The Nebraska Second District (Omaha and its surrounds) is a case in point: voters backed Biden by 52 to 46 percent, while choosing a Republican congressman over a progressive Democrat by 51 to 46 percent. Indeed, it’s hard to find a left-wing champion who outran Biden in their district: while ‘Squad’ member Ilhan Omar won the Minnesota fifth by 39 points, Biden did by 62.
On the other hand, Omar’s colleague in the Minnesota delegation, Collin Peterson — first elected to represent the rural conservative seventh district in 1991 — ran significantly to Biden’s right, espousing pro-life and pro-gun positions in line with his electorate. While Peterson (the last true conservative Democrat in the House) was defeated, he lost by a mere 13 points, compared to Biden’s 29-point trouncing in his district. Right across the country, moderates tried to carve out particular positions to suit their district: from Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico, who criticized Biden’s stance on fossil fuels in her oil and gas-heavy district, to Max Rose, who ran to the right on law and order in cop-loving Staten Island. Both lost, but both did so by less than Biden.
These patterns are highly inconvenient for many on the far left, whose prognosis has always been that victory could only be achieved through mobilization around an inspiring, radical agenda — rather than the compromises required by a strategy of persuasion. While the civil rights movement of the 1960s cared deeply about popular opinion and presented their arguments in a way appealing to Middle America, many of its would-be successors seem to feel no such compulsion. Nothing more exemplifies this than the ‘Defund the Police’ slogan, a proposition supported by just a quarter of Americans. House whip Jim Clyburn, the most senior African American in Congress, believes the slogan may have cost the party countless seats, telling the BBC on Sunday that he believed its proponents on the left were more interested in making ‘headlines’ than ‘headway’.