House Democrats Disappoint in the 2020 Election

In spite of rosy polling, Democrats lost a number of important House seats to a diverse crop of new Republicans.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. June 1, 2019. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

After a tumultuous 2020 election season, Democrats are projected to keep their majority in the House of Representatives by a slim margin, while Republicans are generally favored to maintain their control of the Senate, by an even slimmer one.

The results are deeply disappointing to Democratic voters frustrated with polls that projected Democrats would gain seats in the House of Representatives while possibly flipping the Senate as well.

While Democrats have managed to keep their House majority, barely, they failed to protect some of their most vulnerable seats and Republicans had a number of big victories, flipping and winning many house seats.

As of this writing, Democrats currently have 218 seats to the Republicans’ 204. Republicans are currently leading in 8 of the remaining 13 races. Several of those Republicans are making history.

Republican Madison Cawthorn beat Democrat Moe Davis to represent North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. At age 25, Cawthorn has become the youngest member of Congress in modern history. Cawthorn ran as a pro-gun and pro-faith candidate. His inspiration to run for office was because, “our faith, our freedoms and our values are under assault from coastal elites and leftists like (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.”

Republican Young Kim flipped a Democratic district in deep-blue California, unseating Rep. Gil Cisneros to represent California’s 39th Congressional District. Republican Michelle Park Steel beat Democrat Rep. Harley Rouda to represent Southern California’s 48th Congressional District. Both women are Korean-Americans, making American history as the first Korean-American women elected to the U.S. Congress.

Former GOP representative Yvette Harrell flipped a Democratic district, unseating Rep. Xochitl Torres Small to represent New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District. Herrell and Small are both Native American, but Harrell is the first Cherokee woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress.

Republican state senator Stephanie Bice beat Democrat Rep. Kendra Horn to represent Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district. Bice is the first Iranian-American elected to the U.S. Congress. During the campaign, Bice emphasized her pro-business stance, highlighting an overhaul of Oklahoma’s liquor laws and the state Senate’s work to “control state spending.”

A majority of the Republicans elected to Congress are women, including Cuban American Maria Elvira Salazar, who unseated Democrat Donna Shalala in Florida’s hotly-contended 27th Congressional District. Salazar previously worked as a broadcast journalist for Univision, Telemundo and CNN Español and has advocated strongly against the rise of socialism in the Democratic Party.

Republican State Representative Ashley Hinson unseated first-term Rep. Abby Finkenauer in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. Republican Michele Fischbach, a former state senator, unseated Democrat Collin Peterson in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District.

Nicole Malliotakis, the daughter of Greek and Cuban immigrants, flipped Democratic Rep. Max Rose’s seat in New York’s 11th Congressional District. Malliotakis advocated against defunding of the police in a district heavily made up of police officers and first responders.

Nancy Mace, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel, unseated first-term Democrat Rep. Joe Cunningham in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. Lisa McClain, who replaced Rep. Paul Mitchell, beat Democrat Kimberly Bizon in Michigan’s 10th Congressional District.

Beth Van Duyne, a conservative single mother and former Trump administration official, defeated Democrat Candace Valenzuela in Texas’s 24th Congressional District.

Victoria Spartz defeated Democrat candidate Christina Halee in Indiana’s 5th Congressional District. As an immigrant from Ukraine who was raised under socialist rule, Spartz railed against Democrats for what she called an effort to to bring the country to the left.

In a leaked call with Pelosi and the House Democratic caucus, moderate Democrats blamed the party’s losses in the house on members’ decisions to embrace socialism and extreme calls to “Defund Police.”

“No one should say ‘defund the police’ ever again,” said Virginia Rep. Abigail Spanberger in the leaked call. “Nobody should be talking about socialism.”

Whether Democratic leadership and activist-legislators like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will take note and tamp down the rhetoric around these topics, however, is far from certain.

Moderates in the Democratic Party are convinced that their appeal to the center is a winning strategy; progressive candidates are equally convinced that far left-leaning policy platforms are the key to winning campaigns and governing effectively.

Neither side appears willing to back down, and the quiet stalemate between House Democrats is boiling over. Refusing to pay party dues, mounting primary challenges, and indulging in inter-party Twitter mud-fights have given way to demands for action.

These demands for action are being met with equal and opposite demands from party moderates and leadership that the far left stand down, be quiet. Who will prevail?

Much will depend on whether or not current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi manages to keep her gavel. If Pelosi loses her inter-House campaign for the Speakership and is replaced by a more progressive candidate, indications are good that the House will follow suit.

(Contributing journalist, Allegra Nokaj) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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