But while the moderates have openly complained about getting dragged down by sloganeering popularized by Ocasio-Cortez and her “Squad,” they need to take responsibility for failing to sharply define themselves. Ocasio-Cortez’s claim that they needed more digital media to do so seems off the mark — no one is crediting Joe Biden’s facility with TikTok for his victory. But certainly if the defeated Democrats were to defy political gravity, withstand a Republican turnout surge, and repel negative attacks, they needed to better distinguish themselves from the far left, as well as the national party.

Shalala made an unforced error when she called herself in an October TV interview a “pragmatic socialist,” which her opponent gleefully used in a late attack ad. Shalala clearly misspoke; in the same interview she said, “I’m as far from being a socialist as anyone that you’ll ever meet. I’m a capitalist.” But while it was disingenuous for her opponent to use the truncated clip, if Shalala had a deeper connection with her district, the attack wouldn’t have stuck so easily.