Two factions appear within the Democratic party

Written By Nardos Haile, Co-News Editor

The 2020 election cycle didn’t just include a shift in the Presidential seat, the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate were all up for grabs in multiple tightly-called races, including the ongoing two Senate run-off elections in Georgia.

Slight Democratic losses in the Congressional race sparked an intraparty debate within the Democratic party with local Pittsburgh Rep. Conor Lamb and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is critiquing the Democratic establishment and Rep. Lamb is arguing progressive Democrats’ policies are too unpopular with the American public.

Claire Kreider is a spring 2020 graduate of Point Park and a former congressional campaign fellow for Rep. Lamb who worked in campaign finance and field organizing in Green and Washington County for the 2018 Midterm election. She said the warring factions in the party are due to an emerging generation who grew up in a polarizing political climate.

“If we look at the Republican Party, the same thing happened to them starting 20 years ago with the Tea Party movement, you have Libertarians. You know the Republican Party had that schism, and now we’re seeing it with the Democrats,” Kreider said.

Ian Brady, a 2019 Point Park graduate and former digital organizer strategist for Break Something in D.C., said Pennsylvania is an example of the Democratic split in the party.

“Pennsylvania is a really big test subject, or maybe microcosm for what the Democratic party is like because you do have metropolitan areas like Pittsburgh and like Philadelphia and then like fringe smaller towns like Allentown and Erie which are really cities but not as blue counties,”  Brady said. “What’s so interesting is that when we were like ‘oh no is Biden going to win PA,’ I took a lot of comfort on Wednesday of election week because all of the numbers in Philly and in Pittsburgh majority of the votes uncounted.”

Brady said that the diversity of votes in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia from Black and brown voters meant that the Democratic Party needs to focus on these communities, people and policy issues that Democrats are divided on like Medicare-For-All. 

“We lost a number of seats in the House. All of the seats lost, how all those candidates lost, congressmen and women, voted on Medicare-For-All and they all were against Medicare-For-All,” Brady said. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Rep. Lamb said that he had been through three difficult elections in Republican-leaning districts, “and I can tell you that people are not clamoring for the two policies [Medicare-for-All and the Green New Deal] that you just asked about. So, that’s just what probably separates a winner from a loser in a district like mine.”

Polling from the Hill shows that 69% percent of Americans are in support of Medicare-for-All but Republican support for the single-payer option decreased in popularity from 2016. 

Brady disagreed with Rep. Lamb’s stance that these policies are unpopular.

“I don’t think the AOC wing of the party is saying, they’re not saying I need centrists to give me this, I need Conor Lamb to be saying defund the police, Medicare-for-All. Those things, as well as the Green New Deal, are kind of non-negotiable,” Brady said. 

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said the reason why there were losses in the House was due to the lack of full-fledged campaigning which includes widespread digital marketing and advertising and “because the party — in and of itself — does not have the core competencies, and no amount of money is going to fix that.” 

For progressive Democrats that feel the shift to centrism isn’t enough for the change needed in the country, Kreider wants to emphasize that the fight for representation in progressive politics will continue for years to come.

“Biden ran his campaign as going back to normal. And I feel like if you’re a progressive Democrat, things aren’t looking too great right now, but I think we really need to take into consideration that Biden’s going to implement a comprehensive COVID response and greenroll the United States in the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization. I don’t think this is the end of the line for progressives,” Kreider said.