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Frustrated Democrats Call for ‘Reset’ Ahead of Midterm Elections

  • January 15, 2022

While there’s widespread agreement around the electoral peril that the party faces, there’s little consensus over who, exactly, is to blame. Liberals have been particularly scathing in their critique of two centrist senators, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and their longstanding objections to undermining the Senate filibuster, as well as Mr. Manchin’s decision to abruptly reject the $2.2 trillion spending plan last month. For months, Democratic lawmakers, activists and officials have been raising concerns about sinking support among crucial segments of the party’s coalition — Black, female, young and Latino voters — ratings many worry could drop further without action on issues like voting rights, climate change, abortion rights and paid family leave.

“In my view, we are not going to win the elections in 2022 unless our base is energized and ordinary people understand what we are fighting for, and how we are different than the Republicans,” Mr. Sanders said. “That’s not the case now.”

But many in the party concede that the realities of their narrow congressional majorities and united Republican opposition have blocked their ability to pass much of their agenda. Some have faulted party leaders for catering to progressives’ ambitions, without the votes to execute.

“Leadership set out with a failed strategy, and while I guess, maybe they can message that they tried, it actually isn’t going to yield real laws,” said Representative Stephanie Murphy, a Florida centrist, who is retiring but has signaled aspirations for a future Senate run.

Representative Cheri Bustos, a Democrat from rural Illinois, said Democrats should consider less ambitious bills that could draw some Republican support to give the party accomplishments it can claim in the midterm elections.

“We really kind of need to reset at this point,” said Ms. Bustos, who is retiring from a district that swung to Donald J. Trump in 2020. “I hope we focus on what we can get done and then focus like crazy on selling it.”

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