Democrats skip ‘progressive’, ‘moderate’ labels to overcome party divide

Democratic Senate hopeful Mandela Barnes has been endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who represent contrasting wings of their party.

The Wisconsin lieutenant governor is one of several Democratic candidates this year who are avoiding embracing labels such as “progressive” or “moderate.” 

“I know that the only way we can govern at our best is when we have all of these varied interests at the table, all of these varied experiences at the table,” Barnes told Axios in an interview.

In Georgia’s gubernatorial race, Stacey Abrams “has admirers on both wings of her party,” the New York Times wrote in a recent article about her ability to go beyond labels.

Recently inaugurated Mayor Eric Adams is not considered a progressive hero, but he did get the endorsement of the city’s biggest public-sector union. District Council 37 opted for Adams after seriously considering endorsing his more progressive challenger, City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Barnes spoke out the importance of losing the labels and focusing on the needs of the voters. “In 2022, we have to do more to make sure that we are not just listening to the intra-party debate, but listening to what the voters are saying, the real-world experiences people are dealing with,” Barnes told Axios.

Democratic operatives and consultants told Axios their party candidates need to refrain from nationalizing their races, ignore the Washington drama and focus on everyday people.

“The more complex the issue and big the spending is, the more you have to find those really succinct and powerful connection points with the voters you need to persuade,” Democratic pollster and consultant Joel Benenson said.

Fellow Hillary Clinton alumna Jesse Ferguson told Axios: “It’s more important for people to believe the candidate and see them as authentic than it is for them to have the right label on their jacket.”

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