Democrats who have called President TrumpDonald John TrumpIn 1710 the Brits impeached an orange-haired populist — It did not go well Philadelphia mayor posts photo of Rapinoe atop City Hall: ‘Equal pay now!’ Social media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech MORE and his policies racist are now pointing fingers at one another on issues of race.
Allegations of racial insensitivity are flying between the 2020 Democratic contenders, as well as between House Democrats, raising concerns that internecine squabbles over identity and race are tarnishing party leaders and distracting Democrats from their goal of ousting the president in 2020.
The racially charged controversies that have swirled around former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPhiladelphia mayor posts photo of Rapinoe atop City Hall: ‘Equal pay now!’ Ocasio-Cortez’s racism charge shows Pelosi at risk of being devoured by the revolution Racial politics roil Democratic Party MORE, 76, and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSocial media summit highlights partisan approaches on tech Ocasio-Cortez’s racism charge shows Pelosi at risk of being devoured by the revolution New York Democrat on Ocasio-Cortez, other progressives: ‘Primaries go two ways’ MORE (D-Calif.), 79, have also put a spotlight on the generational rift within the party.
Longtime Democratic leaders are facing new scrutiny from their younger peers over their past records. And they’re being called out for their rhetoric, which in some cases has offended the younger generation of liberals.
Frustrated lawmakers say the backbiting over race has gotten out of control. They want to see it come to an end so Democrats can return their focus to their agenda in the House and defeating Trump at the ballot box.
“It’s damaging to this party and the internal workings of the Democratic Party,” said Rep. Wm. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayOcasio-Cortez’s racism charge shows Pelosi at risk of being devoured by the revolution New York Democrat on Ocasio-Cortez, other progressives: ‘Primaries go two ways’ Racial politics roil Democratic Party MORE (D-Mo.). “I can tell you it’s not helpful.”
Tensions exploded on Capitol Hill this week after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezProgressive groups slam House Democratic leadership’s ‘escalating attacks’ on progressives Omar: ‘We never need to ask for permission or wait for an invitation to lead’ Ocasio-Cortez’s racism charge shows Pelosi at risk of being devoured by the revolution MORE (D-N.Y.) accused Pelosi of singling out women of color for criticism, as divisions linger over the passage of a $4.6 billion border bill.
Pelosi has been dismissive of the influence on Capitol Hill held by Ocasio-Cortez and three other rising Democratic Party stars — Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibRacial politics roil Democratic Party Overnight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers ‘highly toxic’ to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting ‘forever chemicals’ | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez’s racism charge shows Pelosi at risk of being devoured by the revolution Racial politics roil Democratic Party Overnight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers ‘highly toxic’ to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting ‘forever chemicals’ | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf MORE (Minn.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyRacial politics roil Democratic Party Overnight Energy: EPA expands use of pesticide it considers ‘highly toxic’ to bees | House passes defense bill with measure targeting ‘forever chemicals’ | Five things to watch as Barry barrels through the Gulf Overnight Defense: House approves 3 billion defense bill | Liberal sweeteners draw progressive votes | Bill includes measure blocking Trump from military action on Iran MORE (Mass.) — the group of freshman female lawmakers with massive followings on social media.
Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks ignited a long-simmering feud with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
CBC members, such as Clay, exploded in anger at Ocasio-Cortez for having “used the race card” and accused progressives of seeking to oust black lawmakers by endorsing their primary challengers.
The progressive group Justice Democrats, which is closely aligned with Ocasio-Cortez, is supporting primary challengers to several longtime Democrats, including Clay and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a Hispanic Caucus member.
Justice Democrats have also considered a challenge to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesRacial politics roil Democratic Party The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries MORE (D-N.Y.), a CBC member who is viewed by many as a potential heir to Pelosi.
“Donald Trump has brought the question of race to the forefront of American politics, so it’s no surprise that there will be ongoing and continuous and serious and often uncomfortable public discussions on the subject,” Jeffries said. “At the end of the day, our common enemy is Donald Trump, not other members of the House Democratic Caucus.”
In the presidential race, Biden’s backers are still fuming over what they view as a dishonest characterization of his record on race by his rivals for the presidential nomination, including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisOcasio-Cortez’s racism charge shows Pelosi at risk of being devoured by the revolution Racial politics roil Democratic Party House Democrat on O’Rourke: ‘I wouldn’t count him out yet’ MORE (D-Calif.), 54, and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRacial politics roil Democratic Party The Hill’s Campaign Report: Democratic infighting threatens 2020 unity Poll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field in South Carolina by 21 points MORE (D-N.J.), 50.
Harris catapulted into the top tier of Democratic presidential contenders after an exchange with Biden at the first presidential debate. The California Democrat called Biden’s remarks about finding common ground with segregationist senators “
“I think Sen. Harris is out of control,” said Rep. A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinRacial politics roil Democratic Party CBC lawmakers rip Justice Democrats for targeting black lawmakers for primaries Harris hops past Biden in early race for Black Caucus support MORE (D-Va.), a CBC member who has endorsed Biden for president.
Booker had previously taken a dig at Biden, saying that the former vice president’s recollection of never having been addressed as “boy” by the segregationist senators was “hurtful” to black people and showed a “lack of understanding” about racial power dynamics.
Biden has slipped some in the polls since the first debate, but he remains the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary in part because of his strong support from black voters.
Taken together, the controversies have Democrats shaking their heads over how they have reached the point of attacking one another over race.
“They should be pointing the finger at [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRacial politics roil Democratic Party House Republicans dismissive of Paul Ryan’s take on Trump On The Money: Mnuchin warns US could hit debt limit in early September | Acosta out as Labor chief | Trump pitches trade deal in Wisconsin | FTC reportedly settles with Facebook for B fine MORE [R-Ky.] and Donald Trump,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanRacial politics roil Democratic Party Harris hops past Biden in early race for Black Caucus support WHIP LIST: The 83 House Democrats backing an impeachment inquiry MORE (D-N.J.), the first black woman elected to Congress from New Jersey.
“I don’t think anyone is calling Joe Biden a racist. I don’t think anyone has any reason to call Nancy Pelosi a racist. I think that we can have these bold discussions and people can disagree on certain issues. But this is not helpful, not helpful at all,” she added.
Republicans are relishing the fight, describing it as the culmination of the left’s obsession with identity politics.
“Madam Speaker, welcome to the true nature of identity politics – where you’re accused of being racist for no reason at all, and where intellectually lazy insults are used against you as a way to replace substantive debate of your argument or idea,” Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawRacial politics roil Democratic Party Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against ‘terrible bias’ at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings Trump rails against ‘terrible bias’ at social media summit MORE (R-Texas) said over Twitter.
Some liberals interviewed by The Hill described the fighting as driven by the generational divide rather than the belief that some in the party harbor racial animus.
“There’s an old guard and a new guard, and there’s going to be some friction there,” said one Democratic lawmaker who requested anonymity.
Activism around racial issues has been a hallmark of the ascendant left wing of the party, led by Ocasio-Cortez.
Cornell William Brooks, the former president of the NAACP and a current professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, said the raging debate is largely the result of a generational divide and a matter of style.
The young liberal lawmakers, Brooks said, have enormous influence on social media and have used their platform to draw attention to what they view as racial biases, whereas veterans of the civil rights movement are focused more on institutional or explicit racial inequality.
“These young lawmakers came of age politically at a moment in the country when there has been unprecedented levels of activism,” Brooks said. “They practice politics as protest, whereas Pelosi practices it through the art of compromise in governing, so this has a lot to do with generation, not just race.”
“For younger voters, they’re used to expressing their thoughts about racial, ethnic or gender identity implications through tweeted speech, whereas the older generation is more focused on intent rather than what is implied,” Brooks added.