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A Civil War Is Already Happening, Inside the Democrat Party

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

A civil war is brewing, but Trump supporters are not running into the streets to fight antifa. Instead, the civil war has been brewing in the Democrat Party and now there are shots fired as moderates you have never heard of pay the price for the Squad’s radical rhetoric. Here is the short version of a long story.

You have probably never heard of Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.). She represents Illinois’ 17th District and chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The DCCC is responsible for recruiting candidates to run for seats in the House and reelecting incumbent members. It also participates in notable elections with national implications for the party.

At one time, I would have told you Bustos was the most dangerous Democrat in Congress. She presided over the 2018 cycle, which delivered the Democrats a House majority. She also defeated a Republican in 2013 and retained her seat in 2016 in a district that Trump won by a hefty margin.

Her background is as American as apple pie. Bustos is proud of her family’s roots in agriculture and education and she is married to a police officer with three sons. Before entering politics, she had a career in investigative journalism and as an executive in the healthcare industry.

She is a member of the New Democrat Coalition. Bustos is a capitalist, focused on jobs and growing the economy to benefit everyone. She holds some left-of-center positions, but she is not an extremist or a socialist. Candidates endorsed by the New Democrats in 2018 won a total of 27 seats in 2018, including 17 net gains for the Democrats. However, unless you follow politics closely, you would never know that.

The 2018 cycle was the same cycle that the Justice Democrats burst onto the scene and started primarying incumbent Democrats by running to their left. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) became a media sensation after her primary victory over a long-time incumbent Democrat, Joe Crowley. DNC Chairman Tom Perez referred to her as the future of the party. The Justice Democrats succeeded in changing the players in seven deep blue districts but added no net gains.

Ocasio-Cortez refers to herself as a Democratic Socialist and aligns herself with committed socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. She also joined with other Justice Democrat-endorsed candidates in the Progressive Caucus and hooked up with fellow radicals Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) to form the infamous Squad.

These two coalitions were headed for a collision course of epic proportions going into 2020. Despite her effectiveness in 2018, Bustos and the New Democrats never earned the national prominence of the Squad. They also did not have the same leverage as Cortez, who was expected to bring the progressives into the fold behind Joe Biden. The more moderate voters that Bustos and the New Democrats appealed to were expected to fall in line without much urging. After all, the candidate had been in office and seen as a moderate for nearly 50 years.

Bustos’s original plan was to stop the Justice Democrat insurgency and focus on kitchen-table issues and Texas. She put policies in place to cut off the insurgents’ support by refusing to work with firms that assisted candidates who primaried incumbents. She recruited moderate candidates to run, and her colleagues from the New Democrats staffed the DCCC.

Bustos’ strategies were met with immediate backlash. She was forced to roll back her policies to be more “inclusive” and restaff her office to be more “diverse.” Cortez took front and center, earning a spot on the Biden/Sanders Unity Platform teams and standing next to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to respond to Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination.

Cortez’s prominence followed a summer of riots and calls to defund the police, which she and the Squad enthusiastically supported. The extreme team also gave vocal support for the radical moves some Democrats were contemplating. They cheered packing the Supreme Court, adding states, and eliminating the filibuster. The push to the left through the Unity platform and extreme proposals ran headlong into Election Day. Then they crashed and burned.

Rather than comfortably retaking the Senate as anticipated, Democrats may find Mitch McConnell and Republicans maintain the majority. Instead of Democrats adding to the majority in the House, Republicans have added up to 10 seats back to their caucus. And the carnage in state governments across the country is palpable. It will leave Democrats out in the cold when congressional districts are redrawn following the 2020 Census.

I am cheered by my correct assessment that the Democrats overestimated their appeal to suburban voters with their radical policies. It is also great to see these policies drive a larger share of minority voters to the GOP. My favorite part is seeing the media’s confusion, the panic among Democrats, and the inevitable infighting. It is just beginning, but the electoral failures may moderate the party more than Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans will.

What is even better, they are airing their dirty laundry in public:

Then there is this remarkable thread that shows just how much disarray they are in (some language):

Moderates lost or came dangerously close to losing seats because Republicans effectively campaigned against radical ideas. Speaker Nancy Pelosi demands conformity even on the most radical legislation, even when it may hurt members from flyover country. Iowans don’t want to bail out blue states in a COVID-19 relief bill any more than Georgians do. But every single Democrat in the House will be forced to vote for it.

Democrats believe the progressive coalition was ascendant after 2008 and rammed Obamacare down our throats. In 2010, they got hit with a red wave. They have radicals in the streets, expecting something for their trouble. Pelosi thinks they have a mandate after losing House seats, not retaking the Senate, and potentially winning the White House by razor-thin margins.

Some people never learn. But the internal struggle is sure to continue to spill into public view, so grab the popcorn. And get your Tea Party on. We’re taking the whole thing back by 2024.

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