Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Florida is retiring despite being only 43 years old and well established in her Orlando-area district. She has helped lead the few remaining centrists in the Democratic Party back to relevance and has gone against Speaker Nancy Pelosi numerous times to try and moderate some of the party’s extremist views.
But the fiction that the Democrats are a “big tent,” tolerant party is being exposed with the party being in control of Congress. Murphy told Politico that there’s no middle ground anymore.
“My first term … there was a lot more tolerance for, ‘Do what you need to do to hold your seat, and come back because we’re trying to build towards [a] majority,’” Murphy said. “With us being in the majority, that tolerance eroded a bit. It’s unfortunate, because I think in order for us as Democrats to hold the majority, you have to be able to win in seats like mine and in redder seats.
This is especially true since reapportionment has made many Democratic seats in red states endangered.
Murphy was accused by radical Democrats of being “anti-immigrant” for supporting Kate’s Law, the measure that increased penalties on illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S. after being deported. Murphy said she supports legal immigration but is a law-and-order congresswoman first.
It didn’t matter. She was opposed by several radical Democratic interest groups.
But it was Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda and the Democrats’ insistence that they pair BBB with the infrastructure bill that may have been the final straw:
But it got worse when it came to trying to pass Biden’s agenda, and what Murphy called an effort by leadership to “beat moderates into submission.” “I can’t tell you the number of times I said, ‘You can’t keep promising rainbows and unicorns when your political reality is such narrow margins in the House and a dead-even Senate,’” said Murphy. “They took the difference between rainbows and unicorns and political reality — which is anger and disappointment — and turned that anger and disappointment against their own members.”
Reality means little to the radicals and the reality was simple: There was no way that Republicans (and eventually Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) were going to vote to combine the two pieces of legislation. Eventually, Biden recognized this and the House passed the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill. Biden signed it into law but has yet to pass the Build Back Better bill.
After she announced her retirement, some Democrats urged her to run against GOP Senator Marco Rubio.
She paused for a long time, then conceded that it was made clear: Her party right now doesn’t want a member like her. Centrist Democrats, once the ballyhooed beacon of the House Democratic majority, are now greatly out of fashion. And because of that, she worries, her party may find itself in the minority. She, meanwhile, is ready to go home to spend time with her kids and finally get them a puppy.
“Washington has its ways of letting you know when it’s not your moment,” she said.
She concluded with words of caution.
“I don’t want to hand this country and the agenda over to a party that’s trying to dismantle democracy. But I also don’t want to hand my party over to the faction that wants to dismantle capitalism. I think both of those forces are dangerous and detrimental to this country.”