by N. Peter Kramer
For six months, centre and left Democrats fought side by side. But now, with the enemy defeated, the internal war blazes up. Both parts of the party see themselves as the father of the success and want that translated into policies and portfolios. But a fierce discussion broke out about the fact that the Democrats did not increase their majority in the House of Representatives, as expected, but on the contrary lost seats. Their majority is set to be the tightest since the 1943-1945 session. It will limit their room to manoeuvre on legislation with President-elect Joe Biden and raise tensions between centrists and left lawmakers.
Heading into the election, Democrats had a majority of 232 to 197, with one Libertarian and five open seats. The balance is now 219 Democrats to 204 Republicans. AP called the majority for Democrats when they hit 218 last week. Republicans are leading in several undecided races, meaning the two parties could end up separated by less than 10 seats. Democrat’s thin majority could force to walk a fine line on legislating and force them to pull in Republican votes on must-pass items, such as spending or defense bills, if leadership is unable to bring the party’s left flank on board. ‘When you have such a slim majority, and you have vulnerable members that somehow made it through this election and will be at the front of the line as targets for the midterm election in 2022, you have to work with Republicans’, said Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer.
The outlook for the Democrats is also clouded by the continuing fight in the senate, where Republicans have 50 seats to Democrats 48, with two races still to be determined in Georgia. Republicans need only to win one of them. Democrats have to win them both to get a majority in the senate, because in case of a 50-50 vote, the Vice President as Chair of the Senate, Kamala Harris, has the casting vote.
Democrats are already pointing fingers. Many centrists blamed the party’s left flank for losses this year, saying their ideas and rhetoric fuelled Republican attacks dubbing them as socialists and anti-law enforcement. The left has countered that their voters turned out for Joe Biden and that Democrats need a clear platform that helps their base. Anyhow, Democratic Congressional Campaign Chairwoman Cheri Bastos said already she plans to leave her position.