After unexpected and significant losses on Election Day, House Democrats on Sunday distanced themselves from the "defund the police" movement and the label of "socialism," claiming that they were merely slogans or Republican smears.
"Not a single member of Congress that I'm aware of campaigned on socialism or defunding the police in this general election," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) said on CNN's State of the Union. "These were largely slogans or they were demands from activist groups." The congresswoman, who is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, added that "Republicans levied very effective rhetorical attacks against our party" by linking Democrats to the movements.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), who called to "completely dismantle" her city's police department this year, went further and said it was a Republican "narrative" that radical movements doomed Democrats in swing districts.
"All of those members who are part of the progressive caucus who are also in those swing districts won their races or are on track to win their races," Omar told CNN. "This myth that the Republicans are using to develop a narrative to start to create a wedge between Democrats is really something we can't allow to stick and that narrative to get hold."
Omar admitted, however, that embracing the "defund the police" movement "complicated" races for Democrats in swing districts.
Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D., S.C.), who expressed skepticism about the "defund the police" movement in June, said that he had expected the "slogan" would damage the Black Lives Matter movement and compared it to the "Burn Baby Burn" slogan of the Civil Rights era.
"We can't pick up these things just because it makes a good headline. It sometimes destroys," Clyburn said.
Earlier this year, progressive Democrats backed proposals to defund police departments across the country. In July, Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), both members of the far-left "squad," endorsed a bill that would strip federal funding for police departments and disband several federal law enforcement agencies. Ocasio-Cortez, who has also backed efforts to defund police departments, said New York City's decision to cut more than $1 billion in funding for the city's police department in June did not go far enough, saying "the fight to defund policing continues."
Moderate Democrats castigated the progressive wing of their party last week for their poor performance on Election Day. In a leaked call among House Democrats, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (Va.), who narrowly won reelection, said a much-anticipated blue wave never materialized because the party backed radical movements like "defund the police" and embraced "socialism."