Pelosi urges Democrats to project unity as control of the Senate hangs in the balance in Georgia runoffs

‘The differences between the Democrats and the Republicans are great,’ speaker reminds her caucus

Griffin Connolly
Monday 16 November 2020 20:26 GMT
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging House Democrats to squash their beef — at least publicly — and “work as a team” to project unity before the “crucial” runoff elections in Georgia that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.

“There is a great deal at stake in the next two months. The differences between the Democrats and the Republicans are great, especially in how we respect the health and well-being of America’s working families.  In this fight, we must work as a team,” Ms Pelosi said in a Dear Colleague letter to her House Democratic caucus, including newly elected members who will be sworn in on 3 January.

The speaker’s letter comes as progressives and moderates in the Democratic party have been running to their preferred media outlets to point fingers at each other over Election Night losses many did not expect.

While Republicans did not win  back a House majority in the 2020 elections, they managed to claw back several seats all across the country, from California to Iowa to New York.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy been taunting Ms Pelosi for predicting double-digit gains in the chamber before Election Day, when in fact it’s the GOP that appears on track for roughly a 10-seat pickup.

Ms Pelosi is asking Democrats to keep that internal debate about the direction of the party in house for now, with the battle for the Senate still being waged.

“As you’ve heard me say repeatedly: our diversity is our strength, our unity is our power,” she wrote in her Monday letter. “We advocate because we believe we can convince others of our point of view.  If we advocate to unify, we can prevail.”

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black elected officer-holder in Washington, has blamed progressives for irresponsible “sloganeering” that has given Republican campaign operatives a slate of phrases on which to run against.

“That phrase — 'defund the police' — cost Jaime Harrison tremendously,” Mr Clyburn said in a recent interview with Axios of the erstwhile Democratic Senate candidate in his home state who lost by double-digit percentage points to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

“Stop sloganeering. … Sloganeering kills people. Sloganeering destroys movements. Stop sloganeering. And let's go about the business of representing people and building hopes and aspirations for people.”

But the self-styled “disruptors” among the progressive wing of the party aren’t going to change their rhetorical tactics anytime soon, they have suggested in recent public comments.

Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, one of four freshman Democratic congresswoman of colour who are known collectively as “The Squad,” told Politico last week that such calls are leadership’s way of “silencing” progressive advocates.

“We're not going to be successful if we're silencing districts like mine,” Ms  Tlaib said. "Me not being able to speak on behalf of many of my neighbours right now, many of which are black neighbours, means me being silenced. I can't be silent.”

She later took to Twitter to tell Democrats to “embrace the base” of their party.

Ms Pelosi has acknowledged the ideological divisions in her caucus. But it’s clear reading between the lines that she wants her members to cut it out and bring their dirty laundry inside, at least until after 5 January, when Georgia voters will have decided who will represent them in the Senate.

“Our Caucus draws strength from the ongoing conversations that we continuously have to build consensus and ensure that the legislation we put forward is respectful of the thinking and values of all Members. I look forward to our continuing this productive dialogue,” she wrote on Monday.

“Let us all be advocates for unity in the Democratic party, where our values are opportunity and community,” she wrote, underlining the word branch “-unity” in the two of the three final words of that sentence.

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