occurs with a lot of voters, that they have been told and they have experienced for many, many, many years that politics is done a certain way. Like, if youre going to win a general election, we put up these certain types of people with these certain types of plans, and those are deemed the electable side. And then those other ones over theretheyre the ones who are agitators, theyre the challengers, theyre the pains in the ass, right? Theyre not electable.

At the Bernie Sanders campaign, we had to deal with that conditioning challenge a lot, despite the fact that you look at every head-to-head poll of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump or Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and were performing literally level with him, maybe a point right behind, but right in the thick of it. And we would make this argument that, well, we have put up people like Al Gore, like Secretary Clinton or John Kerry, talented people whove been in politics, were credible cases and have lost to Republican agitators, quite frankly.

If Vice President Biden becomes president, I think he has a kind of once-in-a-generation moment to prove that government can work, because we are not going to get through this pandemic at all unless our government is competent.

Neera Tanden

TANDEN: If Vice President Biden becomes president, I think he has a kind of once-in-a-generation moment to prove that government can work, because we are not going to get through this pandemic at all unless our government is competent. Like, we are dealing with a governance problem with this pandemic. It is not just a science problem.

Its not just that on issue after issue, people are much more open to a role for government. Its much more, I think, that in this moment we are profoundly flailing, in a way that Americans havent flailed in my lifetime in the face of a pandemic, because we have incompetent government. And its up to Democrats to prove that they can handle this better. Im not saying people are all going to become like Big Government liberals in America. Im just saying this is a moment where they are seeing how their government impacts them in a way that they have perhaps never seen in their lives.

OTTERBEIN: How has Black Lives Matter changed the party? How is it going to change the party? And then, Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush both were not endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus. Their opponents were. The Congressional Black Caucus has often been a pretty moderate group. Im wondering if you think that the Black insurgents that have won primariesdoes that change the Congressional Black Caucus at all next year?

BOWMAN: I am not going to respond first as the Black guy. Im going to let the other people respond first, and then Ill respond. (Laughter.)

LAMB: All right, no problem. (Laughter.) Talking about Black Lives Matter, its a little hard to say exactly how that will affect the party policywise going forward. I think it may depend on the persistence of that movement. I will say that I was someone that experienced, in my own district, protests and peaceful organized gatherings of all types in places that I just never would have expected, and that became kind of a common story around the country. And, so, it clearly has had an effect on peoples thinking and consciousness so far.

A lot of the ideas that were in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that we passed in June are things that had been around for a while. I mean, Hakeem Jeffries had been trying to push the chokehold ban since Eric Garner. Obviously, it hasnt gone anywhere in the Senate yet. But I think you can measure it maybe in that waythat organization was able to move beyond just the big city, but out into places like mine and really affect the way people were thinking. It took something that had been an idea and made it an active bill. And then the next step is going to be to try to get some of that stuff into law.

There were Black Lives Matter vigils and marches in some of the whitest, wealthiest areas of the districtorganized by young people, but everyone was a part of that conversation.

Jamaal Bowman

BOWMAN: I agree with the congressman. Our district is very segregated across race and class. And there were Black Lives Matter vigils and marches in some of the whitest, wealthiest areas of the districtorganized by young people, but everyone was a part of that conversation. So, thats something that I didnt see when the movement first exploded. I also dont hear as much All lives matter and Blue lives matter pushback overall across the country.

Here, locally the defunding of the police conversation is happening at the city level, and theres been some movement of resources of there. And at the state level, the repeal of something called 50-A, which now provides a lot more police transparency than before, has happened as well. So, its not just protests in the street. Its policy conversations that are happening as well.

And to the second part of your questionI believe you asked about my election and Cori Bushs election and its impact on the Congressional Black Caucus. I just think were going to share our story and speak our truths and speak to the issues that matter to the people in our districts. What we saw in our campaign from people of color [and] young people is an engagement that had never been seen before in our district, and I think thats something that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democrat Party overall has to pay attention to. We have to continue to bring in young people and people of color and speak from their perspective in a way that really meets their needs. And I think thats going to help continue John Lewis legacy and ensure that the Congressional Black Caucus is the conscience of Congress.

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Can the Democratic Party Hold Together? - POLITICO - POLITICO

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August 19th, 2020 at 1:59 am